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Are Implants Right for You?

Who is a good candidate? Success rates Implants vs. alternatives

Implants are devices that replace the roots of missing teeth. They are used to support crowns, bridges or dentures. Implants are surgically placed in your jawbone. Most of the time, implants feel more natural and secure than other methods of replacing missing teeth, such as dentures. There are many reasons it's important to replace missing teeth:

  • Having all of your teeth can make you more self-confident. You don't worry that people notice that you have teeth missing.
  • When teeth are lost, the area of the jawbone that held those teeth starts to dissolve. Implants help to preserve the bone and the shape of your jaw.
  • Tooth loss affects how well you chew and what foods you are able to eat. Some people who have missing teeth have poor nutrition, which can affect overall health. Raw fruits and vegetables require more chewing. Someone who finds it difficult to chew may avoid them. Other options, such as blending, pureeing and juicing, are not always considered.
  • The loss of teeth can change your bite, the way your teeth come together. Changes in your bite can lead to problems with your jaw joint, called the temporomandibular joint.
  • Losing teeth can lead to changes in your speech. This also can affect your self-confidence.

There are several types of implants, including:

  • Root form
  • Subperiosteal
  • Mini

Root-form implants are the most common type used today. A root-form implant is made of titanium. It looks like a small cylinder or screw. After an implant is placed in the jawbone, a metal cylinder called an abutment eventually is attached to it. The abutment serves as a base for a crown, denture or bridge.

The key to the success of all implants is a process called osseointegration. This is how the bone in the jaw grows into and around the implant. Titanium is a special material that the jawbone accepts as part of the body.

Implant therapy involves a team. A dental specialist places the implant or implants. This is an oral surgeon, a periodontist, a prosthodontist, or a general dentist trained in implant placement. Then a restorative dentist takes over. This is usually a general dentist or prosthodontist. The restorative dentist will make the crowns, bridges or dentures that the implant or implants will support.

Who is a good candidate?

Most people are good candidates for implants. A good candidate should have the following:

  • Healthy gums
  • Enough bone to anchor the implants in the jaw. Some people who have lost bone in their jaw still can get implants, but first the bone must be rebuilt using special procedures.
  • A commitment to taking very good care of the implanted teeth and surrounding gums. Daily brushing and flossing are essential. Regular visits to the dentist for follow-up are also important.

People who may not be good candidates for implants include:

  • Young people whose jawbones have not stopped growing
  • Pregnant women
  • Heavy smokers. Smoking hinders healing in the mouth. It can reduce the likelihood of a successful implant.
  • Alcohol or substance abusers who are not prepared to follow the dentist's instructions after placement of the implant, such as no smoking, and returning for follow-up. They also may be less likely to take good care of their teeth and gums.
  • People who have received high-dose radiation treatment of the head or neck
  • People with chronic diseases or systemic problems, including:
    • Uncontrolled diabetes
    • Connective-tissue diseases
    • Hemophilia
    • Significant immune deficiencies

You still may be a good candidate for implants even if you have one of these conditions. It depends on the extent and severity of the condition.

  • People who take certain medicines, such as steroids or drugs that suppress the immune system. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis may also hinder healing in the jaw.
  • People who severely grind or clench their teeth. These habits can place too much pressure on the implants and increase the risk of failure.

Your first step is to make an appointment with a specialist for an evaluation. This could be with an oral surgeon, a periodontist, a prosthodontist, or a general dentist trained in implant placement. He or she will coordinate your treatment with the other members of the implant team.

Your evaluation will include an examination of your mouth and teeth and a thorough review of your medical and dental histories. Your mouth will be X-rayed. You might also have a computed tomography (CT) scan. This will provide information on the amount of bone in your jaw and its shape and where the nerves and sinuses are.

Finally, you and your dentist will discuss the options available to you. You will talk about the procedure, and its cost and possible complications. Your dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan for your needs and preferences.

Success rates

Studies indicate that surgical placement of root-form implants is successful more than 90% of the time. When these implants fail, the problems usually occur within the first year after surgery. After that, only about 1% of all implants fail each year.

Implants have become increasingly popular since the American Dental Association (ADA) endorsed them in 1986.

It is now estimated that more than half a million implants are placed every year in the United States.

Implants vs. alternatives

Depending on your particular problem, implants can be more expensive than the alternatives (denture or bridge). A basic implant plus a crown can cost between $2,000 and $5,000. The fees will depend on many factors and vary considerably. A few insurance companies cover implants, but may have low annual dollar limits. You should always check with your insurer.

The upfront cost for implants can be more than for other types of restorations. But the investment can pay off in the long run. You may not need an implant for every missing tooth. Your dentist can discuss how many implants you will need.

Other benefits of implants include:

  • Feel — Because implants are embedded in your bone, they feel more like your natural teeth than dentures.
  • Convenience — You will not need to worry about denture adhesives or having your dentures slip, click or fall out when you speak.
  • Nutrition — You may be able to chew better with implants. Chewing can be difficult with regular dentures, especially ones that don't fit perfectly. A regular upper denture also covers your palate, which can reduce your sense of taste.
  • Self-esteem — Because implants are so much like your natural teeth, you will think about them less. Your self-esteem and confidence will be improved because you will not have to worry about denture problems or people noticing that you have missing teeth. Regular dentures also can affect your speech. This can make you less self-confident when talking.


  • Last updated 12/17/15