If you are self-conscious because you have missing teeth, wear dentures that are uncomfortable or don’t want to have good tooth structure removed to make a bridge, talk to your dentist to see if dental implants are an option for you.
Dental implants are a popular and effective way to replace missing teeth and are designed to blend in with your other teeth. They are an excellent long-term option for restoring your smile. In fact, the development and use of implants are one of the biggest advances in dentistry in the past 40 years.
Dental implants are made up of titanium and other materials that are compatible with the human body. They are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth.
If you are interested in dental implants, it’s a good idea to discuss it carefully with our dentist first. If you are in good general health this treatment may be an option for you. In fact, your health is more of a factor than your age. You may be medically evaluated by a physician before any implant surgery is scheduled.
Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or leukemia, may interfere with healing after surgery. Patients with these issues may not be good candidates for implants. Using tobacco can also slow healing.
When it comes to replacing missing teeth, you’ve got some options. Two popular restorations used to replace missing teeth are dental implants and dental bridges. The question is which option is right for you?
A dental implant is basically an artificial tooth root (typically made from titanium) that is anchored in the place of a missing tooth. A temporary protective cover screw is placed on the implant while it fuses with the jawbone (a process called osseointegration). This process can take up to six months to complete but creates an incredibly stable, durable prosthetic. After completed osseointegration, the protective cover is replaced by a temporary crown. This serves as a template around which the gum grows and shapes itself in a natural way. The process is completed when the temporary crown is replaced by a permanent crown.
A dental bridge is in some ways less invasive and other ways more invasive than a dental implant. Unlike implants, bridges do not replace a tooth root. Rather, a bridge uses one or more surrounding teeth as a support on which to attach a crown that can fill the missing tooth space. The treatment process is not nearly as long as the implant process (which requires osseointegration); though in some ways it is more invasive because it requires the permanent alteration of adjacent teeth to support the bridge. As the name implies, a dental bridge literally bridges the gap between teeth resulting from a missing tooth. The restoration, therefore, must be anchored to one or more adjacent teeth, which must first be filed down in order to function as a support.
Dental implants and dental bridges both have certain eligibility requirements that must be met in order to qualify as a candidate. Eligibility is determined during an initial treatment consultation.
Dental implant placement must be performed after adolescence when bone growth is complete. X-ray or CT scans will likely be used to evaluate bone density and quality and to determine whether a potential implant patient has enough bone structure for implantation. Smokers will need to quit in order to qualify as a candidate due to the fact that there is a higher rate of implant failure for smokers. Additionally, people suffering from diabetes, cancer or periodontal disease may need additional treatments in order to qualify for implantation.
Dental bridge candidacy is far less restrictive than dental implant candidacy because of the relatively less invasive nature of the bridge procedure. The primary factor in determining bridge candidacy is the health and stability of the supporting teeth. If you suffer from periodontal disease, tooth decay or have chips or cracks, you may need to undergo additional treatments before the teeth are strong enough to support a dental bridge.
Oftentimes cost is ultimately the deciding factor when it comes to selecting a treatment option. And in the case of dental implants vs dental bridges, cost can be deceiving.
Dental implant placement is one of the more costly dental treatments, ranging from $900 to $3,000 per implant. Alternatively, a dental bridge may cost significantly less, in the range of $700 to $1,500.
(Keep in mind that the cost of both does not include any additional treatments or therapies that may be required beforehand.)
Considering that dental implants are more restrictive in terms of candidacy, the procedure takes significantly longer to be completed, and they may cost twice as much, you may be asking yourself, why would anyone opt for an implant over a bridge? In one word, the answer is durability.
A dental bridge will likely last between 10 and 20 years before it must be replaced. If cared for properly, an implant can last 40 years or longer.
So an implant might cost you more time and money in the short term, but over the lifetime of your smile, it may actually save you both.
Consider this scenario: if you lose a single tooth, the two most common methods of tooth replacement are a tooth supported bridge or an implant supported crown. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that bridges last an average of 10 years. Clinical studies indicate that implants are over 95% successful for 20+ years. Therefore, a conservative cost breakdown over 20-25 years may look like the chart below.
Even with partial insurance reimbursement, the cost of a tooth supported bridge is the more expensive long term. The total cost over 20-25 years or more could be significantly higher than shown above. And with an implant supported crown, the adjacent teeth are not compromised so that additional treatment is not necessary. Consider too, the concept of amortization — the process of decreasing or accounting for the cost over the period of time they are likely to last.
Implants may seem more expensive initially. But for patients who are candidates, not only are they a better treatment choice, they will last longer, possibly a lifetime, thereby making them the ideal choice and most cost effective option long term. As we shall see in part two when we guide you through the marketing hype, well-planned implants most often require a team approach in assessing whether they’re right for you. Placing implants and attaching crowns to them require precision procedures and techniques.
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