Dental implants have become a game changer in the replacement of missing teeth. If you need to replace teeth and do not like the idea of living with dentures or dental bridges, implants can restore your confidence and bring back the comfort and function of natural teeth.
While dental implants can eliminate many problems associated with missing teeth and give you back your smile, they are not for everyone. If implants interest you, make sure you understand their pros and cons.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants offer an alternative to removable dentures and bridges. They replace the roots of teeth with a screw into the jawbone that supports a fake tooth or crown. Getting implants requires dental surgery, which takes about 90 minutes to complete. This can be completed with local anesthesia only, but many patients prefer additional sedation therapy such as I.V. Sedation, oral sedation, or nitrous oxide sedation. The process is not over in just one appointment. You typically need multiple dental visits over 4-12 months depending on multiple factors. Your dental implant surgeon and a restorative dentist should give you a plan outlining the timing of appointments as well as special instructions during the healing phase.
The decision to get dental implants requires careful consideration and a discussion with your dentist. Here are the pros and cons of dental implants:
Advantages of Dental Implants
One advantage significant to many patients is that most dental implants look natural. The crown that attaches to the screw going into the jawbone mimics a real tooth. Besides improving your smile, dental implants can solve other cosmetic issues, like collapsed cheeks, crooked teeth, and sagging skin.
Dental implants do not just look like natural teeth; they also function like so. The crown attached to the implant allows you to chew and drink with the ease you might not get from dentures or bridges. You may also see improvements in how you talk because the air passing through your mouth when speaking will not be affected by any holes or gaps.
Perhaps more important than aesthetics is that implants are durable, especially the titanium kind. With a success rate of over 97% for 10 years, implants last a long time. Even after 15 years, the success rate of dental implants can be as high as 94%. In contrast, dental bridges need replacing every 5-15 years.
Replacing lost teeth with implants helps keep your remaining teeth in place. Gaps can cause the other teeth to shift around to make up for the space, becoming misaligned. This often results in a compromised appearance and eating difficulties.
Dental implants are also helpful in preventing bone loss. When you lose a natural tooth, the empty tooth socket and that section of the jawbone no longer have a purpose. Because there’s no more pressure from the lost tooth, the body eventually breaks down and absorbs some of that bone. Evidence shows that an implant preserves that part of the bone, slowing the absorption rate.
Alternatives to implants are dentures and dental bridges, typically less expensive but not permanent. Also, compared to dentures and bridges, implants tend to look and feel more natural, require less daily care, are more comfortable when chewing, and last longer.
Drawbacks of Dental Implants
For some people, the most significant disadvantage of implants is the cost. They can be more expensive than other options, and dental insurance might not cover them. The price for just one dental implant can be around $5,000. Fees are region specific and can vary from dentist to dentist based on experience and reputation. There can also be additional expenses for extracting a tooth or placing a bone graft. If you replace all your teeth with a full mouth of implants, your bill can go up to $50,000-$100,000.
Implants require dental surgery, which can be intimidating to many anxious patients. As previously stated, the process can take up to 12 months and requires multiple appointments. As with any dental surgery, getting implants poses some risks, including infection, potential implant failure, early stages of receding gums, bleeding, nerve and tissue damage, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. However, all these risks are rare, and most people find the advantages of dental implant therapy far outweighs the risk.
Another con is that dental implant surgery is not for everyone. To be a good candidate for the procedure, you must be in relatively good dental and overall health. A blood clot disorder, uncontrolled diabetes, or metabolic bone disease may make ineligible. You also should not have implant surgery if you smoke heavily or are undergoing cancer treatment.
Finally, even if you go through with the procedure, a dental implant might not take if you are experiencing stages of receding gums. The gums are crucial in supporting teeth and their roots, or screws in the case of implants. Any receding gum stages may compromise the stability of implants and increase their chance of failure. Gum recession can also interfere with proper maintenance, making cleaning in and around the implants difficult. Patients at risk due to gum disease are advised to have gum disease treated and under control prior to dental implant therapy.