A dental implant is basically a permanent solution to missing teeth. An implant consists of a very small post "implanted" into your jaw bone. When the bone ossifies around the post, you get a cap or crown which looks just like a natural tooth. If you are missing several teeth, you can get two implants and a bridge, or series of fake teeth, between the implants.
To help you decide if dental implants are right for you, you may want to ask your dentist the following questions.
1. How Much Does an Implant Cost?
First, you may want to look into cost. Don't just think about the sticker price of the implant. Also, compare the cost of other options such as dentures, and keep in mind that implants can last a lot longer than dentures, so you typically don't have to worry about replacement costs.
2. Is My Jaw Bone Healthy Enough for an Implant?
Unfortunately, not everybody is a great candidate for implants. If your jaw bone is starting to deteriorate due to missing teeth, osteoporosis or any other issue, you may not be able to get implants. Your dentist can take an x-ray to see how your jaw bone looks.
3. Is a Bone Graft an Option?
If your jawbone isn't healthy enough to support an implant, that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to consider an alternative. In some cases, an oral surgeon may be able to do a bone graft. That's when the surgeon moves bone from another part of your body to your jaw.
4. Can You Do One-Piece Implants?
As described above, implants usually consist of a post and a cap or crown. However, some oral surgeons are able to do the procedure with a single piece. With a single-piece dental implant, the crown is already attached to the post. When the dentist puts in the post, the crown or fake tooth is already part of it.
This process is a lot faster. You don't have to wait for the bone to ossify around the post. However, it's not available at all dental clinics.
5. What Materials Are Used in the Implant?
This is an especially important question to ask if you have any allergies. Usually, the post is made of metal, and the crown can be ceramic or porcelain. However, with one-piece implants, the entire thing may be ceramic.
6. How Long Will Healing Take?
Whether you opt for a single-piece dental implant or the traditional option, you need to know how long it is all going to take. In some cases, you may need to start with a consultation. You get the post implanted in a separate appointment. Then, you may need to wait for that to heal before you can get the crown. That can take anywhere from three to six months.
Alternatively, in the right situation, you may be able to get an implant in a single day. This is a lot more rare, but it can be possible.
7. Can You Provide a Temporary Flipper?
Of course, if you opt for a dental implant that takes months to complete, you don't necessarily want a gap in your smile that whole time. If the tooth is in the back, you may not be worried about it, as those teeth aren't that visible. In these cases, you may just be getting the implant to protect your bite.
However, if the tooth is in the front, you may want a "flipper." This is basically a fake tooth attached to a wire retainer. You can pop that in until your implant is ready.
After you discuss these questions and any additional questions you may have with your dentist, you will have the information you need to make a decision.