Below are some of the most frequently asked questions patients have about dental implants.  If you have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, we would love to hear from you.

Click on a question below to see the answer.

  • What is a dental implant?

    A dental implant is a small titanium screw that serves as the replacement for the root portion of a missing natural tooth. Dental implants can be placed in either the upper or lower jaws. Due to the biocompatible properties of titanium, a dental implant fuses with the bone and becomes a good anchor for the replacement tooth. Dental implants can be used in solutions for replacing single or multiple missing teeth.

  • Why dental implants?

    There are a number of reasons why you should consider a dental implant:

    1. Without the root structure of a natural tooth present, the jawbone can shrink, making your face look older than it is. Because dental implants prevent the bone resorption that occurs when teeth are missing, the natural appearance of the smile is preserved.
    2. With dental implant treatment, there is no compromise to adjacent teeth; they are not cut down to place a bridge, or loosened by the hooks on removable partial dentures.  Dentures and partials have the added disadvantage of accelerating the bone resorption process, which causes the appearance of premature aging.
    3. With dental implants, there are no loose parts to worry about losing. The dental implant is stable and comfortable. No adjustment is needed after placement. In most cases, it will serve its owner for life.
  • What are the advantages of dental implants over dentures or a dental bridge?

    Bone preservation and improved appearance: When you lose the entire tooth – crown and root – shrinkage of the jawbone may cause your face to look older. Dental implants can stop this process. Other treatment options can replace the crown of the tooth above the gumline; however none of these methods of tooth replacement preserve bone.  And, in fact, dentures and partial dentures actually accelerate the bone resorption process.   

    Preserve natural teeth: With traditional dental bridges, teeth adjacent to missing teeth are normally ground down to be used as anchors for a dental bridge. The edges where the crowns supporting the bridge meet the tooth structure are more susceptible to decay than a tooth that has not been restored. Combine this with increased difficulty in cleaning the teeth under the bridge, due to an inability to floss without special threading tools, and the reason for the limited lifespan of dental bridges becomes more obvious. Dental implants often eliminate the need to modify healthy teeth.

    Permanent solution: For many patients, dentistry is a bit of a downward spiral.  Over the years small fillings become larger ones, leading to the need for crowns and possibly root canals. This happens due to some patients’ inability to control cavities.  In fact, larger and larger dental restorations and root canals weaken a tooth and make it more susceptible to future problems.  Because dental implants do not decay, they can become an ideal solution for tooth replacement for patients with a high incidence of cavities.  In these cases, they are a better option than a bridge, even when the adjacent teeth have previous restorations.  Though there are no guarantees that an implant will last for the life of a patient, multiple studies show that dental implants have a higher rate of survival long-term than any other restorative treatment.  They certainly have the greatest probability of serving its owner for life.

  • How long do implants last?

    Documented clinical research demonstrates that implant supported replacement teeth have been successful for over 50 years. These were some of the first root-form implant cases ever completed and they have been closely monitored from the beginning. It is highly likely that these cases will be successful throughout the lifetime of those patients.

    Dental implants are designed to be permanent; however many factors contribute to the long term success of implant treatment, such as home care and regular maintenance visits to the dentist and/or periodontist.

    By comparison, research demonstrates that the typical tooth supported bridge lasts from 10-15 years and that partials and dentures are functional for approximately 5 years. Insurance statistics indicate that bridges, partials and dentures last 5 years and they generally pay for replacements every 5 years.

  • Who is a candidate for dental implants?

    Nearly anyone who is missing one or more teeth due to injury, disease or tooth decay may be a candidate for dental implants. There are a few medical conditions that can undermine the success of implant treatment, such as uncontrolled diabetes. However, there are very few conditions that would keep someone from having implant treatment altogether.

    Quality and quantity of available bone for implant placement is more often a factor in qualifying for dental implants than medical conditions. However, even people who have lost a significant amount of bone can qualify for dental implant treatment with additional procedures to add bone or create new bone. Advances in this type of treatment have made it possible for many people who would not previously have been considered candidates for dental implants to be successfully treated. Experienced implant surgeons, such as our doctors, are the best to evaluate whether dental implants are a viable solution for you.

