Exploring dental implants

Mac Lee

We get a lot of questions from patients about dental implants. The purpose of this article is to take away the confusion facing the consumer. This is a consumer-based article so the goal is to keep the technical stuff out and concentrate on what is important to the reader.

Does it hurt?

The word implant is not the most pleasant thing to think about especially when the word surgery follows. Once the word is mentioned the first thought is pain instead of the excellent service the procedure offers. Maybe dentistry needs to change the name to something less caustic and frightening. Knee replacement is achieved with implants so let's call the dental procedure root replacement because that is exactly what the procedure does; replace a missing root in the jaw.

The majority of root replacements are placed by specialist, i.e. specially trained periodontists and oral surgeons. Intravenous sedation, which takes away all memory, is used as part of the service. Once sedated, the root replacement area is numbed so there is no pain whatsoever once the surgery begins. It truly is a patient friendly procedure when done correctly because the patient sits in a dental chair and the next thing they know they are finished and on the way home.

I have had an implant with no post-op pain and it has been the same experience with my patients after their visit to the specialist. Of course, everyone is different and there can be some complications as with any surgery. With modern technology, implants have a 95 percent success rate. The great news for the Crossroads is we have two periodontists and two oral surgeons who do a fantastic job with root replacements.

How many visits?

A root replacement needs the same things as a normal root, i.e. good bone to anchor itself in. It is imperative the first appointment starts with a comprehensive exam to X-ray the bone and get a detailed medical history. Then it is up to the surgeon to decide the best action. People come in all different sizes and shapes and so do implants. If there is not enough bone to anchor to, there are added procedures that can be done. The more that needs to be done, the more visits it will take. The surgeon will know when the root replacement is secure.

What is next?

All teeth have two major components; the root and the crown. Implants have three; the root, the abutment and the crown. The root is in the bone, the abutment connects the crown to the implant. The general dentist takes an impression of the abutment and has the lab make a crown that fits the existing bite. The great thing about this particular step is there's usually no need for shots or drilling.

Why get a root replacement?

The procedure described above will give a person the most natural tooth replacement possible. Done correctly on the right person, there is virtually no way to tell it from a real tooth during speaking, chewing and smiling. There is nothing that comes in or out, nothing moves, and food does not stick in between and under like it does on a bridge, There is really no way to distinguish it from a normal tooth.

What is the cost?

Replacing teeth with implants is expensive. There is a fee for the implant itself and a separate fee for the crown. Together, the prices range from $3,500 to $5,000 for each and every tooth. Humans have 32 teeth so if you multiplied the price times 32, it would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The subtle message here is to take excellent care of your teeth because they are very, very valuable.

The best first step

It is imperative that the general dentist and the specialist work very close in hand on every step of this process. The patient must have clear expectations of every procedure and they must feel comfortable and confident in both the dentist and the specialist.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an adviser to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.

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