Dental Implants

Dental Implant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Dental procedures have come a long way in the past half a century, and dental implants have advanced tremendously. There are a lot of questions regarding dental implants, including whether they’re safe, effective, natural-looking, and even if they’re expensive.

Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions about dental implants and comprehensive answers to each.

What are Dental Implants?

A dental implant is a post that functions similar to a tooth’s roots. At the tip of the post, the dentist will place a connector. This part is referred to as an abutment, and it connects the prosthetic tooth to the implant. This prosthetic is also called a crown.

The dental implants can be made of either titanium, which is metal, or zirconia. Zirconia is tooth-colored and non-metal, so it is quickly becoming increasingly popular.

To prevent bone and gum loss after losing a tooth or having an extraction, it’s recommended to get the tooth replaced with an implant as soon as possible.

A little-known fact about dental implants is that the procedure was discovered quite by accident in 1952. A Swedish dentist noticed that bone grew around titanium, and the connection was so strong, that the bone would have to cut to sever the connection.

This accidental discovery has led to a whole new field of dentistry and has improved the lives of millions in the process.

Because of recent technological advances, dental implants are potentially right for almost anyone with missing teeth. Today’s dental implants look natural, are comfortable, and function almost identically to normal teeth. Plus, they help prevent bone and gum loss that’s commonly associated with a missing tooth.

As a general rule, implants are placed in people who are in good overall health, but patients with conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes can still be good candidates.

Before determining if a dental implant is the right route, your dentist will discuss the following about your history:

Existing dental work: Patients with existing structures like bridges or dentures may need to have them replaced. Alternatively, the implant can potentially reinforce existing work.

Bone loss: The severity of bone loss endured by the patient may affect the way the implant is done.

Existing medical conditions: Your doctor will be able to determine if you are in well enough condition to sustain a dental procedure.

Gum disease: Severe cases of gum disease can affect the success of an implant. Sometimes patients need gum treatment before undergoing an implant procedure.

Smoking: If you’re a smoker, this can harm a new implant. Depending on the length of the habit, a patient’s overall dental health may be jeopardized.

As a general rule, any missing tooth should be replaced as soon as possible. By leaving vacancies in the mouth and jaw area, the bones begin to recede, and it creates the effect of sagging and sinking in. It’s been said that patients who are missing teeth and experience this phenomenon add an instant 10=20 years of age to their appearance.

How Much do Dental Implants Cost?

The cost associated with dental implants varies widely as no two people or situations are exactly the same. Some patients may require fewer visits than others.

The number of teeth that need to be replaced
The location of the where the implant(s) will be located
The material of the implant (zirconia or titanium)
The dentist performing the service
Your local area (some cities are more expensive than others)

A consultation with a credentialed dentist with expertise in implants will help answer this question in more depth. He or she will also be able to advise you on payment plan options as well as if any of the procedure could be potentially covered by insurance.

Can Any Dentist Provide Dental Implants?

While there is no specific certification for providing dental implants, there are a few things you should look for in a dentist. The first step is finding a dentist that is experienced in the type of dental implant you need. Check to make sure your general dentist has implant training. You can also seek out an oral surgeon.

Don’t skip doing your research. A dental implant is an important and complex procedure. By utilizing the services of a skilled professional, you decrease the risk of complications, infections, and implant failure.

Further, when done correctly, an implant should last a lifetime. Having to replace one that wasn’t executed well is an expensive process.

How Can I Find a Qualified Implant Dentist?

The best place to begin your search is with a free directory of dental implant experts. The American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) keeps a record of dentists who meet all of the relevant requirements regarding proper education, training and displayed competence.

By choosing a dentist from this directory, you can be assured that you’re in the hands of a trained professional.

Are Dental Implants Safe?

Yes, dental implants are safe. This procedure has been around for over fifty years, and the technology continues to advance. New materials and the constant refinement of best practices over the years means that the chances for injury or complication are minimal.

However, as with any medical procedure, there is a small element of risk. To ensure your safety, discuss any concerns with your dentist. Be honest and forthright with your medical history, your overall health situation, and whether or not you smoke tobacco.

Overwhelmingly, patients deem that the benefits of a dental implant outweigh the risks, but you’ll want to discuss both with your dentist beforehand. By selecting a skilled professional, the chances of a complication or a failed procedure are minimal.

Are Dental Implants Painful?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about dental implants! Because the patient is sedated, there is no pain during the procedure.

Upon waking, most patients state that they feel only mild soreness and are pleasantly surprised by the general lack of pain. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a patient to return to their routine schedule, including going to work, the day after the procedure.

