What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are screws that are placed into the upper or lower jaw bone to replace a single tooth or several teeth. Most dental implants are made of titanium, and a smaller number are made of a ceramic material called zirconium. The number of implants needed depends on how many teeth are being replaced.
A single missing tooth requires a single implant, while a denture needs between two and six implants to be securely supported. After an implant is placed, a minimum of three months is needed for healing, because the jaw bone needs to grow around the implant. Then an attachment piece called an “abutment” is used to attach the implant to the crown, bridge, or denture that the implant is supporting.
Before an implant can be placed, a three-dimensional x-ray needs to be taken so that the shape of the bone can be seen before implant surgery. We can help you find the best specialist to do the implant surgery, then after the implant or implants heal, we provide the crown, bridge, or denture to fit the implants.
The specialists who perform the surgical phase of implants are oral surgeons or periodontists with extensive training who we trust to provide proper care for our patients. Sometimes the specialist will need to place a bone graft to reinforce the jaw before an implant can be placed. Another option is for us to refer you to the Periodontal Residency at CU Dental School, where a dentist training to be a specialist can place implants.
Why Have Dental Implants?
Before implants were common, when a tooth was extracted there was either a gap or the teeth on either side of the missing tooth had to be altered to fit a bridge or partial denture. With implants, there is no need to cut the adjacent teeth.
Replacing extracted teeth with implants helps preserve a nice smile and also improves chewing ability. For people with dentures, adding implants will help hold a denture in place, which can greatly improve chewing and decrease the embarrassment that denture wearers can have with eating and talking.
One of the best things about implants is that they do not decay. In older patients who develop extensive tooth decay due to reduced saliva flow, dementia, or changes in diet, the implant teeth may be the only teeth left for chewing. Implants do not move, don’t feel pain, and don't decay.
Are You a Candidate for Implants?
Not everyone is a good candidate for dental implants. Smokers, diabetics, and people who have taken bisphosphonate medications for cancer treatment or osteoporosis are less likely to have a successful outcome with implants. Many people also have inadequate amounts of bone to hold implants in successfully.
Do Dental Insurances Pay for Implants?
Some insurance companies will pay for part of the cost of implants. We can help you look at your insurance policy, and we can also file a pre-authorization to determine what a particular company is willing to pay. Because implant procedures take several months between stages, some patients choose to have the treatments done over two insurance “years” to increase the amount insurances pay. Also, financing with CareCredit can help spread payments out over time.
Do you want to know more about implant options? Call us to schedule a consultation.