  • My dentist informed me that one of my teeth needs to be removed and I am interested in a dental implant replacement. When should I consult with about having an implant?

    If at all possible, is best to have a consultation prior to the extraction of your tooth.  In some cases, it is possible to remove your tooth and place an implant at the same appointment.  This can save you from having to experience two surgical appointments and can speed your implant treatment time up by a few months.  It may even be possible to place a temporary crown on the implant for cosmetic purposes.

    Even when an implant cannot be placed at the time a tooth is extracted, our doctors utilize special techniques to extract teeth that assist in maintaining the scaffold of the jaw bone around the extraction socket.  These techniques, especially when combined with ridge preservation bone grafting, assist in maintaining the anatomy of the jaw bone in preparation for the proper placement of a dental implant in the future.  The preservation of the jaw bone of the time of extraction is a significantly more predictable procedure than trying to rebuild the bone that is lost after the extraction of a tooth.

  • Will my new teeth look natural?

    In most cases, your replacement teeth will look, feel, and function like natural teeth.  When used in combination with modern restorative dentistry, your dental implant restoration’s appearance, comfort and function are very likely to exceed your expectations. Often they are hard to tell apart from your natural teeth.

    In some cases, however, the amount of bone and gum tissue destruction that has occurred prior to the dental implant process can significantly impact the final esthetic outcome.  If there has been significant bone or soft tissue loss due to periodontal disease or trauma, dental implant therapy by itself will not re-create what has been lost.  In some cases, we can perform bone or soft tissue regeneration procedures to rebuild these tissues.  Other cases require coordination of treatment with other dental specialists or sophisticated restorative procedures performed by your dentist to provide the most natural look possible.  In rare cases, the most esthetic result is obtained with traditional crown and bridge therapy versus dental implant therapy.

    One of the advantages to seeking the care of an experienced periodontal and implant specialist is a recognition of the possibilities (and the limitations) that can be achieved with implant treatment prior to beginning care.

  • How will dental implants affect my life?

    Dental implant-supported replacement teeth look, feel and function like natural teeth. This means that you can eat and drink whatever you choose. But most importantly, dental implants often improve quality of life in a very concrete way. People who have felt embarrassed and worried because of their tooth problems are often overwhelmed by what new permanent teeth can do for their self-esteem.

  • Are there situations where a dentist would recommend extracting a tooth and replacing it with an implant supported crown?

    Dental implants are a predictable tooth replacement option for patients who must lose a tooth or have lost a tooth in the past.  They are not, generally, meant to take the place of teeth that have predictable options for treatment to maintain them in a state of health, function, esthetics.

    There are many situations where natural teeth are either failing or are about to fail. This includes severe periodontal disease (gum disease) that has eroded the bone that supports teeth. Sometimes in these cases, it is preferable to extract the teeth; eliminate the disease and infection and replace the teeth with implant supported crowns/bridges.

    There are also situations where a tooth has had a root canal (nerves have been removed from the tooth) leaving the tooth brittle and susceptible to fracture. In cases where the tooth needs to be retreated and the prognosis is not favorable, it is preferable to extract the tooth and replace it with an implant supported crown.

    Teeth with severe fractures are usually extracted and are ideal candidates for replacement with dental implant treatment.

     

  • Is it necessary to have one implant placed for each missing tooth?

    No. In fact, it is possible to replace all of the lower teeth with an overdenture that is supported by only 2-4 implants. On the other hand, some dental specialists feel that it is advantageous to replace missing posterior teeth with individual implants to provide additional strength to withstand the forces of chewing for patients who have most of their natural teeth.

    Each patient’s situation is unique and should be evaluated by one of our periodontal specialists to evaluate your condition and determine the appropriate number of implants required to support the replacement teeth that will meet your functional and esthetic needs.

  • Will I be able to chew with the same force and pressure I use with my natural teeth?