There may be mild bruising in the days following the implant, but again, this doesn’t last long.

How Do I Care for my Implants After Receiving Them?

Properly caring for your implants after receiving is crucial for ensuring their success and limiting complications. As a general rule, you should treat your implants the same as you would your normal teeth. This includes twice daily brushing and flossing. You should also maintain regular dental and tooth cleaning visits.

For patients who lost teeth due to decay, it is imperative to improve dental hygiene habits in order to keep implants in tip-top shape. Not caring for them adequately, especially the gum area that’s in the proximity of the implant, can cause the decay pattern to repeat itself.

For example, improper oral hygiene can compromise the health of the gums and cause inflammation. This, in turn, can affect the health of your implant and overall oral health.

What Types of Materials are Available to Me for Implants?

There are two types of materials that a dentist may use for an implant: titanium alloy and zirconia.

Titanium was one of the first materials used for implants, although technically, vitreous carbon was the first utilized. Vitreous carbon is also referred to as glassy carbon. It combines the properties of glass and ceramic with graphite, making a versatile material that’s common in prosthetics.

The problem with vitreous carbon is that it can become brittle and break, which is certainly not ideal for a dental implant! Therefore, titanium is the most common material used, comprising approximately 95% of today’s dental implants.

Dentists don’t use pure titanium, however. It was discovered that unaltered titanium was too soft and malleable. Therefore, an alloy (which is mixing of various metals) was developed to harden the titanium and make it more effective.

The titanium alloy does have metal, so a metal-free alternative was recently developed. Zirconium is the new material that’s gaining ground. If this name sounds familiar, it’s also known as a fabricated diamond when it’s in its crystallized form.

However, your dental implant won’t look like a diamond! Instead, the zirconium is present as a material called zirconium oxide, or ZrO2. It is combined with trace amounts of other materials like hafnium and yttrium to make it more stable. Together, this combination creates a ceramic color and texture that closely resembles that of a natural tooth.

Similar to titanium, zirconium also adheres well to the bone. This material is still fairly new. It was first approved in 2008 in Europe.

What is the Safest Material?

The approved materials of titanium and zirconium are both safe for use in patients. With 95% of implants being titanium, they’re certainly safe!

There are some concerns about having metal in implants, which will be elaborated on in the next question below.

Both zirconium and titanium are safe for use in a patient’s mouth due to the fact that they attach easily to the bone and are rarely rejected by the body. Zirconium performs marginally better here because it’s viewed as “bio-compatible,” and the body won’t view it as a foreign object. This sometimes occurs with titanium, though the instances of this are extremely rare.

While zirconium is a recent trend and a reportedly safe material, it has been known to break on occasion where a titanium alloy rarely breaks, if ever. People who grind their teeth or clench them obsessively may prefer a titanium alloy implant for safety and durability.

Why Should I Avoid Metal Implants?

One of the main concerns is that metal can be conductive. This means it has the potential to attract electricity and electric currents. This could be a painful and dangerous experience if it occurred. However, there are no reports on record of someone with a titanium alloy implant experiencing this phenomenon.

Another concern patients express is the potential experience of an allergic reaction to metal. Since the titanium alloy has metal components, patients reason that they could have an allergic reaction to it. The amount of metal in a titanium implant is about 5%, and it’s the form of nickel.

Approximately 10-20% of Americans are allergic to metal according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include redness and inflammation, which as you can imagine, is detrimental to the success of an implant. However, there are few, if any, reports of these types of allergic reactions.

Again, reports of any reactions are scarce, but patients should also consider these risks if they have an auto-immune condition. This type of condition means that the body’s immune system is out of balance and can aggressively attack foreign objects, and even the body itself.

Other patients have been known to report bouts of insomnia due to having a metal implant.

There’s also the risk of implant rejection and bone loss if the metal alloy doesn’t connect well with the bone.

Before panicking about these potential risks, talk with your dentist and ask him or her to share their case studies and statistics.

Are Implants Safe for All Ages?

Yes, dental implants are safe for all ages, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a dentist will perform one on a young child.

The first and most self-evident thing to note is that a dental implant won’t be necessary to replace baby teeth, as permanent teeth should be growing in soon to replace those lost. Technically, it would be safe to perform an implant on any hole left by the loss of a permanent tooth.

However, dentists prefer to wait until all of the child’s bone growth in the face has finished. This usually occurs first in girls, at age 16, and then in boys at age 18. Again, this is a general rule, so you’ll want to discuss this with your provider.