If you’re missing a tooth, or even a few, you may try to hide it with a tight smile that avoids drawing attention to your mouth. However, you are far from alone. Only about a third of people ages 40 to 64 have all their permanent teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not only do missing teeth mar your smile, they can also lead to health problems, such as infections and jawbone deterioration. The solution may be a dental implant, a titanium prosthetic post attached to your jawbone and capped with a porcelain crown or denture attachment.
“A dental implant really is our first choice,” said Everett Wu, board certified periodontist at High Point Periodontics. “Any other prosthetics, such as a removable partial denture or a bridge, relies on the remaining teeth for stability. This added stress over time may cause the remaining teeth to be damaged.”
The first step is a jaw X-ray to check whether you have enough bone to support the prosthetic. A patient needs to be healthy enough to withstand dental implants.
“It’s always good to have a plan about tooth loss and retention before it becomes an emergency,” Wu said. “Know the situation you’re really in. It may not be as bad as you think.”
As you research your options, here are answers to four common questions about dental implants.
What is the cost?
As you could probably guess, there is not one set price for dental implants. Rather, your specific situation will determine how much you pay, and you’ll need to consult with your dentist for an accurate evaluation.
That said, Authority Dental estimates the average price for an implant is $1,000-$3,000. The cost of a crown runs from $500-$3,000, making the total cost $1,500-$6,000.
Don’t let those numbers scare you away, as they do not include deductions from dental insurance or a discount plan. Additionally, your dentist can tell you about financing options available to patients.
How much time does it take to get implants?
Again, the answer to this depends on several factors but, for a traditional implant, you should expect to go to your dentist for several appointments, from the initial consultation to the final checkup.
During the first procedure, your dentist will drill a hole in your jawbone and implant the screw. At the same time or at a future appointment, a healing cap is placed on top to help your gums heal — it is later removed, and an abutment that will support the crown is placed. After you have healed, your new crowns go on top.
“When the traditional method of placing an implant is used, the shortest time frame for a complete implant is about five months in the lower jaw and six months in the upper jaw,” Colgate says. “This includes surgeries and placing the permanent crown. However, the process can last a year or more, particularly if bone needs to be built up first.”
If your dentist offers a one-stage option, you can have implants, abutments and a temporary crown or bridge placed in one visit.
Will it hurt?
During the procedures, your dentist will use anesthesia to numb your gums and jaw. You may feel stiffness and soreness in the days following and can take painkillers to alleviate discomfort.
“You may also experience side effects such as bruising, swelling and bleeding to a certain degree depending on your gum and bone health,” Dental Implant Cost Guide says. “The experience varies from person to person and depends on how quickly they heal.”
You should no longer feel pain within 7-10 days of surgery.
How long is the recovery?
Even after the pain goes, your jaw will need to heal, so it is important to maintain good oral hygiene. That way, the implant can properly fuse with your bone.
“Failure to floss and brush is a leading cause of failure, and infection can occur if the implant and surrounding areas are not cleaned properly,” Consumer Guide to Dentistry says. “Smoking also is attributed to high failure rates and should be avoided following implant procedures.”
The complete healing process takes up to six months after surgery, and healing after the crowns are placed adds another two months. Follow-up appointments with your dentist will ensure everything is going well.
To discuss your needs and ask any other questions, contact High Point Periodontics in Cleveland. They offer a free initial teledentistry consultation for new patients.