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Dental implants are a revolutionary option to replace missing teeth. This treatment has proven to be one of the more advanced procedures in modern dentistry. A dental implant can fill the gap where a tooth was once rooted, providing results that look, feel, and function like a natural tooth. Unlike dentures, which are typically associated with slippage and discomfort, dental implants are designed to become stable, permanent fixtures in the mouth. They also require no special maintenance outside of daily dental hygiene and regular cleanings. Our implant dentist, Dr. Michael Fulbright, offers full dental implant procedures to help patients successfully replace missing teeth and feel great about the appearance of their smile.

The sections below will provide you with a detailed picture of what you can expect from dental implants. If you would like more information, or if you would like to schedule a consultation here at Fulbright Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry, please contact our office.

What Exactly Are Dental Implants?

A dental implant is a titanium post that is surgically implanted into the jawbone where it works like an artificial tooth root. A natural-looking replacement tooth, typically made from porcelain, is then attached to the dental implant post. The result is an extremely natural-looking tooth replacement that functions much like natural teeth.

What Are The Benefits Of Dental Implants?

One of the main benefits of implant dentistry over other tooth replacement options is that they prevent the sunken look that is associated with missing teeth. Because the implants are placed in the jawbone, they help retain the fullness and contours of the face by retaining the supporting bone, similar to a natural tooth root. In addition, dental implants look and function much more like natural teeth when compared with other types of replacement options. Unlike dental bridges, which depend on surrounding teeth for support, dental implants stand alone without affecting other teeth.

Dental implants do not move or slip along the gumline, and they require no extra maintenance aside from regular brushing and flossing. We can place one implant to replace a single missing tooth, or several dental implants to replace multiple teeth. In addition, we can use dental implants to stabilize a dental bridge or partial denture, as well as full sets of dentures, with our implant supported dentures procedure.

Am I A Good Candidate For Dental Implants?

Dental implants present an ideal replacement option for people who are missing one or more teeth. They are permanent, they look and feel natural, and they are custom-made for the best possible fit. In order for dental implants to be successful, candidates for the procedure should have:

  • An adequate amount of bone density in the jaw
  • Reasonably healthy gum tissue
  • Fully developed jawbone structure
  • No medical or dental condition that can affect proper healing post-surgery, such as uncontrolled diabetes
  • No ongoing radiation or chemotherapy treatment

While these points typically describe a good candidate, patients should attend a consultation with our dentist to know for sure. At this time your gums and jaw are examined, revealing whether they would make an adequate foundation for the titanium post that will be anchored to the jawbone. There are a variety of effective missing teeth replacement alternatives that can often be performed for patients who are not candidates for dental implants. Dr. Fulbright will go over all of your options with you at your initial consultation to determine the treatment that can best meet your goals.

Missing Teeth Conditions

Ideal dental implant candidates are typically those who meet the requirements listed above and are affected by the following conditions:

A Single Missing Tooth
A dental implant can replace a single missing tooth without affecting surrounding teeth. If the adjacent teeth are healthy, there is typically no need to modify them or grind them down in order to accommodate the implant.

Several Missing Teeth
Dental implants can be significantly advantageous in cases of multiple missing teeth. While partial dentures are often utilized to replace several missing teeth, they can wear down surrounding healthy teeth and potentially even cause decay and discomfort. Implants can serve as an effective alternative to partial dentures since they will not affect adjacent, healthy teeth. They also do not require any additional maintenance aside from normal brushing and flossing, and they are designed to look, function, and feel like natural teeth.

All Teeth Missing
A full set of dental implants can be utilized to replace all missing teeth on the upper and lower arches. If you are missing all of your teeth, dental implants can ultimately prevent “facial collapse” – a condition that often develops when the jawbone deteriorates because of bone loss. With a full set of dental implants, the structure of the jawbone can be maintained in addition to the cosmetic and functional benefits that implants can provide.

Our dentist will evaluate your needs during the initial consultation. If you are not a candidate, advanced alternatives such as implant supported dentures or other options can be explored to help you restore your teeth with exceptional results. If you would like to learn about candidacy for dental implants, please contact us for more information, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Fulbright.

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What Are My Dental Implant Options?

Dental implants are remarkably versatile in terms of the many ways they can help patients restore missing teeth. Whether you are missing a single tooth or a full row of teeth, there are a number of options to help you meet your unique needs and goals, including:

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Single-Tooth Implants

A single missing tooth can cause an array of problems. These include its effect on proper speaking and chewing, as well as its potential for bone degradation. A dental implant can replace a single missing tooth with results that improve both the function of your teeth and the appearance of your smile.

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Implant Bridges

If you are missing multiple teeth directly next to each other, an implant bridge may be an ideal option, particularly if you are prone to grinding or clenching your teeth. An implant-supported bridge is somewhat like a traditional dental bridge; however, instead of the bridge being primarily supported by adjacent natural teeth, it is reliant on dental implants. This type of missing teeth restoration can be beneficial for patients who may not have enough bone density in the exact area of the missing teeth, but have adequate density in areas surrounding it. It essentially serves as a bridge with dental implants on each side of the missing teeth and crowns in-between.

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Implant Supported Dentures

Implant supported dentures can be a good option for patients who have multiple sets of missing teeth and those who are missing entire rows of teeth on the upper and/or lower arches. With the enhanced stabilization offered by a select number of dental implants, dentures essentially have a more secure support foundation, giving patients confidence that the dentures will remain securely in place without reliance upon pastes and other denture adhesives. This can ultimately produce results that function and feel more like natural teeth.

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Guided Implant Surgery

The planning stages of dental implant procedures are some of the most important steps in the process, and our practice utilizes the best technology available to ensure precise treatment and exemplary results. With 3-Dimensional Cone Beam x-ray techniques, our experienced dentist, Dr. Fulbright, can produce a detailed planning guide for the placement of your dental implants. This guide is designed to enhance accuracy and efficiency while increasing the chances that your implants will fit, feel, and appear as natural as possible.

What Are The Benefits Of Surgically Guided Dental Implant Procedures?

3-Dimensional CT scanning technology is a huge leap forward in dental imaging, offering some of the most detailed and precise pictures possible. While the GALILEOS® ComfortPLUS 3-D Imaging system can be utilized for a number of dental procedures, one of its most ideal uses is for the dental implant treatment planning process. This innovative technology serves as an intricate surgical guide, which allows for:

  • Enhanced accuracy and more precise placement of the implant or implants
  • Results that are more predictable in the planning stages of treatment
  • A reduced risk of complications or inexact placement of the implant
  • A more comfortable and natural fit for the implant
  • Reduced overall treatment time
  • Long-term results

How Does the Process Work?

Once you have been evaluated by Dr. Fulbright and determined to be a good candidate for dental implants, he will create a customized treatment plan designed to meet your needs. In the initial planning stages of treatment, the GALILEOS® ComfortPLUS 3-D Imaging system will be used to create a crystal clear image of your skull and even part of the neck. These images will feature extraordinarily detailed views of your teeth, gums, and bone structure, which allows Dr. Fulbright to select the specific placement of the implant with unparalleled precision. By utilizing this 3-Dimensional surgical mapping system before your treatment even begins, Dr. Fulbright can be more sure that the implant will truly yield results that are virtually indistinguishable from a natural tooth.

Surgically guided implant techniques can be used for procedures that replace a single tooth and for those replacing multiple teeth. In fact, this process is particularly advantageous for single-tooth replacement procedures because of the precision necessary for successfully placing the implant between two natural teeth. Ultimately, the GALILEOS® makes it possible for Dr. Fulbright to place dental implants with greater accuracy than ever before, significantly increasing the chances that the implants will fit as naturally and perfectly as possible and reducing the risk of dissatisfaction with results.

What Does The Dental Implant Procedure Involve?

If you are a good candidate for dental implants, we will schedule you for the surgical procedure to have the titanium implant placed in the jawbone. The advanced technology and use of local anesthesia can help to make the dental implant procedure as comfortable as possible for patients. If you would like additional assurance that you will experience a relaxed and comfortable procedure, we offer a range of advanced sedation dentistry options.

The implants will be carefully and precisely placed in the area of the missing teeth to allow for the most comfortable, functional, and natural-looking result. Once the posts have been placed, the success of implant dentistry depends on the body’s ability to heal. During a three- to six-month healing period following the implantation procedure, the jawbone should fuse to the titanium implant (this process is called osseointegration), forming a strong foundation for the replacement tooth. At this point, you will visit Dr. Fulbright’s office so that the natural-looking artificial tooth can be attached to the implant post. Although the implant posts typically last a lifetime, the replacement teeth can become worn or damaged over time. Our dentists can remove old replacement teeth and replace them with new, natural-looking restorations.

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A titanium implant is placed where the tooth has been lost

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After the implant has healed, it is uncovered and the post is placed on the implant.

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A ceramic dental crown is placed on the post, replacing the tooth.

How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?

The cost of a dental implant procedure will vary based on your individual needs. It is estimated that the average procedure can generally range from $3,000 to $4,500, but your procedure may fall above, below, or in-between that range. Some factors that help determine the overall cost will likely include the education and experience of the dentist, the number of implants you will need, and the materials the dentist uses to complete the procedure. In some cases, insurance may offer coverage for dental implants. We offer unique dental financing options at our office and accept all major credit cards as payment.

Are Dental Implants Safe?

Dental implants have been used for more than 30 years and have been proven as an effective and safe procedure for many patients when performed by an experienced implant dentist, particularly an American Academy of Implant Dentistry credentialed dentist such as Dr. Fulbright. The titanium posts are made of a biocompatible material and the bone should fuse around the implant, providing stability and strength.

How Long Do Dental Implants Last?

The dental implants that we place are designed to offer long-lasting benefits. If good overall dental health is maintained and you regularly receive quality dental care, your dental implants should last for decades.

What Are The Alternatives To Dental Implants?

If you are not a candidate for dental implants, or if you would like to replace missing teeth without utilizing a dental implant for each tooth, there are a number of advanced alternatives available that offer effective results. Our practice provides a full range of tooth replacement options, including implant dentures, bridges, and other treatments.

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Complementary Procedures

Sinus Lift

A sinus lift is not necessary for all patients, but some may require it in order to achieve the best possible dental implant results. Also referred to as “sinus augmentation,” a sinus lift is typically recommended in cases where an individual lacks adequate bone density in the rear areas of the upper jaw. Some patients may have been previously told they were not good candidates for dental implants because of this concern; however, a sinus lift may help them qualify for the procedure. Sinus lifting involves the elevation of a small part of the bone in the sinus cavity to enhance bone density in the area of missing teeth, which can ultimately allow for the accommodation of a dental implant. After this stage of the treatment process, a bone graft will fill the space, further improving the jaw’s support structure and enhancing the implant’s ability to successfully fuse to the bone. Ultimately, a sinus lift can significantly heighten the probability of an implant functioning with the strength and permanence of a natural tooth root.

Bone Grafts

Individuals who did not qualify as candidates for dental implants in the past because of inadequate jawbone density may become eligible if they undergo a bone graft procedure. Bone graft treatments are designed to strengthen the existing jawbone and enhance its density, increasing the chance that a dental implant will effectively fuse to the bone for permanent missing teeth replacement results.

Ridge Maintenance Grafts

Sometimes referred to as “ridge augmentation,” ridge maintenance grafts may be recommended for individuals who have experienced jawbone recession following tooth loss. Untreated missing teeth can have serious effects on jawbone health—when there is nothing in the area to stimulate bone cells, the jawbone can begin to deteriorate. A ridge augmentation immediately after tooth loss can help preserve the alveolar ridge (part of the jawbone which holds tooth sockets) and prevent it from receding, increasing the chances that a dental implant can fuse to the bone successfully. In some cases, a ridge augmentation may be advised after an implant has already been placed due to an indentation that’s appeared along the jawbone and gums, which can sometimes occur in patients who suffer from severe periodontal disease. The indentations can be extremely challenging to clean with standard brushing and flossing routines, and they can produce a negative aesthetic effect, as well. A ridge augmentation can address the indentations utilizing a bone graft or other technique to create improved symmetry and balance between the dental implants and the gums.

ADDITIONAL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DENTAL IMPLANTS

Does insurance cover dental implants? 

Some individuals may have dental insurance policies that offer a certain amount of coverage for dental implant procedures. We can talk with you about your current plan and help you determine whether this treatment may be covered under your policy. 

Do dental implants hurt? 

The dental implantation process should not hurt due to the application of a strong local anesthetic during the procedure. Patients who would like additional assurance that they are as comfortable as possible while the treatment is performed may wish to inquire about sedation dentistry options that can help them achieve a more relaxing treatment. After the procedure, some soreness is to be expected in the treatment areas for a few days; however, this should fade as the areas continue to heal. Over-the-counter pain medication is often sufficient to alleviate discomfort during the healing process. 

Do dental implants look natural? 

By design, dental implants are manufactured in such a way that they can mimic the function and appearance of a natural tooth right down to the root. With a custom dental crown securely attached to the dental implant post, the results should look as natural as an original tooth. 

Does smoking affect dental implants? 

We firmly believe that smoking can have a serious, even potentially destructive effect on dental implants. Research has shown that there are possible connections between smoking and dental implant failure. Additionally, smoking can compromise the healing process and significantly increase the risk of infection. It is our strong recommendation that patients who are planning on undergoing a dental implant procedure completely refrain from smoking at least one month before treatment, and formulate a plan to ensure they do not take the habit up again at any time after treatment. 

What can I eat and drink with dental implants? 

Here is another bit of good news about the advantages of dental implants: there are virtually no food restrictions! Since dental implants are designed to essentially become a part of your mouth, they do not have the same restrictions that may come with a removable dental appliance such as a denture. With this in mind, it is still a good idea to take a few precautionary measures with certain food items. Hard or sticky foods such as candy, popcorn, ice, fruits or veggies that contain pits or hard seeds, and others should be consumed very carefully in order to minimize the risk of damaging the crown or the implant. These precautions are necessary with natural teeth and teeth that have been treated with crowns or veneers, as well, so this shouldn’t limit your ability to eat desired foods—it should just help you reduce the chance of damaging your dental implants!

Schedule A Cosmetic Dentistry Consultation

To learn more about dental implants, or if you are ready to meet with one of our dentists for a dental implant consultation, please contact Fulbright Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry today.