Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Implants

Q: Is the placement of implants painful?   

A: Implant placement usually does not result in much post-operative discomfort -usually the patient takes Tylenol or Advil for about 2-5 days.  If more extensive treatment is needed, for example bone grafts or many implants, then the post-operative course may require more time and medication.  Anesthesia during the surgery should make the placement procedure pain-free.  We are conservative with anesthetic agents and our philosophy is to utilize the least amount of medication for the patient to comfortably tolerate the procedures. 


Q: How long does the whole dental implant process take?  Will I be without teeth or unable to eat for a long time? 

A: After a through evaluation, the first phase of treatment is the actual placement of the implants.  This procedure is generally done in the doctor's office during one visit.  Most implants will remain covered, underneath the gums, for 3 to 6 months.  During this time, osseointegration --the biological bonding of the jawbone to the implant--occurs.  Through this healing period, you will probably wear your modified denture or a temporary denture or bridge and maintain normal activities without restriction.  You will need to follow a modified, soft diet for the first couple of weeks. There are occasions, one stage implant placements or when extensive bone grafting is to be performed, when patients may be asked not to wear their removable dentures for a period of time. When this is necessary we'll do all we can to help our patient through this transition.


The second phase of the procedure is usually 3 to 6 months after implant placement.  At this time, the top of the implants will be uncovered from under the gums and a small metal post or extension will be attached to the implant(s).  Your restorative dentist will make any necessary modifications to your temporary teeth to allow you to continue wearing them after post attachment.


In the third phase, which usually starts 2 weeks after the second phase, your new replacement teeth are created and fitted.  This phase involves a series of appointments to make impressions of your mouth and to "try-in" your replacement teeth at key steps in their fabrication.  The try-in sessions are necessary to ensure that the size, shape, color and fit of your new teeth will completely blend with and match your individual facial characteristics and remaining natural teeth (if any).   Total treatment time for most implant cases will usually be 4-6 months.  It could be longer if bone or gum procedures are needed.


Q: Both of my parents have worn complete dentures for many years, as have my grandparents.  Recently, I lost two of my teeth.  Does this mean that I will eventually have to have dentures? 

A: Tradition seems to say that someday we will lose our teeth and then succumb to the inevitable denture.  Today the reality is that we can essentially keep all of our teeth throughout our lives... But what about those, such as yourself, who have either already lost some or all of their teeth or are about to?  Dental implants could be the answer.  We can replace single teeth, several teeth in a section of the jaw, or entire arches of teeth.  Some people are more prone to tooth decay or periodontal disease and more apt to lose teeth than others are.  If you have a family history of denture use, you should make every effort to save your teeth -and you may never need dentures.  If you do lose one or more teeth, implants may be a good option to prevent the need for dentures.


Q: I've heard that dental implants are experimental - is that true?

A: Absolutely not!  Dental implants have a long history of use and success.  Implants are the most thoroughly researched procedure in the history of dentistry and, while no procedure is 100% successful, the current technology has resulted in very high success rates in the hands of well-trained and experienced clinicians.  Dental implants are carefully regulated by the FDA and a number of implant systems have been approved by the American Dental Association.


Q: Does insurance pay for dental implants?

A: Some carriers pay for them, some don't, and some pay a portion of the costs.   In many instances we have been able to help get significant coverage for patients.  Our staff will work hard to see that you get the best possible benefit from your insurance.


 Q: Do implants require special care?

A: Presume that dental implants are natural teeth and treat them that way.  Return for regular check-ups.  Brush and floss.  Realize also, that caring for the gums is the best way to care for one's teeth.  More teeth are lost as a result of gum disease than any other single cause.


Q: I had a root canal on a tooth that fractured and now it has to be removed.  Can it be replaced with an implant or do I have to have a bridge or a partial?

A: Teeth that have root canals can fracture more easily than other teeth because they are weaker and somewhat dehydrated.  They can sometimes be as brittle as glass.  In the past the best available treatment was to remove the tooth and file down the adjacent teeth and make a bridge - caps on the adjacent teeth with an attached "dummy" tooth in between.  Sometimes this still is the only way.  However, in many cases an implant can replace the fractured tooth and no teeth need to be ground down at all.


Q: I must have some teeth extracted and I intend to have implants placed to restore my ability to chew.  Can a dental implant be placed at the same visit as the teeth are extracted?

A: Whether or not the dental implant can be placed immediately after extraction depends on the amount of available bone in the area and presence or absence of active infection.  Placing the implant at the same visit helps preserve both width and height of bone and may prevent the need for placing bone grafts when bone naturally shrinks back after teeth are extracted.  During the first year after teeth have been removed, as much as 40% of jawbone width can be lost.  Sometimes, infection from a tooth or periodontal disease has destroyed the bone to such an extent that it becomes necessary to do a bone grafting procedure prior to implant placement. 


Q: I have a tooth that is broken and my dentist recommended extraction and a bridge, but I'm not excited about grinding down the perfectly good teeth on each side to make a bridge --could an implant work here?

A:  Most likely an implant could work very well in this situation.  Filing down teeth weakens them and makes them more susceptible to decay, gum problems and possible root canals.  Sometimes a bridge is still the best alternative, but an implant can often be a better option.  An implant will be easier to clean and floss, won't require attachment to or damage other teeth and is as close as we can come to naturally giving you back your missing tooth.


