Tips & Advice
What are some alternatives to dental implants?
Depending on the circumstances, there might not be a safe or effective alternative to dental implants that would not impact your health and quality of life. This is because healthy teeth are essential for maintaining a balanced diet and proper nutrition. In the case of a single tooth damaged from a cavity or infection, a dentist might opt to perform a root canal procedure to remove the infection while preserving the tooth itself. However, this operation often still requires replacing the top of the tooth with an implant known as a crown. In general, the best alternative to implants is preventing the need for them through proper oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing helps prevent tooth decay that can eventually lead to loss of teeth and other dental problems.
What are the best ways to research dental implant options?
Start by looking into what is and is not covered under your health or dental insurance to understand and estimate costs. Then work with your primary dental care provider to understand treatment options and get recommendations for practitioners. You may also research oral and maxillofacial practices online.
Are dental implants covered by health insurance or dental insurance?
Coverage of implant procedures varies depending on the specifics of your health or dental insurance. It may also depend on whether or not the implants are considered medically necessary as opposed to being an elective or cosmetic procedure. If you are a member of a Medicare health plan, most elective dental procedures are not covered. Medicare may cover some costs for procedures that involve dental surgery, like reconstruction of the jaw following an accidental injury or emergency surgery. Check with your health plan provider for information on how dental implant services are covered.
What's involved in the recovery process after a dental implant procedure?
Full recovery from an implant procedure can take several weeks or months. Assuming the surgery is completed without any serious complications, patients are usually sent home within a day to recover. For the first day or two after surgery, patients are advised not to disturb the implant site or perform any kind of strenuous physical labor. Gauze pads will need to be periodically replaced to control bleeding for the first day or two. Pain medication to reduce discomfort and swelling is also prescribed for at least the first two weeks.
Doctors will advise patients to avoid hard food, hot food or liquid, or use of a straw for the first days after the procedure. The best foods are purees and soups that require minimal chewing and can be eaten with a spoon. Patients may also need to rinse implant sites for a few days after surgery. Follow-up appointments within the first few weeks are often required to ensure recovery is progressing.
Who performs a dental implant procedure?
Those who perform dental implant procedures are known as oral and maxillofacial surgeons. These physicians are generally certified as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) as well as one or more special degrees for dental surgery or osteopathic medicine. Becoming a dental surgeon requires at least 12 years of academic and professional training in the United States, and requires certification with the state medical board.
A general dentist with specific training in implantology can perform implant surgery, as well as certain specialists:
- Prosthodontist – specializes in the restoration and replacement of teeth
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeon – specializes in dental surgery
- Periodontist – specializes in periodontal (gum) disease
Who should not receive dental implants?
Doctors generally do not recommend dental implants for those with poor oral hygiene, heavy smokers, diabetics or those with chronic bone diseases like osteoporosis. Implantation surgery often requires anesthesia, which can be unsafe for certain people.
A variety of conditions would be red flags for receiving dental implants, including:
- Children (jaw still growing)
- Heavy smoking
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Having high-dose radiation treatment of the head or neck
- Chronic disease or systemic problems, including uncontrolled diabetes or immune deficiencies
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Certain medications, including steroids
Who are the best candidates for dental implants?
Dental implants work best for those who can be properly fitted for them, are willing and healthy enough to undergo surgery with anesthesia, are expected to make a full recovery, and are able to properly care for the implants for the rest of their lives. Dental implants can replace either a single tooth or a full set of teeth. They might replace teeth lost due to old age, disease or a traumatic injury.
A good candidate for dental implants should have:
- Healthy gums
- Enough bone to anchor the implants
- A commitment to daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits
Are dental implants safe?
Dental implants are generally quite safe, but there are always risks with surgery, including: infection, damage to surrounding teeth or blood vessels, nerve damage, and sinus problems. There are controversies relating to after effects of titanium implants that could lead to headache or other problems. While titanium, a metal, is considered the “gold standard” in implants, zirconium is increasingly finding favor because it is tooth-colored and ceramic, which might be better for those who suffer from metal allergies or autoimmune disorders.
How do dental implants work?
Ideally, dental implants are designed to anchor prosthetic teeth that look and function like real, organic teeth. This can be accomplished with the use of materials like titanium and certain types of ceramics, which will fuse with the jawbone and withstand the considerable pressure required for chewing. Implants are designed to fit precisely into an individual’s jaw and are installed in a surgical procedure. Medications that stimulate bone growth may be prescribed after the procedure to stimulate the fusing of implant and bone.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are small artificial tooth roots (typically titanium) surgically implanted into the jawbone, providing a permanent base for fixed replacement teeth. They “osseointegrate” – fuse with the bone. Dental implants are considered modern compared to other forms of tooth replacement, such as dentures and bridges. Although they are expensive, dental implants are a popular solution for people with failing or missing teeth.