Dental Implants – Patient FAQ

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Dental Implants – Patient FAQ
dental implants patient faq

At Beverly heights dental, we receive lot of questions on dental implants. We have laid out the answers to the commonly asked questions and divided them into general questions and specific patient questions. Hope this helps.

If anyone has more questions on implants then please ask for a consultation or simply post the question in the comments section, we will answer it. If you are looking for procedure details then please have a look at our dental implant procedure page.

General questions

What are dental implants?

In essence, they are simply the means to replace missing teeth. The implant itself is made of titanium or titanium alloy and is inserted into the jawbone at the location of the missing tooth, and can be thought of as a man-made root of the tooth. When the jawbone accepts and fuses around this (usually after two to four months) a replacement tooth (often called a crown, denture or bridge) will be attached.

What will happen if I don’t replace missing teeth?

Your jawbone can shrink, changing the shape of your face, aging your appearance. It can more easily result in gum disease, as brushing your teeth in that area will not be as effective It could affect your smile and eating habits. If you absolutely dont want to replace your missing teeth, you can minimize this loss having a plug in the socket.

Are implants better than bridges?

Yes. Implants do not cause as much bone and gum tissue loss that can be associated with regular bridges. They can preserve the jawbone, specifically, which otherwise would cause a “sunken-in” look.

They strengthen the bite and preserve existing teeth. They do not require the weakening of other teeth in order to place the implant. The implant root themselves never develop decay and do not require root canals. So yes, better by a long way!

Can I lose the denture implants?

Not naturally usually and they are considered long lasting. But just as you can lose your natural teeth to gum disease and to accidents, there is a small chance you could lose your dental implants in similar ways.

If you have an accident while having a dental implant, you most likely will not lose the implant itself as that is set within the jaw, although you may lose the crown, and the implant may become severely damaged. In such a case, a new implant may need to be placed. In all cases, it is always recommended that you wear a mouth-guard if you are participating in any contact sports to prevent such damage.

How many implants will I need? If I have four missing teeth then will I need four implants?

If you are missing only one tooth then only one implant is normally required to fit a replacement. If you have a space of two or more missing teeth then you may not need one implant for each replacement tooth. It is dependent upon the quality and quantity of bone at the possible site.

If you have no teeth at all in the upper jaw, where bone density is generally weaker than in the lower, then the practitioner places a minimum of 6 implants to support the placement of 10 or more replacement teeth.

If you have no teeth at all in the lower jaw, where the bone is usually strongest at the front of the mouth, then 4-6 implants are used to support the placement of the 10+ replacement teeth.

Can any dentist perform an implant surgery?

Not just any. Any qualified dentist can perform the implant procedure if they have adequate additional training on dental implants.

What are the costs and will dental insurance cover it?

These are perhaps the most common questions, yet the least adequately answered. This is because there is no answer. Every practitioner has different rates, and every individual can present different challenges.

If your jawbone is strong and healthy then the procedure can be more standard and therefore less costly. If your jawbone is weak then other procedures may be involved, greatly increasing the costs. It is more efficient to ask your dental insurance provider what is covered in your individual situation.

What can I expect to be informed about before the procedure?

Before the procedure begins, you will be informed of where you are now (what is your current dental situation) and where you can be (discussing dental implants and any alternatives).

You will be told whether or not you have any serious gum or bone loss issues (requiring other procedures such as a sinus-lift), how many implants will be needed, what the costs will be, and how long it will take, from start to finish.. There may be other topics unique and significant to your case which will also be explained fully.

Is the procedure painful?

Implantation is an invasive procedure. Before and during the procedure, anesthesia is used which eliminates pain and discomfort.

How long will the procedure take?

The placing the implant itself is relatively quick and efficient. It can be placed usually in 30-60 minutes, although if the jawbone is weak or if there are unusual obstacles then it could take 3-4 hours.

However, this is just the first step of a three-step process. The implant usually remains as it is, covered and underneath the gums, for 3 to 6 months. You can have some temporary structure in place so that you can more quickly resume your normal eating habits but even if you do, you will still need to eat more soft items for the first few weeks. This will give time for the jawbone to grow properly around the implant.

