Dental implants are recommended for missing teeth, but they are not the only alternative to treatment. Fixed bridges are the second best alternative to replace missing teeth because, like implants, you don’t have to remove them at night.
However, with bridges, you have to rely on adjacent teeth to anchor them. Unlike dental implants, they are free-standing fixtures that rely on the bone in the missing teeth areas.
Removable dentures are another alternative to dental implants, but you have to rely on tissue-bearing areas for support, and that lead to denture to slipping. Additionally, you have to remove them at night.
There are two types of dental implants. These types are categorized based on the surgical fixtures placed under the gum and invisible to the naked eye.
The most common type we use is called an endosteal implant which is made out of Titanium alloy and surgically implanted directly into the jawbone. It is typically shaped like small screw, normally 4 – 6mm in diameter. If the diameter is smaller than 3 mm, we call this mini-implant.
A less commonly used type of dental implant is called subperiosteal implant, which is placed under the gum and above the jawbone. This is custom-made for patients who have shallow jawbone.
Placing these two types of implants surgically below the gum is called first-stage surgery and requires a period of 3 – 6 months to heal.
After healing, the dentist performs another surgery that is called second-stage surgery, in which the implant fixture above is connected to a post that protrudes through the gum and artificial tooth or teeth are mounted to the post.
Most dental insurances don’t cover dental implants, and if they do, they have restrictive maximum of $1000 – $2000 per year that is not enough to cover the total cost. If dental implants are deemed medically necessary, your medical insurance can cover up to a certain limit provided that certain medical diagnostic codes are filed to justify coverage.
Proper maintenance is the key to longevity of dental implants. Studies have found out that dental implants can last a lifetime if they are properly placed and maintained.
Regarding the crowns or restorations of dental implants, they normally last up to 15 years, but that depends on location in the mouth.
Restorations in back of the mouth are subject to more wear and forces that require more replacement.
The most common side effect of dental implants is infection. Like any surgical procedure, infection is due to bacterial contamination or medical condition such as diabetes to fight the infection. Smoking also is a factor especially when bone graft is present.
Keep your mouth clean and be compliant with antibiotic intake. Other common side effects are pain, swelling and bruising. Medication and proper home care can alleviate these symptoms.
The last common side effect of dental implants is rejection or failure. This is due to poor patient health, grinding habits or poor implant site. Proper dental and medical history can minimize this side effect.