Serving Encinitas and Mammoth Lakes, CA
Dental implants are the best solution for replacing a missing tooth or teeth. Implants consist of a titanium “implant” and an artificial tooth attached to it. They are anchored into your jawbone, just like a natural tooth, so they feel and function just like a natural tooth. They are perfect for stand-alone tooth replacement and as anchors for larger prosthetics, such as full or partial dentures.
We invite you to contact our Encinitas or Mammoth Lakes location to schedule an appointment with Dr. Comfort.
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What Is A Dental Implant?
An implant is a prosthetic that replaces a missing or severely damaged tooth/teeth that needs to be extracted. Implants are made of titanium and shaped like a screw. Dr. Comfort screws the implant down into the hole occupied by the former natural tooth root. The jawbone then grows around and integrates the implant into the jawbone naturally. A porcelain, artificial tooth is then attached to the implant.
Why Should I Replace a Missing Tooth With An Implant?
We see patients all the time who have opted to not replace a missing tooth. While this may save money in the short term, it can present a lot of long-term dental issues. Dr. Comfort recommends replacing a missing tooth/teeth with a dental implant when:
- Healthy teeth are moving due to missing teeth. Sometimes this is caused from the lack of pressure that would have been created by the tooth that was missing and it can create problems with your alignment and bite. Implants can alleviate this risk.
- Jawbone health is compromised. Chewing and biting involves a great deal of energy. This energy is transferred through the tooth down into the jawbone, stimulating the jawbone. This stimulation helps to shed old cells and build new bone mass. This is key to a healthy and strong jawbone. Without that energy coming down through the tooth, the jawbone in that area begins to deteriorate. Often times, people missing many or all of their teeth can appear as if their jawbone is collapsing backwards. Implants can help to prevent this from happening.
- Your smile is compromised. Missing teeth can be embarrassing when you smile and they can also create whistling sounds when you talk.
- Your nutritional health is compromised. Missing teeth can create problems with chewing, making you avoid certain foods, which can in turn cause nutritional deficiencies.
Who Is A Good Candidate for A Dental Implant?
The most important things for Dr. Comfort to evaluate when considering a patient for a dental implant is “Do they have sufficient jawbone mass” and “Is there enough space”. Provided there is healthy jawbone and space for the implant, just about anyone is a great candidate for implants. They are the best method for replacing a missing tooth.
Dr. Comfort will examine your mouth and the area of your missing tooth or teeth. He will look at x-rays to confirm you have sufficient bone mass. This is necessary for the titanium implant base to adequately anchor into the jawbone. Often times, lack of bone mass can be corrected with a bone graft. While this sounds complex and potentially painful, it is not. The graft will build the bone back up, enabling the later placement of the implant and a healthier mouth overall.
How Is A Dental Implant Placed?
After Dr. Comfort has examined your teeth and found your jawbone mass to be sufficient, there is a 4 step process that takes a few months.
- Placement: First, Dr. Comfort makes a small incision in your gum to expose the jawbone. He may drill a tiny hole down into the jawbone to help start the implant. The titanium implant is then screwed down into the socket formerly occupied by your natural tooth.
- Osseointegration: With the implant in place, now the jawbone needs to grow around it and make it a part of the jaw. This is possible because the human body fully accepts titanium. This takes between three and six months. Over this period, Dr. Comfort will occasionally check the progress of your bone growth.
- Abutment: When the jawbone has fully grown around the implant, a small metal post, called an abutment, is attached to the implant and the gum tissue is allowed to heal for around six weeks. The gum tissue will grow around the post.
- Placing the tooth: The final step is to place a custom-made porcelain tooth onto the abutment. The porcelain tooth is made to match the color and shape of the surrounding teeth to ensure it looks natural.
What are the advantages of having a dental implant?
- Dental implants behave exactly like natural teeth, so the patient can eat any foods and chew normally.
- Unlike bridges, where adjacent “abutment teeth” need to be crowned to anchor the bridge holding the false tooth or teeth, implants stand alone.
- Implants keep adjacent teeth from moving.
- Implants are load-bearing teeth and transfer energy down into the jawbone just as natural teeth do to help maintain a healthy jawbone.
- Implants have a 90 to 95% success rate and can last for decades, giving the patient back his or her smile and the ability to eat any foods for the long term.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
Implants pose very low-risks. The main risk is that the titanium implant fails, typically due to the jawbone not growing around the implant. This is very rare. Dr. Comfort has placed hundreds of implants with a high level of success and very happy patients. As with any procedure involving a slight incision in the gums, there is a risk of infection, but this is quite low and Dr. Comfort takes every precaution to insure a smooth delivery of the implants.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
The cost of a single dental implant varies depending on if bone grafting is needed or not. Generally, you can expect an implant to cost between $3,000 and $4,500. This upfront cost is mitigated by the fact that the implant will probably last the remainder of your life. With bridges, you’ll need to replace the bridge every 10-15 years.
Does dental insurance cover dental implants?
This is changing. More and more insurance companies realize the long-term benefits of dental implants. This varies by your healthcare provider. Dr. Comfort will work with your insurance company to get the most coverage available.
If you have questions about dental implants or would like to schedule a consultation at either our Encinitas or Mammoth Lakes locations, please contact us.