The second step is to uncover the implants and to attach a small metal post to it. If you have temporary teeth then the dentist will make the necessary changes so that you can continue to wear them after attaching them.

The third step usually starts 2-6 weeks after the end of the second phase. This involves several appointments with the dentist to make impressions of your teeth and mouth and to “test-drive” your permanent teeth as they become more and more suitable. This will guarantee that the size, color, and fit of these teeth will blend in with your natural teeth and within your mouth. This third step usually is completed in 4 to 8 weeks and the entire process is done in 5 to 8 months.

What if there is not sufficient bone or gum tissue to support the dental implant?

The dentist will then have to perform what is called a sinus-lift surgery or a sinus floor bone augmentation. This often occurs when an upper back tooth is lost. The portion that was above it gradually drops down to the root of the lost tooth. It is then usually necessary to put this new portion back to where it had been by introducing artificial bone material.

Although this can cause complications, time delays and additional costs, it does not prohibit a person from having a dental implant.

How will I feel afterwards? When will I be able to return to work?

Because of the anesthesia, you may feel groggy or soreness for up to 72 hours. It is not recommended that you drive yourself home afterwards. An over-the-counter pain medication may be recommended to minimize any lingering effects.

Most patients feel back to normal the day after the procedure. If you do have concerns then you may want to consider having this before a weekend or a holiday.

How long will the implants last?

How long do normal teeth last? For a lot of people a natural tooth lasts a lifetime. If you needed an implant because of an accident or if someone knocked out your tooth, in these cases, the dental implant will most likely also last your lifetime.

However, if you lost a tooth because of genetics, improper oral hygiene, poor nutrition or other causes and if these causes continue then the implant can also be subject to those conditions and its life can be reduced.

But in general implants are considered to be very long lasting and reliable, with 90% of them lasting longer than 15 years. Just as you do with your natural teeth, good oral care and regular check-ups can extend the life of an implant.

Will the replacement teeth look normal?

They will look and feel just as your natural teeth do. You wouldn’t know they are not your natural teeth.

Are there any risks?

Dental implants have been around for many decades and have been proven to be extremely safe, effective and predictable. However there are 7 billion people on the planet and there can be a tiny percentage of people who may react unexpectedly to any surgery.

Very rarely, some people could experience infection (usually curable by medicine), nerve damage, damage to other teeth, sinus problems, numbness or tingling, and implant failure (although extremely rare).

These problems can be more pronounced in patients who smoke heavily or have certain medical conditions. Do talk to your practitioner and fully discuss your medical history so that he or she can make a more fully informed recommendation.

Should I have a dental implant? Is it suitable for me?

If you are in good health then a dental implant will be a very suitable option for you and if you have a healthy jawbone then it will be even easier and more appropriate for you. However, if you have a habit of smoking or drinking heavily then a dental implant may not be advised. It may be a problem to have a missing tooth but the complications resulting from heavy smoking and drinking may be problematic.

If you are in poor health or have a medical concern then speak to a specialist in that field of medicine. A health problem can present obstacles to having a dental implant, but it is rare that it would prevent a person from having one.

Do I need to have a healthy mouth to be a candidate for an implant?

Good health in any or all parts of the body, including the mouth, does make anything and everything easier. Bad health, in almost all cases, can be rectified by professional. A professional can treat gum disease, repair tooth decay, and eliminate abscesses.

However, gum disease is a primary cause of bone loss (especially of that of the jawbone), and with such loss a dental implant treatment becomes more complicated. This does not necessarily stop a treatment but it is a factor that needs to be considered and weighed.

Do I need to take care of implants and if so how?

Yes, you need to take care of them, just as you take care of natural teeth. And just as with natural teeth, you can simply brush and floss. Brushing and flossing are the best ways to combat gum disease, which causes the loss of not only natural teeth but also implanted teeth. As always, make regular check-ups with your dentist.

Almost any question you have about implanted teeth can also be raised about natural teeth. If you know about natural teeth then you already know a lot about implants. Just take care of your teeth and your teeth will take care of you.

Specific patient questions

I have scheduled an appointment to have some of my teeth taken out. The missing teeth will inhibit my ability to chew, and I want to minimize that as much as possible. Can dental implants be placed at the same time as the teeth are extracted, or soon thereafter?

