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Dental Implants

What are dental implants and when would we use them?

A dental implant is an artificial titanium tooth root that we place into the bone in a space where a tooth is missing. Once it heals, we use it as a platform for tasks like placing a crown on top to replace a missing tooth. We can also use it as an anchor point for removable devices like a denture or a removable partial, which can snap in to replace a few missing teeth. They serve as an attachment point inside the mouth in an area where we are missing a tooth.

What are conditions that might disqualify me from being able to get a dental implant?

Your overall systemic health, such as uncontrolled diabetes or recent cancer treatment with certain types of medications, can affect your eligibility. Local factors like heavy smoking and poor oral hygiene, particularly if you have periodontal disease, can also disqualify you. More severe systemic health problems, poor healthcare at home, or certain things like nicotine use that minimize the healing properties inside the mouth can potentially disqualify people from being able to have an implant as a solution.

What are the benefits and risks of dental implants?

The benefit is that by placing a dental implant, we are replacing that missing tooth with something that functions as close to a natural tooth as possible. Risk factors are generally pretty low, but can increase based on lifestyle factors and how well you clean those areas.

What are the different types of dental implants?

There are two broad categories of dental implants: large diameter implants and small diameter implants, also known as mini implants. Small diameter implants are primarily used as fixture points for dentures, while larger diameter implants are used for a crown, for an attachment for a larger bridge, among other things.

How would a dentist determine if implants are right for you?

We would evaluate your overall health, your oral health, and also factor in any lifestyle factors that might affect the potential for the implant to do a good job. Secondly, we would evaluate the bone itself to see how much bony real estate you have, which determines the strength of the implant system long-term. And then thirdly, we would talk about the cost and the timing and make sure that is also something that works for you.

What are the basic steps to getting a dental implant?

Initially we remove the infected tooth, remove the infection and perform what's called bone grafting generally in order to preserve the width and size of that ridge. Then we allow a number of months of healing. Once that site looks great, the implant is surgically placed into the bone. It takes the laboratory usually about a month to make us a quality crown that will be attached to that implant, at which point we can place that.

What are the options for artificial teeth in relation to implants?

That generally falls into three basic categories. A single implant, which is used to hold a single crown to replace a single missing tooth. We can place multiple implants and then stretch a bridge between them in order to replace multiple missing teeth. Or if we're missing all of the teeth, we can use those implants as anchor points to hold the denture in place so that it doesn't want to fall out of the mouth.

How long does it generally take to place an implant?

That varies a lot based on the site, the access that the patient can give to that site, among other factors. But in general, a range of one to two hours would be a reasonable timeframe.

Will I experience any discomfort as the implant is being placed?

You should be very numb, so no, you should not be in discomfort. You will notice a little bit of vibration as the surgeon is placing the implant, but that should be the extent of things. Post-operatively, there's an inflammatory process that occurs that can elicit a mild to moderate level of discomfort, but with use of over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or Tylenol, we can usually keep people extremely comfortable.

Will dental implants last for the rest of your life?

We can achieve very long success rates with implants, but it is strongly dependent on how well the patient does at cleaning their teeth, caring for their teeth, not using their teeth as though they are indestructible. So can we get a good, nice, long lifespan with implant crowns and implants? Absolutely. But do those implants last forever? Unfortunately not.

Do insurance companies cover the cost of implants?

More and more insurance companies are following along with paying for at least a portion of the process. However, to know the answer to that, you need to call the insurance specialist of your dentist and have them discuss that with your insurance company or look at the benefits information they've already provided to determine what they will pay for.

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