Are Dental Implants Right for You?

Dental implants have helped millions of Americans enjoy a full, healthy smile. As awareness of this dental procedure and its benefits increases, a growing number of people are asking their dentist about artificial tooth implants to replace missing or damaged teeth.Dental implants have helped millions of Americans enjoy a full, healthy smile. As awareness of this dental procedure and its benefits increases, a growing number of people are asking their dentist about artificial tooth implants to replace missing or damaged teeth.

According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, more than 3 million people in the U.S. have implants and more than 500,000 people per year are getting implants. Patients are choosing implants for their natural look and feel and because they’re more convenient than dentures. Also, a growing number of dentists are becoming proficient in this procedure, and innovations to make getting implants more convenient and comfortable for patients are being developed all the time.

While dental implant procedures have a high success rate—around 98 percent—this procedure isn’t right for everyone. A small number of patients have dental or other health problems that make them poor candidates for artificial tooth implants. If the procedure were to be tried on these patients, it would have a very low chance of success and might have negative dental or overall health impacts.

For men and women considering artificial tooth implants, knowing the criteria dentists use when evaluating patients can help you better understand your chances of being accepted for this procedure.

How Do I Know if I’m a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?

Dental implants are artificial teeth placed on screws inserted into the jawbone. Patients must have enough healthy bone in their jaws to support the implants. Other than the missing tooth, you’ll need to have good oral health, and you’ll need to practice good care of your teeth. Because the procedure requires surgery, patients must also be sufficiently healthy to ensure surgery is not an unacceptable medical risk.

Your dentist will evaluate your individual circumstances to determine whether you’re a good candidate for this procedure. Some people who may not be good candidates for implants include:

  • Pregnant women – During pregnancy, women’s mouths can be more prone to infection. Also, implant procedures require the use of anesthesia and a check-up using x-rays, which can each harm a fetus. It’s best for women to wait until after pregnancy to get artificial tooth implants.
  • Teens and young adults whose jawbones have yet to stop growing – Growth in the jawbone could shift the implant. That’s why it’s wise to wait until adulthood to place an implant.
  • People who clench and grind their teeth – Clenching and grinding your teeth can put excessive pressure on the implants, making them likely to fail.
  • People with hemophilia – Because some bleeding occurs in surgery required to place implants, the procedure is not recommended for hemophiliacs.
  • Diabetics – Men and women with diabetes may not be good candidates for implants because their condition can inhibit healing. Diabetics who maintain good management of their disease may be cleared for the procedure, however.
  • People with gum disease – Gum disease is one of the main reasons patients get turned down for implants. Gum disease will compromise the likelihood of the procedure’s success, as healthy gums are needed to support the implant. However, people with poor gum health can be cleared for the procedure if they successfully treat their condition and maintain good oral health practices.
  • People who have had radiation therapy for head and neck cancer – Radiation therapy can inhibit healing and also weaken bone, making many people who have undergone radiation therapy for cancer, particularly cancer of the head and neck, poor candidates for implants.
  • Smokers – Smoking inhibits oral healing, making smokers poor candidates to receive a successful implant.
  • People with immune deficiencies – If you have an illness that suppresses your immune system or take medication that suppresses your immune system, your dentist may deny clearance for the procedure. People with compromised immune systems may not heal quickly or thoroughly enough to make the procedure a success.
  • The good news is that most people seeking dental implants won’t fall into these categories. Even better, not everyone who falls into the above categories will be rejected for implants. Some may very well receive successful implants.

However, if you do fall into one or more of these categories, your likelihood of getting green-lighted for a procedure is reduced. When determining your likelihood for a successful procedure, your dentist will also evaluate your commitment to maintain good oral health. Patients who brush and floss regularly are best suited for implants, as they already exhibit the good habits necessary to properly maintain them.

Improving Your Chances

For people who are not good candidates for an artificial tooth implant, sometimes time or an additional procedure can resolve the issue barring you from getting implants. For example, if pregnancy prevents you from being a good candidate, your dentist can re-evaluate your condition after your baby is born. Smokers may become good candidates if they quit smoking.

People who have insufficient bone density in their jawbones to be good candidates for implants can undergo bone grafting to shore up the bone structure of their jaw and provide an acceptable area for a dentist to place an implant. There are three types of bone grafts typically performed to prepare patients for implants:

  • Alveolar ridge preservation grafts – When you lose a tooth, the alveolar bone around the tooth begins to atrophy. A ridge preservation graft can help preserve the alveolar bone or stimulate bone growth so the implant can be placed. Grafts typically consist of bone harvested from a cow.
  • Autogenous ramus graft – In this procedure, native bone is harvested from the block of bone where the wisdom teeth once resided or from the chin. About a square centimeter of bone is removed and secured by screws in the area where more bone is needed. This bone is overlaid with bovine bone and a collagen membrane. In time, this graft will fuse with surrounding bone.
  • Subantral graft – Some areas of the jaw near the sinuses may not have sufficient bone to accommodate an implant. In the subantral grafting procedure, the surgeon will make a small window in the sinus above the area where the implant is needed. The membrane lining of the sinus is nudged upward to form an area the surgeon can fill with bovine bone. About six to nine months are needed after the procedure to allow the graft to fuse to the jawbone to prepare for the implant.
  • Again, grafts may not be for everyone, and finances may be a barrier for some. Consult with your dentist to see if a graft can make you better suited for implants.

How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?

Depending on several factors, implants can cost a few thousand dollars per tooth replaced. In many instances, insurance will not cover the cost, even though implants are a cheaper longer-term solution to tooth loss that can prevent expensive problems down the road. Some insurers are beginning to realize this and offer coverage for this procedure. Also, there are some financing options available to help make dental implants more affordable.

The best way to find out how much dental implants will cost is to visit a general dentist or cosmetic dentist who specializes in this procedure. Many offer free consultations which can help you make the decision that’s right for your finances and your dental health.

Northwest Houston Prosthodontics, a cosmetic dentistry practice in Spring, Texas, has an experienced staff of dental professionals skilled in dental implant procedures. Dr. Mo Koutrach, who leads the practice, is an American Board Certified Prosthodontist with 20 years’ experience and also is an associate clinical professor in the University of Texas’s Department of Prosthodontics.

Dr. Koutrach’s specialized training in prosthodontics, the area of dentistry focusing on restorative procedures such as implants, makes him the right professional to perform dental implant procedures for you or your loved ones.