Said an urgent email from my cousin who had recently moved to Europe. Being a dentist, I know just how worrisome that situation can be. His broken tooth couldn't be saved, and he would need a dental implant right away. Since he couldn't get back to the states for me to help him, he asked what he should know about dental implants as he searched for a dentist overseas.
Because most people don't have a dentist in the family who they can ask, here's what I told my cousin when he was trying to decide whether to get a dental implant.
Joshua Renken, DDS
If you recently lost a tooth or know you’re going to need an extraction, you may be considering a dental implant. If you’re like many people, you’re probably wondering what to expect, and have already started asking friends or family about their experience - or have even searched for people’s stories online.
While it’s understandable that you’re curious about what to expect, it’s important to remember that dental implant procedures are different for everyone. Your experience may be just like the ones you found online, or it may be completely different.
Every implant procedure is as unique as the individual who is having it done. Some patients may have their implant placed using only the local anesthetic that would be used on a filling. They may have minimal recovery time and be back at work the next day. Other patients may need a more extensive procedure. They may have a severely decayed tooth that needs to be extracted first and bone loss that requires bone augmentation to create a stable foundation for the implant; their recovery time could take several days. Your own dental implant could fall anywhere within this range depending on your needs and unique situation.
Due to the variability of implant procedures, it’s important not to rely on what you read online or hear from friends when trying to decide if it’s right for you. The best thing to do is to find a proactive dentist who will take the time to explore your options and needs thoroughly so you can make the most informed decision possible.
Traditional 2D x-ray imaging is still a great way to look at the structure of a tooth, but they lack the detail required to plan out a dental implant properly. Information about the location of the implant and the surrounding bone structure is a crucial part of making sure your implant is safe and successful.
Modern 3D scans are able to give doctors much more information than a standard 2D image. A 3D scan allows doctors to determine the location to place the implant while avoiding nerves, blood vessels, and sinuses. The scan will also help them choose the best length and shape to give you a more comfortable and natural replacement tooth. Using 3D imaging, your doctor can also create a physical guide tool that will allow them to place your implant more precisely.
With 3D imaging, your doctor can place implants predictably and safely while customizing your care!
If you’ve been considering an implant, you may think the only decision you’ll need to make is whether or not to get one. You may be surprised to learn that you’ll actually have several options when it comes to your implant, such as how the new tooth is attached or whether it will be temporary or permanent. You’ll also get to choose the shade of your replacement tooth, allowing you to match it with your natural teeth perfectly.
Getting an implant is a serious decision, so it’s essential to consider what’s most important to you and what fits best with your lifestyle. What are your personal goals with an implant? Are you interested in having a more consistent, beautiful smile, or do you care more about having a replacement tooth that will make eating easier and more comfortable?
Whatever your goals, make sure you choose a dentist who will take the time to listen to your needs and work with you to find the best solution. It’s your tooth – it’s essential to make a decision you’ll be happy with for years to come.
There are many medications and health conditions that can affect the success and healing time of an implant. If you have a health condition and choose to go ahead with the implant, your body will need to heal around the implant and maintain it’s connection to the bone for many years; this makes it crucial that you’re in good health for the long-term success of the implant.
In order to ensure the best outcome possible, be sure to tell your dentist about any health conditions you have and any medications you’re taking. Even if they aren’t related to your dental health, they could potentially affect the implant.
Make sure you choose a doctor who will take the time to look over your health history and consider it when developing their treatment plan. Understanding your total health condition is necessary to make sure you have the most success with your replacement tooth.
Implant pricing can be confusing - and not entirely without reason. Since each patient has different needs, each procedure is different; there may be different steps involved, different tools, and different methods. Implants themselves can vary a lot. Some implants may utilize crowns; others may use a partial. Some patients may need a bone augmentation to build up areas of bone loss before placing the implant; others may have plenty of healthy, strong bone that’s ready for the implant. Many offices have separate pricing for each of these.
Trying to figure out what’s covered by your insurance can be tricky. Even straightforward things like sedation can vary quite a bit from insurer to insurer. Some dental insurance even has a “missing tooth clause,” which states they won’t cover an implant if the tooth was extracted prior to when the coverage began.
Your dental office can make understanding what’s covered much easier and help you avoid the hassle of trying to figure it out for yourself. They can send in a pre-estimate to the insurance company to get an idea of what’s actually covered, or give you bundle pricing for every step of the process to help clear up anything you’re unclear on.
Patients should always understand exactly what they’re paying for up front, before the procedure. If you ever feel unsure or uncomfortable about the projected treatment plan, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your health, and you have a right to make the most informed decisions possible!