One of the most remarkable tooth-replacement options developed over the past several years are dental implants. Considering all the advantages of these amazing restorations – advantages which we’ll discuss below – it’s no wonder that they’ve become so popular with people looking for ways to replace missing teeth. But if you’re like most patients, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is are there affordable dental implants? We’ve written this article to provide a brief description of implants, the advantages of implants over other tooth-replacement methods, and how much you can expect to pay (on average) for an implant.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant consists of a tiny metal rod that is inserted into the patient’s jawbone and supports a porcelain crown on top. The procedure begins when the dentist makes an incision in the gum tissue of the patient, at the exact location of the missing tooth. He or she then implants a tiny metal rod (usually made from titanium) into the jawbone below the gum tissue. That implant is left to fuse to the bone – a process that typical takes a few months. Once that fusing is complete, the patient is left with what is essentially a new artificial tooth root. At that time, the dentist affixes a porcelain crown to the top of the implant. The end result is an artificial tooth that not only looks completely natural; it feels that way to the patient as well.
Advantages of Dental Implants
If you’re thinking that the implant process sounds like a long one, you would be correct. So why exactly are implants such a popular choice for people looking to replace one or more missing teeth? What follows are some of the benefits of dental implants compared to other tooth-replacement options:
- Implants function just like natural teeth. The porcelain crowns that sit on top of dental implants are extremely strong and durable. And because they are permanently attached to an implant that is fused to the patient’s jawbone, they are every bit as strong as a natural tooth. That means that patients with implants can feel free to enjoy whatever foods they normally would without giving their replacement teeth a second thought! On the other hand, people with partial dentures (for example) need to exercise caution when eating some foods to avoid damaging and/or dislodging their partials.
- Implants are a permanent solution for replacing missing teeth. What do we mean by “permanent”? If implants are properly cared for, they can quite literally last for the lifetime of the patient! Unlike some other tooth-replacement options that need to be repaired and/or replaced after a few years (like dentures or some types of bridges, for example), implants are intended to last for decades.
- Implants look and feel exactly like natural teeth. The porcelain crown on the top of an implant is made to exactly match the shade of the patient’s other natural teeth, making it virtually impossible to tell the difference between the implant and any other tooth. But that’s not all. Because the implant is fused to the patient’s jawbone, this type of tooth replacement actually feels completely natural to the patient! Some other tooth replacement options can feel bulky inside the patients’ mouth, and those that are removable by the patient have a tendency to slip inside the mouth.
- Implants are easy to care for. In fact, the patient simply has to brush and floss as usual, meaning that the implant requires no special care whatsoever! Removable dentures, on the other hand, require soaking in special cleaning solutions and other out-of-the-ordinary steps to properly care for them.
Average Cost of Dental Implants
When exploring whether or not implants are “affordable,” it’s important to keep in mind that what might sound affordable to one person may be totally out of range for another. So instead of trying to describe what’s affordable and what’s not, let’s look at a general price range of dental implants. In most areas of the country, a single dental implant can cost between $2,500 and $6,000. That may sound like wide range, but it’s important to keep in mind all the factors that play into the final cost of an implant, including the following:
- Is bone grafting necessary? Only people with adequate bone tissue are able to accommodate an implant. If your jawbone density is compromised, you may need a bone graft procedure before the implant process can begin, and that can significantly increase the cost.
- Are you getting one implant or several? Obviously, the more implants you receive, the more it will cost – not only because more materials will be required, but also because the dentist or oral surgeon will need to spend much more time to complete the procedure for multiple implants.
- What types of materials are being used? Although most implant posts are made from titanium, the crowns can be made from either porcelain (the preferred and, typically, the most expensive) or some other material, such as ceramic, for example.
- How many appointments are required? If you need additional follow-up visits for whatever reason, that can increase the total cost of an implant.
- Does your dentist have a high level of expertise in implant surgery? If the answer is yes, then you might end up paying more than patients who choose a less experienced provider.
A word of caution regarding who will perform your implant surgery: be sure to choose a dental professional with years of experience in this procedure! Although implants are relatively pricey compared to some other tooth-replacement options, many patients agree that they’re well worth the cost because of all the advantages that we describe above. But, as is always the case, you get what you pay for! If you come across a dental practice that offers implants at a price so low that it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because the provider doesn’t have an adequate amount of experience in the procedure and/or the materials used will be substandard. So keep these considerations in mind as you begin your search. Start with your own dentist. If that practice doesn’t offer dental implants, chances are that they can refer you to a reputable dental provider who does.