What is a dental implant?
The name dental implant actually comes from the anchor portion of the prosthetic, the implant. Implants are made of titanium and are shaped like a screw. They are screwed down into the hole formerly occupied by the tooth root. Atop the implant a post is attached and an artificial tooth atop that. The three parts make up the dental implant. Once in place, a dental implant functions, feels, and looks just like a natural tooth.
Why should I replace a missing tooth?
People think missing teeth are simply a cosmetic issue, and if the missing tooth isn’t in an obvious location, they often opt to not replace the tooth or teeth. Beyond the cosmetic issues of a gap in your teeth, this can lead to various dental problems:
- The teeth surrounding the missing tooth or teeth no longer have pressure on them to stay in place, so they slide over into the gap. This movement can change your bite and overall alignment.
- When you chew or bite, a good deal of force in involved. The tooth takes this energy and transfers it down the tooth into the jawbone beneath. This energy signals the jawbone to build new bone mass, keeping it healthy. When a tooth is missing, that energy doesn’t enter the jawbone and it begins to deteriorate. Over time, this leads to a sunken appearance in the area as the jawbone collapses inward.
- A missing molar can keep a person from eating certain foods, due to the difficulty in chewing them. This can lead to nutritional issues.
- Missing teeth can create whistling sounds when speaking.
Am I a candidate for a dental implant?
A great thing about dental implants is that just about anyone missing a tooth is a great candidate for this procedure with Dr. Ania. The determining factor with dental implants is jawbone mass and density. As we mentioned above, missing teeth can lead to jawbone deterioration and loss of mass. If the patient has waited a length of time before having a missing tooth or teeth replaced, the jawbone may not have enough mass to adequately hold an implant. In these cases, Dr. Ania will need to perform one or more jawbone grafting procedures to make it ready for implants. Bone grafting is as difficult as it sounds, it simply adds some time to the process to allow your jawbone to regenerate some new bone mass.
Otherwise, as long as the patient doesn’t have another dental issue such as gum disease most people of all ages are good candidates for implants.
What is the procedure for placing a dental implant?
Having an implant placed is not a one-visit process. This is because the implant must be allowed to become a part of the jawbone, and this takes time. Once Dr. Ania deems you’re a good candidate, here’s how the process goes.
The implant process involves four distinct steps:
- Implant placement — Dr. Ania first anesthetizes you. Then she exposes the jawbone. If needed, she drills a tiny hole into the socket that held the former tooth root. Now the titanium implant is screwed down into the socket.
- Osseointegration — The second step is what separates implants from other replacement options. Once the implant is placed, the jawbone is allowed to grow around the implant, making it part of the jaw. This process, called osseointegration, takes from three to six months.
- Attaching the post — Once your jawbone has adopted the implant you return and we attach a post, called an abutment, to the implant. After the post is placed, we need to allow your gums to heal and settle around the post. This takes about six weeks.
- Attaching the false tooth — When your gums have healed, you’re ready to have the crown (false tooth) attached to the post. Dr. Ania uses only porcelain crowns in her Boulder practice, so you can rest assured your new tooth will beautifully match your surrounding teeth and provide unparalleled strength and durability. Once she attaches the crown, you can go out and immediately enjoy your new tooth.
Is there recovery involved with the dental implant process?
There are two recovery periods, but neither is difficult. The first recovery is after Dr. Ania makes the small incision in your gums to access your jawbone and place the implant base. She places a couple stitches and closes the incision when she is done. You’ll need to eat a soft diet for a couple weeks, but that’s about it. There isn’t a lot of pain.
The second “recovery” is after she attaches the post to the implant base. With the post in place, the gums need to settle down around the post and heal. Again, there will be a couple weeks with a soft diet, but the pain isn’t a big deal.
That’s it. There isn’t any recovery when she places the crown onto your implant.
Are dental implants permanent?
Dr. Ania loves dental implants because they are the longest lasting dental prosthetic, often lasting the remainder of the patient’s life. Unless you develop severe gum disease, the titanium implant is set in the jawbone for the duration. You can break the artificial tooth atop the implant base, but that is easy to replace and attach to the implant base.
Bottom line? Your new dental implant will feel and function just like a natural tooth. You’ll be able to eat whatever you want (unlike with a bridge). And it will likely be there for the rest of your days. Pretty cool, eh?
What are the advantages of having a dental implant?
- Dental implants behave exactly like a natural tooth, so the patient can eat any foods and chew normally.
- Unlike bridges, where adjacent “abutment teeth” need to be crowned to anchor the bridge holding the false tooth or teeth, implants stand alone.
- Implants keep adjacent teeth from moving.
- Implants are load-bearing teeth, so you don’t have to avoid chewing or biting with them.
- Implants transfer energy down into the jawbone just as natural teeth do, helping to keep the jawbone regenerating and healthy.
- Implants have a 95% success rate and can last for decades, giving the patient back his or her smile and the ability to eat any foods.
Are dental implants covered by dental insurance?
As you know, insurance coverage can be very mixed depending on the carrier and your plan. Some plans cover implants and others do not. That doesn’t make sense considering how long implants last compared to a dental bridge, but it’s the way things currently stand in the dental world.
Some plans cover some of the cost, others do not. It’s best to check with your insurance provider beforehand. Our team at Dr. Ania’s works with insurance companies to garner the most coverage that we can.