Dental Implants 101: Learning the Basics
With more than 35 million people in the U.S. missing teeth, it’s not surprising that as many as 3 million have received dental implants. And that number is growing by a whopping 500,000 every year. Here’s everything you need to know about dental implants.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are essentially metal posts (usually made from titanium) that are surgically implanted directly into the jawbone. After the dental implant procedure, the bone will begin to grow around the implant. This is part of the reason why implants provide such effective support. Once the implant is stabilized, your dentist will mount a replacement tooth that won’t shift or slip around in your mouth.
A single implant can provide a solid anchor for more than one tooth, allowing you to get just one dental implant for multiple replacement teeth.
How are Dental Implants Fitted?
The dental implant procedure generally involves multiple stages, starting with getting the implant placed into the jaw. Next, the abutment (a screw that holds the replacement tooth in place) needs to be attached. After that, you’ll need to wait until your implant becomes fused to the surrounding bone. The entire dental implant procedure can take as long as six months, and culminates in the new artificial tooth or teeth being made and fitted onto your implant.
It’s also important to note that there may be additional stages required, including tooth extraction and bone grafting (for patients who don’t have enough bone to support the placement of dental implants). Although getting a dental implant won’t happen overnight, there are many benefits.
Why Should I Consider Dental Implants?
A dental implant feels, looks and functions like a normal tooth. For people who’ve experienced the trauma and self-esteem issues that come with losing teeth, dental implants can make them feel more confident. Plus, with implants, you won’t have to worry about those telltale “clicks” that can alert people to the fact that you’re sporting a set of dentures vs. implants.
But while dental implants do have lots of aesthetic benefits, it’s not a purely cosmetic treatment. The procedure also has very real health benefits. If you’re missing teeth, your jawbone can start receding, resulting in a sunken-looking, wrinkled area around your mouth. Dental implants can help preserve the bone, making it the best option for anyone who wants to maintain, not just their smile, but their entire facial structure.
In addition, there are practical benefits. Unlike dentures, dental implants can make it much easier to chew, eat, and speak without worrying about teeth slipping and problems with slurring or mumbling.
There’s also the durability factor. Because dental implants are fused to the bone, they’re a permanent treatment. And if you take good care of them, they can last as long as your natural teeth. Following placement, success rates tend to lie between 95% and 98%, indicating that this dental treatment is one for the long haul.
Does Insurance Cover Dental Implants?
This is the big question. The good news: Dental implants are covered by some dental insurance plans. The not-so-great news: because they are a major procedure, it’s likely that you’ll have to pay a significant portion of the cost yourself. How much? Obviously, this varies from plan to plan, but as a rule, insurance will cover about 50% or so.
In a nutshell, dental implants are a revolutionary tooth replacement option, promising a wide range of life-improving benefits and giving patients a permanent solution to their missing tooth issues.