Dental Implant FAQs

Who places dental implants?

Periodontists specialize in gums and the structures below the gum line. They are especially concerned with how these underlying structures function and heal. Implants are placed in those structures. That makes Periodontists the preeminent dental specialist to place dental implants.

Dr Hunt has been successfully placing implants since 1990. His published research project from his Periodontics Residency was on implants. Since then, Dr Hunt has kept abreast on the most current information and techniques regarding implants through numerous continuing education courses, participation in implant related organizations, and lecturing on implant dentistry.

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How and when are dental implants placed?

On occasion, dental implants can be placed at the time of extraction, if everything is favorable for successful integration. If your tooth was extracted more than 1 year ago, there will likely be only a limited amount of jaw bone in that area. If there is insufficient bone to support an implant, a bone graft can be done at the time of extraction, or after, to stimulate bone regeneration to fill in the socket for implant placement four to six months later. Also, if there is underlying infection in the area, it is the most prudent to allow the area to heal prior to implant placement.

The office procedure to place a dental implant takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours and is actually less invasive than an extraction. Dr Hunt uses a long-acting local anesthetic to numb the area where the implant will be placed. He feels strongly about numbing the area completely so that the patient is comfortable. If there is a need for sedation, we can pre-arrange offering you nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or sleep dentistry in addition to anesthesia.

The procedure to place dental implants has gotten more refined through the years and is now extremely predictable and minimally invasive. A small incision is made into the gum tissue revealing the bone into which the implant will be placed. A socket will be created in the underlying bone. This will be done slowly and incrementally so as not to overheat the bone. The titanium implant will then be placed into the socket created. Implants in the front will have gum tissue sutured around it, essentially burying the implant under the gums. Implants, other than in the front of the mouth, will have a lid called a healing cap covering it and will be flush with the level of the bone. A small suture may be used, if necessary.

We will monitor the entire process by taking several x-rays during and after the procedure. After 4-6 months of healing, in which time the bone is growing around the implant and incorporating it into the jaw, you will be ready for the second stage of implant placement. You will return to our office to have the abutment tightened on. We will also help you pre-arrange an appointment, immediately following ours, at your restorative dentists office to have impressions taken to fabricate your permanent crown. They will make you a temporary crown at that time to use for two to three weeks while awaiting the delivery of your permanent crown from the lab.

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How long will this entire process take?

This will be determined on a case by case basis taking into consideration when the tooth was extracted, if there was a bone graft placed at the time of extraction, if there currently is enough bone to place the implant successfully, if it is an upper or lower implant and if it is a front or back tooth. Your individual healing also plays an important role in the overall process.

In general, an implant can be placed between 2 to 6 months after the extraction and bone graft. The final abutment and crown can be placed anywhere from 2 to 6 months after the implant.

What if I am missing all of my lower or upper teeth?

If you are missing all the teeth in your lower jaw, you may consider a number of options. The first option is placing two implants in your lower jaw and making a denture that snaps onto those implants and is removable. This ensures that your dentures are more stable while chewing. As with other dentures, you will still need to have periodic denture adjustments. A second option is placing four to six implants that are connected with a custom-support bar. Your denture will be made with special retention clips inside that attach onto the support bar, allowing the denture to snap firmly into place. This is called an overdenture. The advantage of this option is that it is much more stable than the first option. Your denture is still removable for easy cleaning and maintenance. The third option involves placing five or more implants and attaching a permanent denture. Your denture is held in place by screws or clasps that secure it to the support posts or bar and will only be removed at maintenance visits. The final option is to have all your teeth individually replaced so that they will appear to be growing out of your gum tissue and will most closely resemble the appearance of your natural teeth. This option usually requires eight or more implants plus separate abutments and crowns for each. The teeth are frequently joined together for strength and support. Overall, this is the most costly option, because it requires the most implants. This option may be limited by the size of your jawbone.

If you are missing all the teeth in your upper jaw, you will need more implants to support replacement teeth because the bone in the upper jaw is not as dense. This option will eliminate the need to make a denture that covers the roof of your mouth. You will be able to better taste food and to sense food temperature. It will still be removable yet feel a little more natural.

What can I use for teeth while the implants are healing?

There are many options for temporarily replacing teeth while the bone graft is filling in or while you are between the two stages of implant placement. The most common replacement for single teeth towards the front of the mouth is a transitional partial. It can be easily removed and cleaned and esthetically fills the gap of your missing teeth.

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How do I clean my implants?

As with natural teeth, it is important to clean implant supported restorations regularly with tooth brushing, flossing, and any other oral hygiene techniques and aids. You should also visit your dentist quarterly to have professional cleanings and to monitor your implant. As with regular dentures and other tooth replacements, your implants and their associated components are subject to wear and tear and eventually will need maintenance and other adjustments.

How long will the implant last?

Implants last a long time. Long-term studies (more than 30 years) of people missing all their teeth have shown an 80-90% success rate. Six-year studies of single tooth implants have shown a success rate of over 90%. There is always a slight possibility that the implant doesnt heal well or loosens after a period of time and may need to be removed and/or replaced.

What do these services cost?

Our professional staff will discuss with you any fees associated with implants as well as assist you with insurance submissions. There are many types of insurances and the coverage for implants also varies widely. When comparing the cost of a single tooth implant to a 3-unit bridge, the implant and the crown it supports is oftentimes more cost effective than the bridge. This is especially true when you take into account the long lifespan and better fit of an implant crown versus the much shorter lifespan and poorer fit of a bridge.