For many years, the only option people often had to replace missing or lost teeth was a bridge procedure. The results of the bridge procedure were aesthetically pleasing so most patients were satisfied with this even though they knew the procedure would probably have to be repeated about every 10 years and that it posed a risk for future root canals, as it usually involved filing down healthy teeth to anchor the replacement one. After some time, the implant procedure began to emerge and evolve to the degree that it is now the better option instead of a bridge procedure when replacing missing teeth.
The implant procedure involves a series of steps that take at least two months to complete. First, a titanium screw is placed in the alveolus or bone pocket. This is done surgically under local anesthesia and takes about an hour. Usually, the titanium material begins to bond with the bone over time so that the implant will behave like a real tooth. After the screw is placed, an abutment, or a small fake tooth, is attached to the screw. The final step involves placing a crown over the abutment which is identical to a real tooth. Before the final, permanent crown can be placed, there is a wait of at least eight weeks while the implant bonds with the bone. Most patients have no problems with the implant procedure and after eight weeks can have the permanent crown attached. A small percentage of patients, however, do experience rejection of the titanium screw.
Not everyone is an ideal candidate for implants. The best candidates have good bone density in their gums, healthy gums, do not smoke and do not have diabetes. While smoking or suffering from diabetes do not automatically mean a patient is ineligible for implants, the conditions do lower the patient’s chances to have a successful implant procedure. For patients who do not have healthy gums, their conditions must first be treated before the implant procedure can be begun. However, once an implant procedure is completed successfully, it usually means that it will not fail later on so there is no need to repeat it or replace it.
The implant procedure is not inexpensive. However, it is cost effective over the long run. The cost of an implant for one tooth ranges from the higher end cost of a bridge procedure to several thousand dollars more. Paying about $4,000 or more for an implant might sound like an incredibly high price, but since implants do not usually need to be replaced, they are a better value than bridges, which will need to be replaced in the long run.