A guide to dental implants
It may be said that visiting the dentist is becoming more and more like taking a car in for a service. They take a look. Give a shake of the head. Give you a list of jobs that need doing (full of technical jargon, obviously). They present you with a bill ( if you are lucky) - a few hundred rand.
And what can you do? Grin and bear it -- or maybe grimace and bear it, depending on how your teeth look. The fact is that dental work is becoming more confusing for patients. With the more and more treatment options available, we are able to offer more solutions, at different price ranges, to suit different people. How do you know what to choose? How do you know what’s right for you? And how much should it cost?
Dental implants are one of those techniques that sometimes cause misunderstandings. Costs may vary. Procedures can be difficult to understand. And if you don’t get the right explanations from the outset, you may feel as though you are beginning the procedure with more questions than answers!
Do I need dental implants?
Teeth can be lost at odd times , whether it has been knocked out or loosen in a game of rugby or has come to the end of its usefulness through dental decay or the development of an abscess etc. Obviously, you don’t have to replace a missing tooth. But for many people, as well as being unsightly, missing teeth can cause long term problems with oral health. If they been knocked out in a trauma, then the damage can also run deeper.
So let’s picture the scenario. You are in the dentist’s chair faced with a problem and decisions to make. The traditional method of replacing loose or missing teeth has been either with a fixed bridge or with a removable denture.
Alternatively a dental implant could be recommended. Dental implants are rapidly becoming the preferred treatment of replacing loose and missing teeth. They have been available for over 30 years, but in recent years procedures have become faster, easier and more cost-effective.
What are the other options?
We will be more than happy to answer your questions, I could really help if you know the right questions to ask. Dental implants have a high success rate and are becoming increasingly common. But that doesn’t mean that they are right for you. So here’s a checklist of questions that could be worth asking.
- - Can a tooth be saved by root canal treatment?
- - If the root treatment is an option would it be expensive and cost-effective?
- - How long is the tooth likely to last if it is kept?
- - Could a missing tooth be replaced with a bridge or denture instead?
Answers to these questions should make it clear right from the start why dental implants are being recommended.
When should I start asking questions ?
Good question! You’re not going to carry a checklist around before you end up in the dentist’s chair.
If an implant is recommended, the first stage in the procedure should be full consultation. This gives you the chance to ask any questions you have - the more, the better. Don’t be afraid of asking is obvious questions either. The more comfortable you feel about the procedure, the more relaxed you will be when the appointments for treatment finally arrive.
Of course, the consultation works both ways. We will more likely have a few questions for you to. In particular, we will ask about your general health etc and get to know you better.
One of my friends needed a bone graft! Will I need one?
The dental implant procedure has a number of stages and most people only tend to remember the parts that sounds scary! Think of implant as a metal rod that goes into the jawbone and holds false teeth in place. It sounds a bit like putting a piece of flat- pack furniture together - but if you can imagine how uncomfortable a moving denture is against your gums, you can see why it is the perfect technique for securing teeth!
The reason that some patients need a bone graft is therefore fairly obvious- and any good joiner could probably tell you the answer! If the implants screws directly into the jawbone, then you need enough jawbone there to make sure it screws in properly.
So where does the extra bone come from?
Don’t worry, it isn’t somebody else’s. The best source of bone for your graft is your own bone tissue or artificial bone. Sometimes a combination of your own bone tissue and a synthetic substitute can be used.
You will know whether you need a bone graft or not after the initial x-rays and CT scans. Armed with these, we will be able to assess whether your jaw already has enough bone to support implants. In many cases a bone graft is not needed and we can continue with the standard procedures.
Is the dental implant procedure painful?
As mentioned earlier, the dental implant procedure has developed significantly in recent years, becoming faster, easier and much more straightforward to perform. All of this means that you heal faster than in the past and the majority of patients are surprised at how little pain they feel. However as with most dental work, you can expect some soreness and inflammation afterwards. How much really depends on how complex the procedure is.
The main part of the procedure is normally carried out under local anaesthetic, which numbs your mouth and jaw. Conscious sedation may also be recommended and indicated. If you have any concerns regarding the anaesthetising process, you know what to do. Ask!
How long before I can eat whatever I want again?
Now this isn’t an easy question to answer. Don’t forget, your mouth is pretty much unique. Every patient heals at different rates. And every dental implant procedure involves a slightly different approach or technique to make sure that the implant feels as though it fits your mouth properly. In effect it is tailor-made to suit you. So it is difficult to put a timescale on getting back to your best.
Usually, however it takes 3 to 6 months for the patient’s mouth to heal before the teeth can be fitted. Having said that, if you are changing from dentures to implants, imagine how much you will enjoy being able to eat a crisp apple again! A few extra days of healing time will probably worth the wait.
What can I expect the results to look like?
In all honesty, you won’t see much. One of the benefits of implant is that they are much more aesthetically pleasing than other treatments. They are no unsightly metal clips and teeth won’t move around in the same way as dentures. They are shaped to fit your jawbone are permanently secured. So they should just look like a natural set of teeth.
The metal of the implant is hidden by the tooth, gums and jaw. Similarly, some of the most important benefits of implants are invisible too. Implants can help maintain bone tissue in the jaw, keeping it healthy.
Am I too old to implants?
There is no age limit for dental implants. Dental implants are best postponed in children until growth is complete because the jawbone changes considerably in shape and size during growth. However, there is certainly no upper age limit implant treatment; indeed, elderly patients can benefit greatly from stronger teeth. Implants will also keep your dentures much more comfortable, so eating becomes a pleasure again(no matter what the food!)
How long will my dental implants last?
Dental implants have a high success rate- research suggests that over 500 million people around the world have dental implants. So you can rest assured that it is a tried and tested technique. Surgery is commonly performed and implants can last for many years. Patients are always recommended to maintain good oral hygiene. You’ll have to spend time brushing your teeth and flossing every day, while attending regular checkups and receiving x-rays. Often, crowns, bridges and dentures are more easily likely to be damaged ( and are more easily replaced) than the implants that support them.
Finally can I afford what dental implants really cost?
Cost is an issue with dental implants, but only because these costs can vary so much. It often leaves you playing a guessing game. Are some procedure cheaper because they are inferior? Are more expensive procedures better? What are the real factors affecting the cost of treatment?
Don’t worry if these are the kind of questions you asked yourself - most other patients are in the same boat! So why do the costs vary so much?
Usually, dental charges cover a number of costs for the complete treatment. For example these costs can include:
- - Materials
- - Technical expertise
- - Facilities
- - Consultations and advice
In a procedure such as dental implants, these factors often vary from practice to practice and from patient to patient. As mentioned above, not every procedure will require a bone graft so that affect the final costs. In this practice we work with other specialists that include periodontists and oral surgeons. Their fees need to be included in the total costing.
Ultimately the advice to patients at the end of this article is exactly the same as the advice of the beginning. Ask! In the same way you’ve made the most of your consultation to find out what exactly your procedures involve, you should also find out exactly what you are paying for. What type/brand of implant is being used? What level of after-care is included? Are there any aspects of the procedure that are non-standard?
Don’t forget, getting answers your questions isn’t just about finding a cheaper option or checking on our expertise. As much as anything else, it’s about putting you at ease throughout the procedure. At the end of the day, that knowledge and reassurance can be more valuable than anything else.
Remember that the planning of dental implant treatment begins with the prosthodontist. It is like building a house. The design comes first and not the surgery! The success of treatment depends greatly on the planning.