In theory, replacing teeth immediately can save a lot of time (about three months in healing time) and possibly money. Time is saved because the required soft tissue is preserved, rather than given a chance to atrophy. It can also avoid the potential for a “sinus-lift” procedure in which bone material is placed in the jawbone. On the other hand, there is some anecdotal evidence that creating an immediate implant may increase the chance of implant failure.

There was a study done attempting to compare and contrast immediate versus delayed placement of dental implants but the sample size was small and no definitive conclusions could be reached regarding the superiority of one approach over others. This may change in the future if more and larger scientific studies are done.

It may just come down to what your specialist concludes is best in your specific situation based on all available information (the health of your bone and tissues, whether the extraction damaged other teeth, etc.).

My wife and I are both retired and, as we have a lot of free time, travel a great deal when and where we desire. She needs to have teeth implants and we know that the entire process can involve several months. How can she have a dental implant without affecting our travel plans?

You can do both. Most people (even retired people) can resume normal activities in just 2 to 3 days after surgery. As with any medical procedure, your specialist will want to stay close for a little bit longer (for about 14 days after surgery) to more greatly ensure that the healing process proceeds normally.

After that, it will take 5 to 8 months for the bone to grow and attach to the implant, at which time the permanent crowns will be placed. During this time (from 2 weeks after surgery until the permanent teeth are placed) you are welcome to come and go as you please.

I have a broken tooth and my current dentist recommended an extraction and then a bridge. However, I am concerned over the need to grind down good teeth just to support the bridge. Is a dental implant a better alternative for me?

Bridges do not require surgery, are far quicker and easier to obtain, are sometimes the better choice if there is significant bone loss or damage, and are usually less in cost. Dental implants, on the other hand, require less maintenance, look more natural and do not damage healthy teeth.

You ought to consult with someone who has the expertise and experience in doing both to verify whether or not an implant is indeed better for the health of your teeth.

My friend has a space of two missing teeth. To possibly reduce the time, effort and potential complications, she is thinking of having just one implant and then using that as a bridge for the other missing tooth. Can this be done?

Such a structure is a reasonable suggestion if there is concern of clenching or grinding of the teeth. Such actions can eventually weaken the implant. However, if it is used as part of a bridge then the potential damage can be diffused to other teeth.

In general, though, it has been found over the many years of dental implants that one implant per missing tooth is best and contributes to the long-term success of all the teeth. It is usually not good to mix-and-match in this case.

If your friend clenches or grinds her teeth then it is better to find ways to minimize or eliminate this rather than allowing it to continue to harm other and natural teeth.

Several years ago, I lost my upper back teeth on one side and have not yet done anything about it. I have noticed that my sinuses on that side bother me than those on the other side (the side with upper back teeth). Are these events related to each other?

When people lose an upper tooth and leave it as it is for a long period of time, the maxillary sinus gradually moves downward and fills the spot where where the root of the tooth would have been.

The professional who is implanting new teeth will usually need to move the maxillary sinus back into place by a procedure called the sinus-lift, in which bone and/or bone graft materials are placed in the lower part of the sinus.

This will then raise the floor of the sinus, reducing its volume and allowing (presumably) the sinus to drain more easily. This procedure has the additional benefit of increasing the bone area and replacing the missing tooth.

I have lost many of my back teeth and want to keep my front teeth. I have tried removable partials but felt uncomfortable with them. Can I get teeth that stay in all of the time while keeping my front and other teeth intact?

Your situation and concern is quite common. It is the ideal of every professional to let healthy teeth stay healthy. The question, though, is whether or not they are indeed healthy. If the nearby gum and bone tissues are damaged then all this can negatively impact the placement of new teeth. These possible issues will need to be addressed.

The fact that that you have already tried removable partials and found them to be lacking does indicate that dental implants may be a superior alternative for you.

I am at my wits’ end. I have worn dentures for many years and have lost a great deal of jawbone during that time. My lower dentures are floaters. Is there still hope for me?

