What are Dental Implants?
The most common types of dental implants are comprised of three main pieces – the implant, the abutment, and the crown. These endosteal (end-os-te-ul) implants look similar to screws. They are embedded in the jawbone where the bone naturally grows around and permanently encases them. The abutment is a connector that attaches to the implant, providing a place to affix the crown. Finally, the crown is the only piece that will be visible upon completion. Crowns are custom made to fit perfectly and look as similar to the surrounding teeth as possible. Many times are indistinguishable from natural teeth.
These endosteal implants are the most common option because of their strength and longevity, but they aren’t always right for every patient. Other options involve implants placed under the gum, but above the jawbone; and opportunities to regenerate bone growth or add bone grafts, so your jawbone is strong enough or broad enough to support the implants. If you are unsure if you would be a good candidate for traditional dental implants, talk to your dentist about your options.
How Much Do Implants Cost?
The implants themselves generally cost anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 each, but the additional implements such as abutments and crowns can add an extra $500-$3000 per tooth. These costs vary widely depending on specific dental needs, and things like:
- Where you live (higher cost of living can mean higher overhead cost resulting in more expensive procedures and implements)
- What materials are chosen for the crowns
- What dental work is needed before having implants placed
- The dentist’s level of expertise in implants
Most insurances cover implants to some extent, but the amount of coverage varies by plan. You can also talk to your dentist about payment plans or whether they accept medical lines of credit such as CareCredit.
What to Expect
The entire process of getting dental implants can range anywhere from a few months to over a year, depending on the complexity of your needs. The following is what you can generally expect during the process of getting endosteal implants:
The dentist will need to thoroughly examine your mouth to see where the implants are required. This may include x-rays and/or 3D images of your mouth. Afterward, he or she will be able to discuss your implant options and potential costs. It is at this time, the dentist will work with you to set up a plan for your implant surgery.
Dental implant placement
Many patients worry if the dental implant surgery will hurt and whether they’ll be able to return to their normal activities. Thankfully, most patients report that the operation was only minimally uncomfortable and that they were able to return to their daily activities by the next day. During placement of the implant, local anesthesia or IV sedation can be used to ensure your comfort. You can expect some moderate swelling and bruising, and minor bleeding and pain; however, most patients fully manage this with over the counter pain medication.
After the implant is placed, your jawbone will begin to heal and form a permanent bond with the implant. This process may take several months, and you may be placed on a soft foods diet for the first few weeks to minimize pain and increase healing. After the initial healing from the surgery, this process of osseointegration should be pain-free. Your dentist may even be able to place a temporary tooth while you wait for the implant to take hold firmly.
Sometimes, this is done at the same time as the dental implant surgery. Other times this may be done after the implant has fully fused with your jawbone. This small connector is attached to the implant in preparation for your final crown.
Custom-make and attach new teeth
Once your gums have healed from the placement of the abutment, your dentist will take molds of your remaining teeth. This ensures your artificial teeth will fit and match perfectly. Depending on the extent of your needs, these new teeth may individual crowns, an implant-supported bridge, or multiple replacement teeth. After they are custom made for you, they will be attached to the abutment.
Although your new implants are not real teeth, they still require regular cleaning and maintenance just like your natural teeth. After the entire process of implantation is complete, you’ll want to visit your dentist regularly just as you usually would for routine cleanings and dental exams. If well cared for, your new implants can last a lifetime.
Fun Facts About Dental Implants
- 3 million people have dental implants in the United States, and that number grows by 500,000 every year
- Swedish orthopedic surgeon, P.I. Branemark discovered in 1952 that titanium naturally fuses with bone
- Of all the dental restoration options, implants are the only one which not only preserves bone but helps stimulate bone growth too
- Dental implants have been found as far back as 600 C.E. when tooth-like pieces of shell were hammered into the jaw of Mayan women. Thankfully we’ve come a long way since then!