Dental implants are a permanent solution to replace lost teeth. Dental implants are fixtures of titanium that are surgically implanted into the jaw bone. The patient is under anesthesia during the procedure. After the dental implant is installed, a crown can be bonded to the top of the implant to create a natural looking false tooth. Implants are best placed in the front portion of the lower jaw. Only a highly trained dentist may perform the dental implant procedure.
Implants are excellent procedures for replacing missing teeth, but it is very important that enough bone is available for the implants to be attached to. If you do not have enough bone for attachment, a bone graft may be necessary. Bone grafting helps increase the amount and shape of the jaw bone and is common among dental implant patients.
The bone used in bone grafting may be one of three types:
Implants are commonly used as an alternative to fixed bridges, and/or can replace removable partial dentures. The implant itself can last a lifetime, but the crown on top of the implant usually lasts between 10 to 15 years.
After surgery, there may be varying degrees of discomfort. This should subside within a couple of days. As with similar types of oral surgery, bruising and minor swelling may also develop shortly after the procedure.
The implant procedure is the surgical placement of the dental implant or implants (the titanium fixtures) into the jaw bone. There may be a three to nine month healing period when the bone and titanium undergo "osseointegration" (when the bone grows into the implant). Osseointegration must occur before the dentist can begin other restoration procedures to replace the missing tooth or teeth. There is a slight rejection rate of 1 percent to 2 percent of all dental implant procedures.
You may not wear dentures for one day to two weeks after dental implants are placed. After sufficient healing and osseointegration, a natural looking crown is bonded to the top of the implant.
If you are missing one tooth, the cosmetic dentist may use a Flipper to fill the gap. A Flipper is a false tooth that will temporarily take the place of a missing tooth before the permanent crown is bonded to the implant. A Flipper can be attached using either a wire or a plastic piece that fits in the roof of the mouth.
Types of Dental Implant Procedures
The Root Form Implant is the most common of all the dental implants. This screw-type implant is shaped like the root of a tooth. In order to perform a root form implant, there must be plenty of width and depth to the jaw bone. If the jaw bone is too narrow or short for placement of the implant, bone grafting may be necessary. After administering anesthesia, the cosmetic dentist exposes an area of the jaw bone to prepare for the implant. The number of incisions and bone preparations depend on how many implants are to be installed. After the implant is placed, the gums are sutured. The healing process may take approximately 3 to 6 months.
A Plate Form Implant has a flat and long shape and is designed for use on a jaw bone too narrow for bone grafting. After the patient has been anesthetized, the dentist exposes an area of the jaw bone to prepare the bone for the implant. The number of incisions and bone preparations depend on how many implants are needed. The implant is set in place and the gums are sutured. Although it may take three to six months for healing, some plate form implants are immediately ready for restoration procedures without the long healing process.
A Subperiosteal Implant is a custom-made implant to be considered if the patient does not have enough bone width or height. The subperiosteal implant rests on top of the jaw bone and is created and installed using one of the two following methods:
- Method 1: After administering anesthesia, the dentist exposes and makes an impression of the jaw bone. The impression is sent to a dental laboratory where a custom-fit implant is made for the jaw. Once the custom-fit dental implant is made, the dentist re-exposes the jaw bone and places the implant. The gums are then sutured and replacement teeth are installed.
- Method 2: The dentist takes a CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scan of the jaw bone. A CAT scan is the process of using computers to generate a three-dimensional image from flat (i.e, two-dimensional) x-ray pictures. Using the three-dimensional model taken from the CAT scan, a custom-fit dental implant is made by the dental laboratory. After the implant has been made, the jaw bone is surgically exposed and the implant is placed. The gums are then sutured and replacement teeth are installed.
Dental Implant Costs
Due to the time-intensive and invasive nature of the procedure, installing dental implants can be costly. A "prosthodontist" (a specialist who designs, constructs, and fits replacement teeth) develops a customized plan to meet your unique needs after carefully studying your health and dental profile.
The materials and laboratory services used to create dental implants can also be very expensive. If bone grafting is required, an additional cost may be incurred. A basic dental implant procedure typically costs from $1,250 to $3,000. The cost of a mini dental implant procedure usually ranges from $650 to $1,000. Costs may be as high as $15,000 to $30,000 if the patient requires a complete upper and lower jaw procedure.
Pros and Cons of Dental Veneers
Compared to any other teeth replacement dental procedure (such as dentures or bridges), dental implants can best resemble the look and function of natural teeth. Furthermore dental implants offer the same biting force as fixed bridges and can last a lifetime.
Due to the time-intensive and invasive nature of installing dental implants, the procedure can be expensive. Since surgery is involved, installing a dental implant can be more risky than other non-surgical dental procedures. You may experience varying degrees of discomfort. The recovery period is longer than other dental procedures. Bruising and minor swelling may also develop shortly after the procedure.