Stephen H. Hook, DDS

dental implantsUnderstanding Dental Implants

Shopping for a dental implant?  Are you confused by the ads?  Try reading this article it should help.

There is much interest and there are many commercial offers in the market place for “Dental Implants”.  Unfortunately there is much confusion among most dental consumers that I have spoken with.  This short article is my attempt to explain simply and concisely the concept of dental implants, what they do, how they work, the basic components, common treatment procedures and I will attempt to take away the mystery of costs and dental insurance!  You can learn more here: Now, if I am able to do all of this simply and concisely then it will be a small miracle and perhaps I could change lead into gold for my next demonstration!

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is a prosthetic (man-made) replacement for a lost tooth or teeth.  Most implants resemble small metal cylinders perhaps 3/4 “long and ¼” in diameter.  They are precision made, sterile, and biologically compatible. They’re usually made of a titanium alloy.  The entire implant body (the cylinder) is buried under the gum in the bone and allowed to heal for a period of time (2-6 months).

Once the patient’s body has healed around the dental implant, the top portion of the implant body is uncovered by creating a small tunnel through the gum and a precision-made fixture (an abutment) is firmly attached to the implant body.  It is on this abutment (fixture) that we dentists actually build the tooth or teeth.  Until the final replacement tooth has been placed on the abutment, the dental implant is incomplete and is of little or no practical worth.  The total time from placement of the implant body to final placement of the prosthetic tooth or teeth can easily span four to six months or longer.

Are There Different Types of Dental Implants?

Yes there are different types of dental implants. Moving on from this basic description I’ve given you, there are important facts to consider.  First of all there is a huge combination of implant bodies, abutments, techniques and individual situations that allow us to treat almost every individual who needs teeth replaced. But costs, the likelihood of success, and alternatives vary so widely that my advice to each person is find a personal dentist whom they trust and on whom they can rely for answers.  There are no guarantees, but dental implants when done correctly as indicated are enormously successful and can be lifetime restorations.

How Much Does a Dental Implant Cost?

A second important consideration when you need a dental implant is cost.  Trying to comparison shop by scanning the advertisements is confusing and a waste of time until you understand what the offers truly mean.  After you have a thorough examination and consultation with a dentist you trust then is the time to comparison shop, when you can understand better what the other ads are offering.  Of course the cost of the implant is not really what you are comparing but rather the quality of the dental care.  Incidentally, most quality-oriented dentists are not insulted if a patient seeks a second opinion.  You should not feel embarrassed;  it is a sensible and reasonable step to take when making any significant financial investment.

Will My Dental Insurance Pay for a Dental Implant?

A third consideration is dental insurance.  It really should not cause so much concern but there seems to be some confusion here.  Plainly put, if you have dental insurance coverage of any sort it’s better than none at all.  You and the dentist have absolutely NO control over the insurance company’s participation in the procedure.  The amount the insurance company will reimburse you for your dental implant or whether they will pay anything at all is all strictly determined by contract.  Estimates are usually made and most insurance carriers are very honorable and follow through with their commitments.  However, the insurance company reimburses after the treatment has been done,  never before and the patient ultimately must accept financial responsibility for the entire cost of service.  This is why it is so vital that the patient fully understand what the costs are before the treatment is started.

Dental Implants Summary

This short, concise article can’t begin to address several other important issues  such as possible needed extra services that might be involved with regard to dental implants from specialists,  general health issues that may make treatment more difficult or impossible, provisional prosthetic treatment that might be needed to fill in a gap for the missing tooth if the space is unsightly while the implant is healing and practical alternatives to implants that might even be better choices for some patients.  All the more reason to discuss all of these with a dentist that is trustworthy and thorough before embarking on this quite remarkable dental treatment called a dental implant.

For more information you can submit specific questions via email at this website or to: shhook@pacbell.net  and I will attempt to answer them to the best of my ability.