Dental implants are artificial titanium stubs that can be fitted inside the jaw over which an artificial tooth can be affixed. The implant is a replacement for the root of the tooth, which may have undergone decay.
There are both individual dental implants as well as bridge implants for teeth. Implants can be used for individual teeth as they are not connected to the neighboring teeth, but are instead inserted into the jaw. For people using dentures, several implants can be bridged and inserted into the jaw. Once the implants are in place, the crowns of the teeth are fixed over them.
Implant surgery brings about a remarkable change in the life of the patient. For most people who have lost their teeth, implants can help to regain their original smiles. People with implanted teeth do not find any difficulty in chewing and biting food and, in most cases people do not notice much difference with natural or original teeth.
There are three major types of dental implants: artificial bone substitute implant, endosteal implants and sub-periosteal implants. Artificial bone substitute implants use a calcium substitute to fit over the jaw bone. This substitute bonds over the existing jaw bone over time. Endosteal implants are wedged into the jaw in place of the dental root. Sub-periosteal implants are specialized implants which are preferred for elderly persons who can no longer wear dentures. Sub-periosteal implants are fixed directly over the jaw bone.
Surgeries involving dental implants are no longer as painful as they used to be in their conceptive stages. Local anesthetics allow for painless dental surgeries. However, the implant must be done by a qualified periodontist or a maxillofacial surgeon.
Dental implants need to be looked after. However they do not require any special maintenance as compared to normal teeth. Regular brushing, flossing and checkups are enough. Dentists may advise people with dental implants to avoid chewy and gummy food so as not to over-exert the artificial tooth crown.
Dental implant surgeries are expensive. Their costs may range from $500 to $6000 depending on the type of implant used and whether a maxillofacial surgeon is involved or not. A general implant operation for a single tooth would cost around $2000. Most implant surgeries cannot be fully covered by dental plans and the rest of the payment has to be done by the patients themselves.