What Are Dental Implants?
Think of dental implants as artificial tooth roots, similar in shape to screws. When dental implants are placed in your jawbone (A), they bond with your natural bone. They become a sturdy base for supporting one or more artificial teeth, called crowns.
A connector – known as an abutment (B) – is placed on top of the dental implant to hold and support your crowns. The crowns are custom-made to match your natural teeth and fit your mouth (C).
Modern dental implants have been used successfully for over 30 years. They are the strongest devices available to support replacement teeth – and even better, they allow these new teeth to feel, look and function naturally.
When performed by a trained and experienced dental implant dentist, dental implant surgery is one of the safest and most predictable procedures in dentistry.
Who Can Benefit from Dental Implants?Dental implants can be a smart choice for adults of all ages, whether you were born without a tooth or have had to have teeth removed due to injury, infection or decay. They can also be an option for adolescents, once facial growth and development has been completed. Generally, this occurs around age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys.
The advantagesHere are four important advantages of dental implants, compared to alternatives such as dentures and bridges:
- You’ll look and feel great. Dental implants feel, look, fit and function like healthy, natural teeth. They’re so comfortable you don’t have to think about them. You brush and floss them just like you do your natural teeth – no need to remove them for cleaning. They also help you retain your natural face shape and smile.
- They’re built to last. Dental implants that are properly cared for can last many decades. Many other options, including certain types of dental bridges and dentures, may need to be replaced as often as every 5 to 10 years, requiring a more significant investment of time and money.
- You can live life with confidence. Your dental implants will be secure, so they won't slip or click when you talk, eat or laugh. You'll also find that your speech is more natural. With dental implants, you'll have the peace of mind to eat what you love, say what you want to say, be as active as you want and smile broadly.
- They protect facial bone and healthy teeth. Leaving empty spaces in your mouth after losing one or more teeth can lead to health issues such as jawbone deterioration. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that actually helps stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss. Getting dental implants as soon as possible after losing a tooth helps prevent bone loss at the site. Also, dental implants don't require grinding down adjacent teeth to anchor bridges or attach partial dentures.
Pricing facts and figures
You might be surprised how affordable dental implants are compared to other tooth replacement options, especially when you take into account long-term cost effectiveness and quality of life.
The total cost depends on several different factors, including how many teeth need replacing and where they’re located, the number and type of implants, and whether any additional procedures are necessary to prepare your mouth for the implants.
Since dental implant treatments are customized for your specific needs, the costs vary accordingly. An evaluation by an experienced dental implant expert is the best way to ensure that you are getting an accurate cost estimate for quality work.
The true cost of alternatives
At first glance, dentures or removable bridges can appear much less expensive than dental implants, given their lower upfront costs. However, the full cost – both financial and emotional – of these options can run much higher than dental implants, for several reasons:
- Initial costs vs. total costs. The initial price you pay doesn’t include the cost of replacing your dentures or bridges, which may be necessary as often as every 5 to 15 years. It also doesn’t include the ongoing maintenance costs, such as fixatives and adhesives.
- The convenience costs. Unlike your natural teeth or dental implants, you need to remove your dentures to soak and brush them, which can be a time-consuming hassle.
- The health costs. Without a tooth or implant, your jawbone will begin to deteriorate, which can change your facial appearance.
- The social costs. Dentures can slip or click when you chew, laugh, talk or kiss.
From a purely financial perspective, dental implants are cost-competitive with other tooth replacement options over the long term. And when you also factor in quality of life and long-term oral health, dental implants clearly rank as the higher-value alternative.