X-Ray of a dental implant and crown

We get a lot of questions from patients about dental implants. The purpose of this post is to take away the confusion facing the consumer. This is a consumer-based post so the goal is to keep the technical stuff out and concentrate on what is important to the reader.

Does it hurt?

The word implant is not the most pleasant thing to think about especially when the word surgery follows. Once the word is mentioned the first thought is pain instead of the excellent service the procedure offers. Maybe dentistry needs to change the name to something less caustic and frightening. Knee replacement is achieved with implants so let’s call the dental procedure root replacement because that is exactly what the procedure does; replace a missing root in the jaw.

The majority of root replacements are placed by specialists, i.e. specially trained periodontists and oral surgeons, but in straightforward situations can be placed by a properly-trained general dentist. Intravenous sedation, which takes away all memory, is used as part of the service when the implants are placed by an oral surgeon. Once sedated, the root replacement area is numbed so there is no pain whatsoever once the surgery begins. It truly is a patient-friendly procedure when done correctly because the patient sits in a dental chair and the next thing they know they are finished and on the way home.

My patients have had implants with virtually no post-op pain. Of course, everyone is different and there can be some complications as with any surgery. With modern technology, implants have a 95 percent success rate. The great news for the Ottawa area is that we have periodontists and oral surgeons who do a fantastic job with root replacements.

How many visits?

A root replacement needs the same things as a normal root, i.e. good bone to anchor itself in. It is imperative the first appointment starts with a comprehensive exam to X-ray the bone and get a detailed medical history. Then it is up to the surgeon to decide the best action. People come in all different sizes and shapes and so do implants. If there is not enough bone to anchor to, there are added procedures that can be done. The more that needs to be done, the more visits it will take, but in many cases the implant can be placed in one appointment. The surgeon will know when the root replacement is secure.

What is next?

All teeth have two major components; the root and the crown. Implants have three; the root, the abutment and the crown. The root is in the bone, and the abutment connects the crown to the implant. The general dentist takes an impression of the implant and has a dental laboratory make a crown that fits the existing bite. The great thing about this particular step is there’s usually no need for shots or drilling.

Why get a root replacement?

One of these front teeth is an implant! Looks so natural, the patient often forgets which one it is!

One of these front teeth is an implant! Looks so natural, the patient often forgets which one it is!

The procedure described above will give a person the most natural tooth replacement possible. Done correctly on the right person, there is virtually no way to tell it from a real tooth during speaking, chewing and smiling. There is nothing that comes in or out, nothing moves, and food does not stick in between and under like it does on a bridge, There is really no way to distinguish it from a normal tooth. Also important is that when an implant is placed, the bone stays in that area.  Without an implant to replace a missing tooth, the bone begins immediately to melt away.

What is the cost?

Replacing teeth with implants is expensive. There is a fee for the implant itself and a separate fee for the crown. Together, the prices range from $4500 to $5500 for each and every tooth. Humans have 32 teeth so if you multiplied the price times 32, it would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The subtle message here is to take excellent care of your teeth because they are very, very valuable. There are great techniques available that can also replace all of the teeth in the upper and/or lower jaw with only 4 dental implants per jaw.

The best first step

It is imperative that the general dentist and the specialist work very close in hand on every step of this process. The patient must have clear expectations of every procedure and they must feel comfortable and confident in both the dentist and the specialist. We have surgeons and periodontists we work with all of the time to make this treatment as seamless as possible.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!