Types of Dental Implants & How They Work
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant (artificial tooth root) is a popular tooth replacement option after tooth loss or extraction. Dental implants are surgically implanted into your jawbone, mirror the shape of a screw, and bond with the natural bone. They create a base to support dental crowns (artificial teeth).
An abutment (supporting tooth) is placed between the implant and crown to connect all of the pieces together. Abutments also connect crowns to dental bridges and the front teeth.
Dental implants have been successful dental restorations for over 30 years. In fact, more than 5 million dental implants are placed in the U.S. every year.
Dental Implant Structure: How do they work
The body of a dental implant consists of three pieces that serve different functions:
- The implant (or screw) serves as the tooth's artificial root.
- The dental abutment is the connecting post between the implant screw and crown.
- The crown is the 'fake' tooth that rests on top of the implant abutment. Crowns are made of porcelain, which is a tooth-colored material that matches the shape and looks of your natural teeth.
Dental Implant Techniques & Materials
Dental implants come in two different forms, including:
- Endosteal Implant
An endosteal implant is the most common type of dental implant used today. They are made with titanium, small screws, and alloplastic material, which refers to an artificial tissue graft. Endosteal implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone. Over time, the implants bond with the natural bone.
- Subperiosteal implants are extremely rare. However, they may be a better option for patients who do not have enough natural jawbone to support endosteal implants. A subperiosteal implant is placed under the gums (on or above the jawbone). It is not surgically inserted into the jawbone.
4 Types of Dental Implants
Depending on needs, there are a few different types of dental implants available:
1. Single Tooth Implant
A single dental implant is ideal when one tooth is missing and you want to replace it for aesthetics, comfort, and function.
Single-tooth implants require one dental crown that connects to the implant screw.
The single-tooth implant cost can range from $3,000 to $4,000.
2. Implant-Supported Bridge
Implant-supported bridges are ideal for people with several missing teeth. The implant acts as an anchor for the bridge (instead of a natural tooth).
A fixed dental bridge restores function by preventing other teeth from moving. It also improves eating and speaking functions.
An implant-supported bridge costs between $5,000 and $16,000.
3. All-on-4 Dental Implants
All-on-4 implants are recommended when a patient is looking for a secure solution for many missing teeth. This solution restores your entire upper or lower jaw (or both arches).
This is a permanent restoration. However, the overdenture can be removed for cleaning and dental exams.
The average cost ranges from $15,000 to $20,000 per arch.
4. 3-on-6 Dental Implants
An alternative to an implant-retained denture is a 3-on-6 implant. It consists of three individual dental bridges attached to six dental implants.
The cost of 3-on-6 implants can range from $10,000 to $15,000 per arch.
Causes of Missing Teeth: What causes hypodontia?
There are many causes of tooth loss that may indicate the need for a dental implant. The most common causes of missing teeth include:
The leading cause of tooth decay (cavities) is poor nutrition and a lack of proper oral care. Without restorative treatment, a cavitated tooth will continue to deteriorate which will create rotten teeth, eventually resulting in tooth loss.
Regular dentist visits and teeth cleanings (every 6 months) are necessary to catch early signs of decay and get the correct tooth decay treatment. If the decay is severe, dental implants may be needed, especially in older adults (65+).
Periodontal disease is a serious form of gum disease.
When gum infection develops, plaque and decay-causing bacteria can get underneath the gums, causing inflammation. This eventually leads to bone loss around the jaw and teeth. As a result, teeth may become loose, fall out, or need to be extracted.
Age & Medications
Many implant patients have healthy teeth or only develop minor cavities their entire lives. Although, after 55 years of age, tooth loss is more common.
Those who take medications for high cholesterol, heart disease, or high blood pressure are even more at risk of tooth loss. This is because the long-term use of medication causes dry mouth, which speeds up the tooth decay process.
A car accident, injury, or fall can damage your teeth or cause tooth loss. When a tooth cannot be restored to its natural shape and function, a dental implant is necessary.
Who Performs Dental Implant Procedures?
Two dental specialists perform dental implant surgeries, including:
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons — Oral surgeons specialize in the placement of dental implants. Oral surgeons are also qualified to use deeper levels of sedation and understand how to do it safely.
- Periodontists — periodontists focus on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease. They have advanced training in dental implant placement and gum inflammation treatment.
- Prosthodontists — prosthodontists are dentists who specialize in treating complex dental and facial matters. This includes the restoration and replacement of missing or damaged teeth with artificial devices.
Pros and Cons of Dental Implants
Are dental implants right for you? Compare the pros and cons below:
- Implants function like your own teeth, allowing you to chew and speak normally.
- Designed to look like your natural teeth, improving your self-esteem.
- Reduce stress on your remaining natural teeth by offering independent support.
- Preserve bone, reducing the appearance of aging.
- Help prevent loss of jaw height.
- Easy to clean and care for.
- With proper care, implants can last between 15 and 25 years. They also typically last longer than dental bridges and dentures.
- Dental implants will not whiten like your natural teeth.
- Requires an invasive surgery for placement.
- They are expensive (but the long-term benefits are usually worth it).
- Always a risk for fracture (but this is low).
- Bone grafting may be necessary before placement if you do not have enough natural bone remaining.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
Dental implants cost between $1,000 and $4,500 per tooth.
Does Insurance Cover Dental Implants?
Some insurance plans cover dental implants, while others do not or only cover part of the procedure. For example, the crown attached to the implant may be covered by some dental insurance plans. And, if the procedure is medically necessary, some medical insurance plans will cover part of the surgery.