    When replacing individual teeth with implants, yes. Following a brief adaptation period, chewing capacity is comparable to that of natural teeth.

    If you are missing all your teeth and wish to use a few implants with attachments to retain your overdenture, no, your chewing capacity will not be as great as when you had all your teeth.  You will, however, have more chewing function and confidence than with just your denture and no implant support.  Increasing chewing ability is gained by the usage of additional implants.

  • Is old age a problem?

    Occasionally, older patients express concern that their age may prevent them from enjoying the benefits of dental implants. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, overall health and a desire to improve the quality of life are much more important considerations than age.  When dental implants were first developed, back in the 1950s, implant supported replacement teeth were originally designed as a solution for older patients who were missing all of their teeth.  Since then, many patients well into their 90s have had dental implant treatment without a single problem.

    If you’re healthy enough to have a tooth extracted, you’re probably healthy enough to receive dental implants. Certain chronic diseases may contraindicate dental implant treatment. Our periodontal specialists will determine if you are a candidate for dental implants after a careful evaluation of your dental and health history.

  • How much time is required for a dental implant placement?

    Dental implants preserve bone because they function like tooth roots, firmly embedded in the jawbone.  In order for the implants to become embedded in the bone, the bone must bond to the implants.  The entire implant process usually takes anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on the condition of the bone in which the implants are placed.

    If the adequate bone is present (when a tooth was removed a significant time before or the tooth never developed), most implants placed require 6-8 weeks before a final restoration is fabricated by your dentist.

    If you have been told that a tooth needs to be extracted and you are considering a dental implant replacement, it is very helpful to consult with Tampa Bay Periodontics and Implant Dentistry to discuss your options prior to the removal of the tooth. When a tooth needs to be extracted, our doctors evaluate the root anatomy and the amount of bone and/or infection around the tooth root to determine if it is necessary to regrow bone prior to the placement of a dental implant or if an implant can be placed directly into the extraction site when the tooth is taken out.  In some cases, we can remove your tooth, place a dental implant, and provide a temporary restoration, supported by the implant, at the same appointment.

    The procedure chosen depends on several factors, such as your dental health, the number of teeth involved and which teeth are replaced. These factors will also determine the total number of visits throughout the treatment period.

  • What if an inexperienced surgeon performs my dental implant surgery?

    Many dental patients are surprised to find that there is no credentialing for procedures like they are used to in medicine.  Indeed, the specialty boards and hospitals act as regulators for who can perform specific medical procedures.  In dentistry, complex specialty procedures, including implant surgery, can be performed by any licensed dentist with minimal training.  See our “Choosing an Implant Surgeon “section for reasons you should choose an experienced implant surgeon for your dental implant surgery.

  • Is the treatment painful?

    With any surgery, there can be some discomfort once the local anesthesia (numbing) has worn off. Placing one implant normally causes less discomfort than placing several. Local anesthesia is provided to eliminate the potential for any pain during the procedure.  Sedation methods can be utilized, if desired, to assist with controlling any anxiety you may feel about having the procedure performed.  Most patients report that they were much more comfortable following the procedure than they had anticipated. We do not anticipate significant discomfort, but our doctors will prescribe medications to ease any discomfort that may occur. If you like, we are happy to recommend another patient who has already had tooth replacement therapy to assess their personal experience.

  • How will I feel after the treatment?

    Usually, any discomfort is treated with an ordinary painkiller. You should expect to be able to work the next day.

  • Do dental implants ever fail?

    Dental implant treatment is one of the most successful procedures in the medical-dental fields, with documented initial success rates (integration of the implant to the jaw bone) over 95%. Our doctors have a success rate of over 99%.  Although successful treatment is very predictable, there are rare occasions where the bone does not completely bond to the implants. When this occurs, new implants can usually be placed, and the success rates for the replacement implants are even higher.  Over the long-term (greater than 15 years), studies show implant failure rates to be approximately 5-10%.