Q: I am missing most of my back teeth and do not wish to lose any of my remaining front teeth.  I've been through several sets of removable partials and could not wear any of them.  Could I have teeth that stay in all the time to replace my teeth missing in the back and keep my remaining teeth in front?

A:  Your situation is very common.  First of all we will do everything possible to help you keep your remaining natural teeth as long as their supporting structures are within an acceptable range.  Supporting structures means the gum and bone tissues immediately surrounding the tooth.  A thorough evaluation must be made to determine if a tooth is healthy enough to keep or not. We do not want remaining unhealthy teeth to compromise the success of any new treatment performed whether it be dental implants or other treatment.  We must then decide what is best for your specific needs in order to restore your missing back teeth.  If you have had problems with removable partials, then dental implants used to anchor new replacement teeth may be the best answer for you.


Q: Why do dentures lose their fit and how can dental implants slow this process? 

A: In many cases, the pressure of dentures or partials on the tissues causes gums to get "flabby" and bone to shrink over time.  When this occurs, the dentures usually become loose and awkward even when adhesives are applied, much like the way clothes become baggy when one loses weight, and this causes more bone loss and gum problems.  With mini dental implants, bone loss as well as gum erosion are slowed.  Unlike dentures, which put pressure and stress on top of the gums and jaw bone, mini implants are actually surrounded by bone and the chewing forces transfer pressures into the bone, much like teeth do.  This actually can strengthen the bone and increase bone density, reducing the bone shrinkage seen regularly from dentures.


Q: I've had dentures for several years and have lost a lot of jawbone.  My lower dentures are floaters and I need help.  Is there still hope for me?

A:  In most cases, with the new options available today in the field of mini dental implants, some form of treatment can be done.  We encourage people to get help as soon as possible if they are already having some problems with their current situation.  These problems include: excessive use of denture adhesives, chewing only soft food, unable to taste some foods, constant mouth sores, unhappy with the appearance of one's teeth and bite position (in some cases the nose and chin getting closer together).  The sooner the problems are corrected with mini dental implants the more choices one has available for treatment.  If you have any or all of the above symptoms, mini implants could very well be the answer for you.


Q: I have been a denture wearer for many years now and use denture adhesives to hold my teeth in place and am getting tired of the constant bad taste and mess in my mouth.  Could dental implants eliminate using adhesives?

A: A common complaint is having to constantly add adhesives to secure dentures, especially after drinking a cup of coffee or eating a meal.  This can really be a nuisance when eating out at a restaurant and having to excuse yourself from the table to go to the rest room because your dentures won't stay in.  Laughing, sneezing and coughing can also cause trouble for people who depend on adhesives to hold their teeth in place.  It may be funny to see another person having a denture fall out, but it is not funny to the person who has to deal with these embarrassing situations on a daily basis.  Denture wearers with problems such as these are not alone.  There are 30 million people in the United States with no teeth and 29% in this group chew only soft foods. Mini implants are the answer!!!


Q: I have a full set of dentures.  My uppers are fine, but my lowers are constantly a juggling act when I try to eat.  Can I have implants on the lower and keep a full denture on top?

A:  Absolutely.  Your situation is a common one.  The full lower denture is the most unstable prosthesis fabricated in dental practice.  During chewing, the average lower denture moves five times more than an upper denture.  The person with advanced bone loss has additional problems of poor muscle coordination, speech difficulties, and inability to keep the denture in place, all of which adversely influence a normal lifestyle.  Mini dental implants can be the solution to all of these problems.  Even in cases where a lot of bone loss has occurred there still is a good chance something can be done.  In most cases, a thorough oral exam and a panoramic x-ray is all that is needed to determine if you are a good candidate for implants.


Q: I am missing all of my teeth and am now wearing a full upper and lower denture.  I can no longer tolerate my lowers.  Will I need an implant for every tooth I am replacing on the lower jaw?

A:  It is not necessary to have an implant for every tooth that is being replaced.  The number of implants necessary to provide support depends on the type of implants used and the type of teeth (removable vs. non- removable) that will be attached to the implants.  For example in this case, if you're a good candidate for conventional implants, you may require 6 implants to support a full compliment of lower teeth.  A thorough oral exam and panoramic x-ray is all that is necessary in most cases, to determine which implant can be used and how many must be used.  Sometimes additional x-rays or CT scans are used in more complicated cases.


 Q: My husband lost all his teeth from gum disease.  He refuses to wear "false teeth".  Would implants give him the look and function of natural teeth?

 A:  It is possible to replace an entire arch of teeth with non-removable teeth supported by dental implants.  Each individual presents a different combination of factors and these factors will determine which type of implant will be best suited for them.  The end result is the elimination of the denture as we now know it.  The ability to function socially and eat properly is the driving force behind the development of dental implants.  These procedures will provide you with stable teeth, in many cases, for the first time in years.  A removable denture can be retained and supported by several implants or the missing teeth can be restored with fixed bridges anchored to 4 to 6 implants.  Implants are a viable and functional way to help improve one's quality of life and health.


 Q: I can't keep my upper denture in place for very long without gagging.  I also can't taste or feel the temperature or texture of food very well, so eating is not the pleasure it once was -can implants help me?

A: Yes, By using implants to anchor or support an upper prosthesis (either removable or non-removable replacement teeth), the roof of the mouth can be left uncovered so one won't gag, and can feel the texture, temperature, and taste of foods and beverages much better.

Please contact our office if you have additional questions or if you would like to schedule an appointment.

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