What are dental implants?
Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth. An implant is a titanium metal screw that replaces a tooth root. The implant acts as an anchor for artificial (fake) teeth such as:
Who might need dental implants?
Most people who have one or more missing teeth are candidates for dental implants. You may need a dental implant if you lose a tooth due to:
- Cavities (tooth decay).
- Tooth root fracture.
- Clenching or grinding habit.
- Cleft lip (put this at the bottom of the list).
- Facial injury.
- Gum disease.
What are the benefits of dental implants?
Dental implants can improve your appearance, speech and chewing ability. Your dentist may recommend implants to secure permanent or removable dental bridges and dentures. Because implants are permanent, you don’t have to use adhesives like those that hold dentures in place. And, unlike dental bridges that require a provider to remove parts of nearby teeth, all of your healthy teeth stay intact. Dental implants do not get cavities.
How should I prepare for a dental implant?
Before the dental implant procedure, you should:
- Give your dentist a current list of medications and supplements you take. It’s important to tell your dentist if you are taking a blood thinner. Your dentist will decide in coordination with your doctor whether you need to stop taking any medications before your implant procedure.
- Make sure that you’ve seen your primary care provider recently for a checkup and blood work to ensure that there aren’t any conditions that would interfere with implant success.
How are dental implants performed?
The dental implant process takes place over several months. The process involves a dental surgeon, such as a periodontist or an oral surgeon, and your dentist. Most surgical procedures are quick (under an hour) and involve numbing with local anesthesia (similar to what you’d get for other dental work).
- Tooth extraction: First, the problem tooth is removed by the dental surgeon. Often times, a bone graft and membrane are placed at the time of extraction to ensure that you’ll have enough bone at the time the implant is placed. The bone graft and membrane come from a donor bank and are very safe to use. They stimulate your body to produce its own bone in the area where the tooth was removed.
- Implanting: Your dental surgeon places the dental implant in the area where your tooth is missing after the area has healed for around three months. The procedure involves a few drills similar to having a filling done. The implant generally takes an additional three months to heal.
- Temporary teeth: A temporary tooth may be placed on the implant at the time the implant is inserted or once it has healed.
- Permanent teeth or dentures: Your dentist will take molds of your teeth or scan your mouth and send the models or scan to a dental lab. You will return a few weeks later for the permanent abutment (connector piece) and tooth to be placed on the implant.
What should I do after getting a dental implant?
In the first week after your implant is placed, you will be given an antibiotic to take and will rely mainly on over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen for any soreness that you may have. You can expect there to be minimal pain after implants are placed. You will be limited in what you eat and exercises you can do for one week post-operatively.
Risks / Benefits
What are potential risks or complications of dental implants?
Dental implants are relatively safe. There’s a 5% chance that your implant will be rejected, meaning become loose or infected, which would require removal. In these cases, when replaced, the implants work over 90% of the time. In addition, there is a small chance of injury to nerves that supply your face and gums, but with careful planning this risk is essentially eliminated.
Who should not get a dental implant?
Certain factors can lower the chances of a successful dental implant. You may not be a candidate for dental implants if you:
- Have had previous radiation therapy to the head and neck.
- Have uncontrolled diabetes.
Recovery and Outlook
How effective are dental implants?
Dental implants are very durable. For some people, implants last a lifetime. Generally, dental implants have a 95% or higher success rate.
How do I care for dental implants?
Although dental implants can’t get cavities, you can still get gum disease at the implant location. Proper oral hygiene is key to protecting teeth and implants. You should:
When to Call the Doctor
When should I call the dentist?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
Does insurance cover dental implants?
Generally, dental health insurers don’t cover all of the costs of dental implants. Some insurers may not cover any of the costs. Because health insurance policies vary, you should check with your provider’s financial department prior to starting any treatment. You can also see if your dental specialist offers payment plans.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dental implants are a great way to replace missing teeth with natural-looking fake teeth. Implants serve as anchors for replacement teeth. Dental implants integrate within your jawbone once placed. With an implant, you can get a permanent dental crown (new fake tooth). Implants also help secure permanent or removable dental bridges and dentures. Your dentist can help determine if you’re a good candidate for dental implants.