Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How long do implants last?
A. Studies of implants have shown that implants can last as long as 20 - 25 years. Your own personal success will be influenced by factors related to your general health (including smoking, grinding, and oral hygiene). With proper treatment planning and patient selection your success can even be longer
Q. Will treatment hurt? What can I expect during the post-operative period?
A. Since the jaw bones have few nerve endings, the placement of dental implants causes only minor surgical discomfort. Bone grafting tends to have a little more discomfort associated with it. Depending on the extensiveness of the procedure, many patients are able to work within a day of surgery. Post-operative discomfort is controlled with prescription pain medication. You will be placed on a soft diet and antibiotics for a few days and told to use an antiseptic mouth rinse several times daily. Sutures are removed approximately 7 to 14 days after the implants are placed. In some cases we are able to place the implants without the use of sutures. Needless to say the techniques being developed are always geared to improving patient comfort
Q. Is everyone a candidate for implant treatment?
A. There are some medical conditions that might prevent you from being a good candidate for dental implants. Some of these may be uncontrolled diabetes, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, parathyroid disorders, blood disorders, rare bone disorders or bone marrow cancer. Existing dental conditions such as gum disease do not prevent the placement of implants but may modify when and how they are placed. Some physical factors may include insufficient or poor quality bone. With today’s bone grafting procedures most of these physical factors can be overcome. Finally age is not a major consideration as long as the patient is in good general health. As our general life expectancy is increasing you still have many potential years of healthy eating ahead of you. Your dentist should be able to help determine if indeed you are a candidate for dental implants.
Q. Do I have to go without my “teeth” while the implants are bonding to my jaw bone?
A. The original protocol called for patients to go without wearing their dentures for at least two weeks after implant placement. Over the years, this has been modified considerably and in most situations, patients leave the office wearing their teeth the day the implants are placed. Every patient and procedure is evaluated separately and there might occasionally be a recommendation that a patient go without their prosthesis for a short period of time. You may also have to be on a soft diet for a period of time after implants are placed.
Q. Are implant supported teeth as strong as my natural teeth?
A.Yes. Research shows that in many cases implants are actually stronger then natural teeth. Compared to removable teeth, studies show implant supported teeth have 100 percent or better chewing efficiency. Dental implants can make it possible for you to enjoy your favorite foods, improve your nutrition and your appearance!
Q. How long after a dental implant is placed can it be used to anchor my new teeth?
A. The protocol that was originally developed clearly states that we must wait three months in the lower jaw and six months in the upper jaw before we can begin to construct the new dental prosthesis that will be supported by the implants. In recent years, however, there has been a movement within the profession to sort of speed up this process. Today we believe that it is possible in selected patients to accelerate the healing time. We are even loading implants in very specific situations right away. However, the general protocol that I favor is 3 to 4 months in the lower jaw and 4 to 6 months in the upper jaw.
Q. What can go wrong with dental implants?
A. There are really not too many things that can go wrong with dental implants. They can fail to integrate into the bone and come out. They can fracture or break. There can be problems with the connection between the implant and the prostheses. There can be an infection or an inflammatory condition in the soft tissue and sometimes in the bone as a result of the implant placement. There can be damage to the nerves in the lower jaw and there can be damage to the maxillary sinus or the nasal cavity. All of these complications are rare and usually account for less than 5% of all dental implant treatments. These complications can usually be easily corrected.
Q. What are the cost of dental implants.
A. In some situations today, we still pay for these services according to the number of implants used. Dentistry, however, has realized that the number of implants used for a given restoration is most important in terms of the success of the restoration, not the overall fee and we have begun to start charging patients according to the complexity of the overall procedure. It is certainly much more cost effective when the same dentist both places and restores a patient’s dentition, but this is not always possible. In the future, as dental implants are incorporated into the scope of general practice, implants will be not only much more widespread in their use, but much more cost effective for the patients.
Q. Which is better,a Bridge or a Dental Implant?
A. Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions on this site is whether or not to use a fixed ("permanent") bridge or a dental implant to replace one or two missing teeth. Suppose you are missing your lower left first molar. If a fixed bridge were to be used, your dentist would cut down the adjacent teeth (the second molar and the second bicuspid) and fit a three unit fixed bridge over those two teeth. The missing tooth would be called a pontic and it would be effectively replaced by the three unit bridge. If your dentist were to use an implant with a crown on it, he would place an implant in the site of the original first molar. He could do this immediately or at some date after the first molar was removed. There is no time limit here. The implant will take about 6 months to connect with the bone and then at that time, your dentist can construct a single crown on the implant to replace the missing first molar. The cost of each one of these procedures varies from office to office, but a three unit fixed bridge costs about the same as an implant and a crown. The actual decision to do one over the other rests with you and your dentist. One technique is not inherently better than the other and each depends upon how you present and your dentists skills. All things being equal, I would usually prefer to place the implant and crown over the bridge.
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Surgically Placing Implants since 1992
Fellow and Master of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists