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Dental implants are alternative to dentures

Mar 22, 2013

Dental implants are alternative to dentures
Photo source: Dear Doctor, Inc.

Last week in our series on senior dental issues we explored the whole "tooth" about dentures. After reading that post if you think “indentured” refers to folks with dentures, you do not pass “go,” and please review last week’s post again.

Today we’re talking about a popular alternative to dentures: dental implants. What exactly is a dental implant? A dental implant is an artificial tooth root fused into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge. Implants provide a solid foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are crafted to match natural teeth.

Would you believe dental implants date back to 600 AD and the Mayans? Yeah, I know; that whole Mayan doomsday calendar thing didn't work out, but let’s give credit where due. When a young woman 1,400 years ago was missing some of her lower teeth, some Mayan genius crafted and installed the first dental implants out of shell fragments.

History doesn’t say whether the woman could hear the ocean better after having an implant made from sea shells.

Fast forward to modern times, or as modern as it was in 1951. Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon and research professor, accidentally pulled a rabbit out of his hat, so to speak, when he and his research team discovered that titanium screws placed into the leg bones of rabbits would fuse with the bone over time.

The technique was named osseointegration and Dr. Branemark quickly pressed forward to find human applications for his discovery. Soon after he discovered that titanium screws could serve as bone anchors for teeth.  Dr. Branemark called the bone anchors “fixtures” and the new field of implantology was born.

After 30 more years of testing and study, Branemark published his findings on implantology in 1981. In 1982 the Toronto Conference in Clinical Dentistry set guidelines for the procedure and dental implants saw solid commercial growth during the 1980’s.

Today, thanks to the evolution of technology, it's quicker, easier and less painful to get dental implants than ever before. A 90 percent success rate for denture implants has further boosted their popularity and continued technological advancements should continue to bring down their expense and insurability.

HOW THEY WORK The most common form of dental implant is the root form implant. Root form implants are similar in size and shape to a natural tooth root except the implants are grooved like screws. These implants are used when the jaw has sufficient depth and width to accept the fixture. Otherwise a plate form or subperiosteal (bone to which muscles attach and an inner layer capable of forming bone) is used.   

After surgery there is a healing time of approximately four months. During this time the implants fuse to the bone by the osseointegration process Dr. Branemark discovered. After osseointegration the dentist will attach a post to the implant that will support one tooth or a set of teeth. This is a quick procedure and usually only requires local anesthesia.

The final phase is the restorative phase in which the dentist takes impressions and makes a prosthesis that will attach to the implants. The titanium implants are incredibly sturdy and usually last a lifetime. The crowns placed over the implants last on average 10 years, but with proper care can last up to 30 years.

The restorative phase may take a few visits, but once completed, your smile will be restored and your teeth will have regained a healthy, natural look.

ADVANTAGES There are many advantages to dental implants over dentures:

Improved Appearance – dental implants look and feel like real teeth

Comfort – implants are designed to be permanent and eliminate the need for removable dentures

Ease of Eating – implants function like real teeth so you can eat your favorite foods without the embarrassment and discomfort of sliding dentures

Convenience – dental implants eliminate the messiness of dental adhesives

Improved Speech – dental implants fit naturally into your tooth socket so there’s no slippage that can cause slurred speech

Durability – implants usually last for several years if not a lifetime as long as you regularly brush and floss

Enhanced Self-Esteem – laughing out loud and ear-splitting smiles help you feel less self conscious and better about yourself

Improved Oral Health – dental implants allow you to keep more of your own teeth and this improves your long-term oral health

COST The cost of a basic dental implant procedure for one missing tooth can range from $1,250 to $4,000 depending on the materials, the complexity of the case, the number of visits and the dentist.  In the spirit of full disclosure, most insurance plans consider dental implants a cosmetic procedure so few plans cover the procedure.

The good news is that as technology reduces the complexity and time required to do an implant, the cost of these procedures will likely drop. Also, with increased life expectancy and as more seniors opt for implants, it’s a good possibility that more dental plans will cover this procedure in the future.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk and remember, “Every smile makes you a day younger.” Email us at

Copyright 2013 Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©
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