Dental Professionals

About Dental Implants (FAQs)

Making the decision to improve your smile with dental implants can be a big step. Here are a few frequently asked questions to help you make your decision.

1. What is a dental implant?

Technically, a dental implant is a small, but very strong post made from biocompatible metals or ceramics, and is made up of three components: the implant, the abutment, and the crown.

The implant is a small post, usually made of titanium or titanium alloy, and similar in shape to screws. Under local anesthetic, the implant is surgically inserted into your jaw bone, and serves as the first step in the process to replace missing teeth. Once inserted, the implant bonds with your natural bone, acts as a substitute for the root of your missing tooth, and provides the base of support for the one or more replacement teeth, also known as the crowns.

The abutment is a connector that is placed on, or built into, the top of the dental implant, and serves as the connection point and additional support for the crown.

The crown, essentially the replacement tooth, is custom manufactured to match the look, shape, and fit of the other natural teeth, and then installed onto the abutment to complete the replacement process.

2. What does the procedure entail and how long does it take?

Dental implant procedures generally follow a series of standard steps and take more than one visit to complete. A licensed dental professional will first make an assessment of your condition, which includes a patient history, a dental examination, and discussion of treatment plan options.

Because each patient is different, total treatment time depends on individual patient needs, medical and dental history, jaw bone condition, and the technique and materials that are being used. It can be as short as a few months, or more than a year to complete more complex conditions.

The next step is the insertion of the implant, which is typically done under local anesthesia. After implant surgery, you’ll need time to heal and have any sutures removed before moving onto the next phase of restoration. A temporary restoration may be placed on the implant at time of surgery for the healing stage.

The healing phase usually lasts between a couple of weeks and a few months. Ideally during this period, the bone around the implant grows and integrates with the implant surface – a process called osseointegration. Good oral hygiene is vital in the healing stage of the treatment. Once healed, this artificial root acts as a base for fixing individual crowns, multi-tooth bridges, or an entire dental prosthesis.

Once sufficient healing has occurred, the dental professional takes an impression of the implant site that will be sent to a lab to produce a crown (or bridge if multiple teeth are being replaced) that is custom fit to your mouth. Once fabrication is complete, the crown or bridge is installed.

3. How do you care for dental implants?

Both you and your dental team contribute to the long-term success of your procedure. Dental teams will work with you on an individual patient oral care plan and advise you on cleaning techniques specific to your treatment situation. Just like with natural teeth, dental tartar can build and cause problems for dental implants, and diligent oral care is vital to the long-term success of new teeth. Long-term care instructions include:

Use a soft toothbrush or an electric toothbrush for cleaning teeth.

Use cleaning aids recommended by the dental team, such as interdental brushes or irrigation devices for cleaning the spaces between teeth.

Brush teeth on the inside, outside, and top surfaces where chewing occurs.

Specific dental implant cleaning and flossing techniques may be recommended

Regular check-ups and preventive visits to the dentist are necessary to keep new teeth healthy.

4. Does Dental Implant Surgery hurt?

As with any surgical procedure, there may be some discomfort that is experienced during and after the procedure. Every patient will heal differently, and your surgeon will work with you before, during, and after surgery to help keep you as comfortable as possible.

5. How long do implants last and are they safe?

With proper care, dental implants are designed to last many years, and for some, a lifetime. Dentists have been using implants to replace missing teeth for decades, and the technology continues to improve each year. When performed by a trained and experienced clinician, dental implant surgery is a predictable dental procedure.

6. How much does dental implant surgery cost, and will my insurance cover it?

The decision to replace missing teeth with dental implants is not only an excellent investment in your oral health and appearance; it’s an investment in your “happiness factor” and your mental health. Dental implant therapy – a lifelong investment in your smile – is more than just a solution for tooth restoration; it can vastly improve your quality of life.

Insurance coverage can be determined based on your unique treatment plan. Your dental professional will help you determine if your treatment will be covered. If it’s determined that insurance won’t cover your procedure, speak with your dentist about what options may be available. Many dental practices now offer financing and payment plans that can be paid off over time.

7. What are my tooth replacement options?

Dental implants are a natural looking and natural feeling replacement for missing teeth. Unlike other tooth replacement options, dental implants don’t slip or click when you talk, laugh or eat. They also help to keep your jaw bone healthy and make sure facial structure stays intact.

Whether you are looking to replace one or multiple teeth, “Smile Decider” can provide you with natural-looking teeth replacements. The best place to start is talking with your dentist about tooth replacement options for your unique situation.

8. Are dental implants better than removable dentures?

Dental implants are now the standard of care for missing teeth. Compared to older solutions such as dentures and other removable appliances, implants look, feel, and function like natural teeth. They also help prevent bone loss caused by missing tooth roots and do not require adjacent teeth to be ground down. Along with these major benefits, other important reasons to consider upgrading to dental implants include:

Dental implants merge with your body. A dental implant is simply an artificial root, which after it heals, merges with your body and acts likes a natural root.

Dental implants preserve your facial structure. Because dental implants are anchored into bone, they securely transmit chewing forces to the jaw bone, which helps to maintain a healthy jaw and preserve facial structure, which is not the case if teeth are missing or when a conventional denture has been put in place. Implants help to keep your jaw bone healthy, so your facial structure stays intact.

Dental implants not only restore your smile, they also allow you to improve and maintain it. Functionality and visual appearance go together. When you fix missing teeth with implants, there will be minimal, if any, visible difference, which can happen with older methods.

You can feel more comfortable talking, smiling and eating. Dental implants are the most natural looking and natural feeling replacement for missing teeth. Unlike other tooth replacement options, dental implants don’t slip or click when you talk, laugh or eat.

9. What if I decide not to replace my tooth?

When a tooth is lost and not replaced, the bone that was supporting the tooth no longer has a reason to be there, so it will begin to erode away. This can cause bone loss around the surrounding teeth, and can lead to damaging and losing surrounding teeth, which may ultimately lead to the eventual loss of other teeth. Although dental implant procedures involve multiple steps, replacing just one missing tooth can not only sometimes be done in one day, but it can also help save the other, currently unaffected teeth from future damage. Don’t let a one-tooth problem become a three-teeth problem.

10. Is there any risk involved with dental implant surgery?

Dentists have been using implants to replace missing teeth for decades, and the technology continues to improve each year. When performed by a trained and experienced clinician, dental implant surgery is a predictable dental procedure.

Certain medical conditions associated with oral surgery may present risks for patients, including uncontrolled diabetes, bone disease, and use of steroids, anticoagulants, or treatments that lower your ability to fight infection. Please consult with your doctor to see if dental implants are right for you.

Ready to take the first step towards your new smile?

The easiest first step is speaking with your dentist.

Don’t have a dentist yet? Visit the American Dental Association’s Find-a-Dentist™ or the American Institute of Implant Dentistry.

Still looking for more information? Read our Dental Implants FAQs or hear directly from satisfied "Smile Decider" patients