A Patient’s Guide to Dental Implants

Replacing teeth can feel like a daunting task.

If you live in a city, then it’ safe to say that you’re probably surrounded by hundreds of dental practices all boasting about their ability to provide you with the best bang for your oral health buck. Add to that the uneasiness that surrounds most surgical procedures, the cost and the potential of a lengthy recovery period, and you’ve got a basket-full of uncertainty, nervousness, and misinformation. Hopefully, by the end of this article, we’ll be able to calm your nerves and arm you with the knowledge you need to make an educated and confident decision.

To start, dental implants are a fantastic alternative to dentures, bridges, and caps. They’re efficient, durable, widely available, and they even look like real teeth. Today, we’ll explore this popular oral-health procedure and hopefully answer as many of your introductory implant questions as we can.

Types of Dental Implants

Not all dental implants are the same. In fact, there are countless variations on dental implants, all with a distinct set of advantages and disadvantages. All of the various dental implant styles can be broken down in to two distinct categories: Single-Stage Dental Implants and Two-Stage Dental Implants.

Single-Stage Dental Implants involve surgically placing a longer implant into the jaw bone, the top of which is level with the tissue of the gum. This leaves the head of the implant visible (and accessible), so that your dentist can easily attach and maintain the implants without the need for more surgery.

Two-Stage Implants require two separate procedures to complete the dental implant. First, your dentist will surgically place the implant in to your jaw bone, and then a few months later (once you’re healed) they’ll attach the abutment and temporary crown.

So, which dental implant subset will work best for you? You’ll need a consultation with a dentist that you trust in order to hash those details out.

Cost

The cost of the procedure can vary dramatically based on the dentist that you choose, the type of procedure, the number of teeth being replaced, and the amount of follow-up appointments required to finish the job. What I’m trying to say is that the cost can swing dramatically depending on your particular needs (and whether your health insurance coverage will cover a portion of your bill).

At the lower end of the spectrum, replacing a single tooth with a dental implant could cost roughly $1600 (CAD). At the high end, a single tooth replacement could potentially cost $5000. You can see how replacing a full-mouth of teeth can get expensive. But, if dental implants are important to you, don’t let that dissuade you! It’s important to talk to your dentist or oral surgeon to get a firm price for you before deciding on anything.

Preparation

As with many medical procedures, the process typically begins with a consultation. During the consultation, you’ll sit down with your dentist/oral surgeon who will determine if dental implants are right for you. They’ll examine your teeth, gums, and jawbone density using an X-ray or similar computer-based test. If everything checks out and your dentist approves of your pursuit for a better smile, they’ll fill you in with all of the particulars about the upcoming procedure. Things like recovery, duration of the procedure and how many appointments they deem is necessary (we’ll get in to those specifics here a little later on).

What can you do to prepare for treatment? First, it’s important to clear up any underlying health issues beforehand. If, for example, you suffer from tooth decay or gum disease, you’ll want to get that sorted out first. Finally, if you smoke, stop. Smoking can affect the success of the procedure, and you certainly don’t want to spend all of that money and all of that time only for it to fail.

Procedure

You’ve had your consultation, settled on a price, and patiently waited for your approaching appointment. Now it’s time to begin moving towards your brand-new smile.

Though the procedures vary from one to the next, there are a few steps that remain the same. First, your oral health professional will prepare your jaw for implantation by drilling a pilot hole in to the jaw bone at the desired locations. Then, after the hole is drilled, they’ll place the implant screw and seal up the gum tissue in order to heal. Depending on your dentist and the level of healing required, your dentist will place the implant abutment and create a temporary crown (to be replaced by a permanent crown at a later date).

As far as duration is concerned, the surgical procedure averages roughly one to two hours per tooth.

Post-procedure

When it comes to dental implants, recovery is half the battle. Depending on your age and other contributing factors, it can take up to six-months for your gum tissue to heal. Initially, you may experience swelling of your gums and face as well as some bruising and bleeding closest to the implant site. This is normal and shouldn’t be too painful either. Just take your prescribed pain meds and limit your diet to soft food.

Over the course of that six-month healing period, it is imperative that you remain vigilant in your oral hygiene habits. Failure to floss and brush on a regular basis can lead to infection, pain, and threatens to disrupt the entire dental implant process.

Expect follow-up appointments. The required amount of appointments/procedures can vary depending on the number of teeth being replaced and other important factors. Sometimes, the ordeal can be spread out over the course of a year. Remember, it can be stressful and a touch uncomfortable, but dental implants are the only permanent solution to a better, more confident smile.

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