    The most common reason for implants to fail to initially integrate are poor bone quantity or quality or too much pressure being placed on the newly placed implants.  Common causes of excessive pressure include a “flipper” tooth replacement, removable partial dentures, or a full denture.  If you’re considering an implant tooth replacement, if you have the ability, please consult with our doctors prior to having a tooth replacement fabricated so that the risk of immediate implant failure can be minimized.

    Long-term failure of implants is most commonly associated with a lack of maintenance, smoking, poor oral hygiene, or overload of the implant(s).  Bite overload can occur in a case where an insufficient number of implants were placed, in a patient who places abnormal stresses on the implant (for instance clenching or grinding), or in a case where an implant is placed in an improper position due to insufficient bone.  The long-term consequence of an improperly positioned implant is an off-axis force that is transmitted from the implant crown to the bone, which can cause bone breakdown from overload.  In some cases, even when there is adequate bone for the placement of an implant, a bone grafting procedure can regenerate lost bone so that an implant can be placed in an appropriate position to accept the forces placed on the implant crown without leading to long-term bone loss around the implant.

  • Is it possible to use an existing denture with dental implants?

    Sometimes it is possible to use a patient’s existing denture, as opposed to fabricating a new denture to snap onto dental implants, by altering it to accommodate the necessary attachments. However, there are a number of factors that must be considered. Since each patient’s situation is unique, the possibility of using an existing denture can only be determined in consultation with a dentist or dental specialist.

  • How will I care for my dental implants?

    Your new teeth must be cared for and checked regularly, just like your natural teeth. Brush and floss as recommended by your dentist, our doctors, or dental hygienist. See your dentist and/or Tampa Bay Periodontics and Implant Dentistry as frequently as advised for routine maintenance visits.

    Home care is a little more complicated for people who are missing all their teeth, in that special brushes and floss are often recommended.  With overdentures, it is necessary to clean the implant attachments, as well as the overdenture.  Permanently fixed implant-supported replacement teeth are cleaned like all other bridges

  • How much do dental implants cost?

    An investment in dental implant treatment is an investment in overall health, appearance and well being, as it involves preserving the integrity of facial structures, as well as replacing missing teeth.

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to provide an “average” fee for dental implant therapy.  The fee for tooth replacement with dental implants depends on several factors, including the number of teeth being replaced, the number of dental implants required to support your replacement teeth (treatment options), and whether additional procedures are necessary to achieve the proper aesthetic and functional result.

    The fee is usually slightly higher than other methods of tooth replacement, however, long-term implant treatment is generally more cost-effective than other options, such as bridges, partials, and dentures that need to be replaced more frequently.

    To obtain a specific fee estimate, it is necessary to have a doctor examine your mouth. After a thorough diagnostic examination, our doctors will recommend the treatment that is best for you.

  • Is dental implant treatment covered by dental insurance?

    Insurance coverage of implant treatment depends on the individual policy. However, it is rare to receive any substantial coverage. Since the benefit coverage is determined strictly by the amount the employer wants to spend on the policy, and the insurance companies want to build in their profit margins, there are major limitations on most dental insurance plans. In reality, the plans are only designed to cover routine maintenance, emergencies and basic care.

    The insurance companies use statistical data to determine the most common procedures submitted on claims, and then they set their own usual and customary fee schedule for these procedures. They also determine the specific restrictions and limitations for each plan. Because the plans are only intended to cover the basics, there is an annual maximum allowable benefit of $1,000-$1,500 on most plans.

    Although most companies exclude implants as a covered benefit, many of them will pay the same benefit they would cover for the lowest cost alternative treatment option (partials and dentures) and some of the diagnostic records, if a specific request is made for alternative benefits. Even if an individual policy includes implants as a covered benefit, the amount of coverage is still limited to the annual maximum allowable.

  • Does medical insurance cover implant treatment?

    There are a few cases where medical insurance is available for people who are missing all of their teeth, and as a result, have medical complications. This type of coverage depends solely on the individual policy. Other than these situations, medical coverage is very rare.

    Work related injuries and other types of accidents are the other cases that are sometimes covered by insurance. Medicare does not cover implant treatment. All in all, it is best to assume that there is no medical insurance coverage available.

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