Dental Implants: An Overview
Cosmetic dentistry continues to grow in popularity in the United States as many patients search for the perfect, bright, healthy smile. Bridges, veneers and dental implants are attractive options for people with imperfect, damaged or missing teeth. Dental implants involve the surgical replacement of a natural tooth, and the complexity, cost and recovery of the surgery vary on a case by case basis.
Dental implants are surgically installed by a dentist, orthodontist or oral surgeon. Typically, local anaesthesia is administered to diminish any pain caused by the procedure. Implants are installed in the gum tissue and anchored to the jawbone using titanium so that they will sit comfortably in the patient’s mouth just as a natural tooth would. This procedure is called osseointegration. Anchoring the implant to the jawbone is a delicate procedure, as bone tissue is naturally lost with age. Dental implants can reduce the rate of future bone loss in patients; making them both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Recovery time varies based on the complexity of the procedure itself; most patients experience minor discomfort and swelling for the first few days following the surgery.
Patients are evaluated by dental professionals to determine if dental implants are an appropriate, viable option. During these pre-surgical consultations, 3D X-rays are commonly taken to scan the gum tissue, jawbone and teeth. Some conditions, such as advanced periodontal disease, may prohibit the installation of dental implants. The time it takes for the surgery to be completed varies, as no two patients are the same. The cost associated with dental implants also varies greatly from one patient to the next. Most insurance plans cover some, if not all of the expenses associated with oral surgery; however, cosmetic dentistry may not be covered if it is considered elective. Cost is determined and discussed with each patient prior to the procedure. Some providers offer financing and payment plans.
Dental implants are usually more expensive than bridges, veneers and dentures. The high cost of dental implants is therefore prohibitive for some patients. However, it is important to note that dental implants last longer than other options, and are considered to be a permanent solution to dental problems and not a temporary one; they are designed to last. From a cosmetic perspective, dental implants are considered to be the most natural looking options; they are carefully crafted to match the patient’s other teeth, making them unobtrusive and not at all obvious.
As with any cosmetic procedure, patient satisfaction varies based on each individual. However, the majority of patients who have undergone dental implant surgery report being extremely pleased with the results of the procedure, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. In addition to being happy with the appearance of the implants, most patients report a comfortable, natural feeling bite, with little to no discomfort whatsoever. During follow-up appointments, minor adjustments to the implants are sometimes made to ensure proper alignment and comfort. Dental implants are considered an attractive, healthy investment for many patients who have previously struggled with imperfect teeth.