“No one knew she had a dental implant until it came out in a conversation.”
Dental implants are a great option when you’re thinking about getting your teeth restored to a healthier, stronger and more beautiful state, not only because they give you back function, but because they are discreet. And despite what the above joke implies, they’re almost 100% guaranteed to last.
I understand though that getting this kind of work done takes a lot more persuasion than me, or any other dentist, telling you that you will have strong, beautiful teeth again. I know that you need to have all of the facts before making any final decisions. Dental implants are a huge investment, so I want to take this time to cover the more basic, and not so basic, questions and concerns that many people have about implants.
What are dental implants?
Most people think that they know what dental implants are, but when I describe the process to new implant patients, many are surprised about the steps I need to take to get them to their new smile, and I don’t begrudge them their shock. A lot of the work that we do isn’t explained, or even brushed over, in commercials or magazine advertisements, not because the process is necessarily scary, but because it isn’t what most people want to hear. When many people consider getting implants, it is because they want that shiny, new, bedazzling smile—which is the effect of the prosthetic, and not the implant itself. The implant itself is entirely different than what the media leads you to believe.
Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth—the prosthetic.
Implants are the best option for you if you are missing any teeth. Rather than resting on the gum line like removable dentures, or using adjacent teeth as anchors like fixed bridges, dental implants are long-term replacements that are placed in the jawbone. They are composed of titanium metal that fuses with the jawbone through a process called Osseointegration. Implants never slip if placed properly, they look and feel natural and they never decay like teeth anchoring fixed bridges. Because dental implants fuse with the jawbone, bone loss is generally never a problem. If properly cared for, your dental implants will last you a lifetime.
Can I get implants?
I’ve had patients come to me telling me that they’ve heard stories about how their friend didn’t qualify for implants. This rarely, if ever, happens. Anyone healthy enough to undergo a routine dental extraction or oral surgery can be seriously considered for dental implants. However, you must have healthy gums and bones in order for the implants to take; if you don’t, there are treatments and procedures that will give you the strong bone structure and healthy gums needed for implants to be successful.
Are implants painful?
Many of my patients who have received dental implants say that there is very little discomfort involved in the procedure. We make sure that you won’t feel a thing during the procedure; we use local, which is so successful that most patients report that implants are less painful than a tooth extraction.
Many people worry about the pain after the procedure as well; again, there is mild discomfort, but that can be easily treated with over-the-counter pain medications, such as Tylenol or Motrin.
How successful are implants?
Many people ask this question, and for good reason. If you are going to spend the kind of time and money that great implants require, then you want them to be successful. I would love to tell you that dental implants are successful 100% of the time, but that just isn’t the case. However, when I said that they’re successful nearly 100% of the time earlier, I wasn’t kidding: The success rates of dental implants vary, depending on where in the jaw the implants are placed but, in general, dental implants have a success rate of up to 98%.
An important thing to consider, however, is that once you even make the decision to get implants, you must commit yourself to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Heavy smokers and people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders, such as diabetes or heart disease, should be especially careful. Remember, dental implants are your new teeth, and you need to take care of them as such. If your natural teeth deteriorated the first time around, make sure you take steps to prevent that same fate for your dental implants.
Implants are not a hall pass on good oral health habits, but a reminder to –pick-up and maintain good oral health habits. With proper care, implants can, and will, last forever.