The options and procedures for dental implants have grown significantly in recent years and you should be able to avail of some form of treatment in your case. If you experience excessive use of denture adhesives, a peculiar bite position, unhappiness with your oral appearance, constant mouth sores or an inability to chew tougher foods or taste some foods then a dental implant may be your best option. The sooner you speak to a specialist the greater the choices you will have.

My grandparents as well as both of my parents have worn complete dentures. I lost two of my teeth recently. Is this genetic?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Genetics is a cause of tooth loss, especially in regards to the formation of the root of the tooth. If the root does not develop properly during its 3 year growth then it can increase the chances of tooth loss. However, age is also a cause of tooth loss. The older you are the greater chances of you losing one or more teeth.

Even if it is genetics in your case then it could be just a tendency, just as a person with a obesity gene will have a tendency toward that. However, with proper diet and exercise that person may be able to avoid that just as you may be able to avoid tooth loss through proper oral treatments and regular check-ups.

Regardless of the cause, you or anyone with a loss of a tooth or teeth should consider implants as an alternative to dentures.

I am a denture wearer now and have been for several years. I am beginning to think that this was a bad decision. I am tired of the bad taste and mess in my mouth from the denture adhesive. Can dental implants eliminate this problem?

Very many people experience that at the time of not only applying the adhesive but also eating a meal. Simple actions such as sneezing, coughing or laughing can loosen the dentures. Dental implants avoid both of these undesirable events and more.

My upper set of dentures are fine, but my lower set is constantly giving me troubles, especially when I am eating. I would like to have implants for the lower and retain my upper dentures. Can this be done?

Yes, of course. Dental implants not only correct the problems of missing teeth but also rectify those caused by alternatives, such as dentures. The full lower denture is notoriously unstable, and moves many times more than the upper denture in chewing. This results in frequent problems to wearers.

Dental implants can solve these problems, even in cases where there is a lot of bone loss. All that is needed is a complete oral exam and a panoramic x-ray to verify whether or not implants are the appropriate solution for you.

I have lost all of my teeth and am now wearing dentures. I hate my lower dentures and know that implants can be used to replace it. However, will I need an implant for each tooth that is being replaced?

Not necessarily. It is true that for a few teeth, one implant per tooth is required, but for a full set, much fewer are usually needed. Moreover, the number of implants needed to replace the lower set of teeth is lower than that needed to replace the upper teeth.

In the lower set, 2-4 implants are very commonly used although 6-8 implants are also often desired for an appropriate fit. (Due to the symmetrical nature of the mouth, even numbers of implants are usually used.)

The exact number of implants necessary in your case will depend upon your anatomy and the quality of your bone.

My husband had gum disease, lost all of his teeth to it, but refuses to wear “false teeth”. Will implants give him the appearance and feel of natural teeth?

That is the purpose of dental implants: to allow the wearer to interact socially and eat properly without embarrassment. They look and feel just as natural teeth do, and do not inhibit speech.
The exact nature and type of dental implant is dependent upon the individual’s characteristics and needs, and the exact recommendation can be determined only after a full consultation.

In your husband’s case, the options may be either
1) removable denture supported by several implants or
2) fixed or removable bridges attached to 5 to 8 implants.

Dental implants are the next best thing to natural teeth.

A tooth, that previously had a root canal, has now fractured and needs to be removed. Can an implant replace this, or is a bridge or partial better for me?

It is in the nature of teeth that have had root canals to become weaker and somewhat dehydrated, very brittle (almost like glass), and thus to fracture very easily.

In the past, options were inferior and the only way to replace such a tooth was to make a bridge. Even now, this procedure is sometimes the best. Now, however, implants are a viable option and are usually the best, especially as the adjacent teeth do not need to be ground down.

I have encountered several disadvantages with my upper dentures. I cannot keep them in place for an extended period of time without gagging. Also, dining is not as pleasurable as it once was as I can’t taste the food nor feel its temperature and texture. Will implants eliminate these problems?

Most likely. Dental implants do not cover anything, so the roof of your mouth will be uncovered, allowing you to breathe normally and not to gag.

The roof of your mouth is where your palate and many taste buds are located. When these are covered up, as by dentures, tasting foods and drinks is lessened or eliminated. When these are not covered up, as by implants, then the taste, temperature and texture of foods is restored.