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Impactful Implants

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What they are, who they’re for, and how they can strengthen your smile

With ever-advancing technology when it comes to dental care, we know you have questions about what different treatment options are and what they can mean for you. Dental implants are one procedure that can seem a little scary or mysterious, so we sat down with Dr. Terry Turner from the Bartlett - Appling North office to see if we could de-mystify them for our patients.

Q: At a basic level - what is a dental implant? Sounds sci-fi or intense.

A: It is pretty cool, but doesn’t have to be scary! The human body is amazing. With dental implants, we are integrating a small piece of hardware with the jawbone itself. We start by making a hole and putting a post in. We then need to let the body do its thing for a few months - typically four - to allow for osseointegration (the bone will regrow around the implant, holding it securely in place). From there, we can then screw a crown into it. This is a great solution for patients who either never had a tooth in that spot, it was removed and not replaced, or a place where maybe the adult tooth never grew after the baby tooth fell out.

Q: What would cause a dentist to recommend an implant instead of something like a crown?

A: Sometimes if there is a gap, then the patient may choose to do nothing. Or, they might elect for something removable (like a partial denture) or a bridge connected to other teeth nearby. Those could be good solutions in some cases, but especially for important teeth like back molars, you really want more stability. One thing that is great about implants is once they are installed, they are most similar to a natural tooth - you can floss between it and other teeth, and don’t need any extra steps or care like you would with any of the other options I mentioned.

Q: What is the planning process like for deciding if someone might be a good candidate for dental implants?

A: As long as the patient has appropriate bone density for it, most folks could be a good candidate. Before we start, we do a digital cat scan of the mouth to get a better understanding of the patient’s anatomy, and when we layer this with their digital x-rays, we end up with a great picture and understanding of what we are working with. It also lets us show the patient the plan ahead of time before any work begins and gives us a roadmap for planning the surgery.

Patients lacking appropriate bone density would not be good candidates for implants. Some medications can have an impact on bone density, which is why we always want to know patient history. Also, patients who are younger than 24 would not be a good candidate for an implant because your bones can actually still keep growing up until that age.

Q: How long does the process take to get an implant?

The healing process is the biggest factor. At the start, we take a digital impression and go to the lab to make a game plan. The patient has the implant installed, which is typically less than an hour in the chair. Then we allow the gum and jaw to heal for a few months. Once that is healed, it is easy for us to go ahead and screw on the crown. So overall, while it is not a one-visit type of procedure, it can be done in just a few short visits and within a few months.

Q: What are implants made of? How does that impact how they work?

A: The implant and the abutment are made of titanium - don’t worry, they don’t set off metal detectors! The crown that is screwed onto the top is made of zirconia, which is a white material that looks similar to natural teeth. One thing that is nice about this is that if anything were to happen to the crown (like a chip), you can unscrew it, fix it, and put it back on. For day-to-day use, it feels and acts very permanent.

Q: What are the impacts you have seen for patients before and after they get implants?

A: They really can be a game changer, especially for patients who have an area that is missing multiple teeth. Previously in those cases, their only option would have been something removable, which can be clunky, uncomfortable, and annoying, or make them feel self-conscious. With implants, patients can completely forget they are different from their natural teeth once the process is complete. They can brush, eat, floss, and behave totally normally, and the implants are not visibly noticeable.

Q: Does insurance cover implants? Are they expensive?

A: It really varies, depending on the patient’s insurance and their needs. In the past, insurance was more likely to help pay for fixing an existing implant than they were for the placement of a brand new one, but they are starting to understand that implants really are the best option for some patients and beginning to cover them, at least partially. As always, if you have a question about your specific insurance coverage in relation to a treatment one of our doctors recommends as part of your care, you can call our office and we will be happy to help you.

Q: Anything else we should know about implants?

A: While implants have been around for a while - the first ones were placed in the 1960s, and they didn’t gain wide use until the early 90s - there has been a ton of research and advancement in relation to the field. For example, in the past, it would have been a more complex surgery that only an oral surgeon could perform, but now we are able to do them in a normal dentist's office with a relatively quick procedure - usually taking under an hour for the longest part, the placing of the implant. We are also always staying up to date with the latest and greatest advancements to have an even better impact on our patients’ lives and health. Implants make a big difference in the quality of life for patients and improve their confidence.

Curious if Implants might be right for you?

Our team would be happy to advise you.

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