Dental implants may be the correct treatment method for your circumstances if you find yourself experiencing one of the following situations:
- The full loss of a tooth, which has come out completely, including the root. This may be due to a gradual process, such as tooth decay, or due to direct dental trauma, such as a sporting incident.
- The partial loss of a tooth that is chipped, resulting in an incomplete tooth that is unable to function or be replaced by a crown. In such instances this tooth may be extracted and replaced.
- The effective loss of a tooth’s functionality, for example due to fracturing that makes it highly painful to eat. This tooth may be extracted and replaced by your dentist.
- The risk of maintaining a natural tooth, that is infected or suffering from abscess and cannot be recovered by a root canal. Such a tooth may need to be removed, and the gap can be filled with a dental implant.
The arguments for dental implants as a treatment method are varied. Dental implants are highly lifelike and convincing, meaning they help with self-confidence and require minimal psychological adjustment. They are long lasting, likely to succeed as a treatment option, improve your ability to eat comfortably compared to alternative treatments, maintain your facial structure, and don’t impact neighbouring teeth.
Am I eligible for dental implants?
The main considerations when determining whether you are a suitable candidate for a dental implant or dental implants at your dentist are listed below:
- Bone strength and presence. Specifically, within the area when the implant is needed. Implants work by fusing with the jawbone over time, and therefore a certain amount of bone is required for the implant to be surgically implanted and to fuse effectively. Your dental practitioner may assess this using an X-ray. You may lack the necessary bone if you have suffered from bone atrophy, which may actually result from the loss of teeth if left missing for a long time, as teeth can help to sustain bone structure. It may also relate to infection or abscesses (current or past), or simply due to anatomy, without any pathology.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. Certain medical conditions may mean that dental implants are not recommended for you by your dentist. This can be due to the condition itself, or due to medications that you have to take because of the condition.
- Smoking habits. If you are a regular smoker, you may not be a suitable candidate for a dental implant. This is because smoking can limit the ability of the mouth to heal, and the act of inhaling smoke can potentially impact recovery.
- Gum disease. Those suffering from severe gum disease, gingivitis, or periodontitis may not be able to have dental implants at their dental professional until the issue is resolved.
- Age can influence suitability. Dental implants would never be recommended for damaged baby teeth, nor will they generally be recommended for a young person’s mouth featuring a jawbone and other bones that are still growing and developing.
If you are reading the above and find that one of the above points relates to you, please be aware that you may still be eligible for dental implants, because there may be solutions available (such as bone grafting or treatment for other conditions) that will enable you to have dental implants. To know for sure if you are eligible for dental implants, there is no substitute for an appointment with your dentist.
Can I afford dental implants?
Dental implants are a highly popular and effective method of replacing missing teeth at your dentist, but even people who are eligible still need to make a personal decision about their finances. Medicare does not, as a general rule, cover you for implants, but it may be covered if the procedure is determined necessary because your oral health is impacting your overall health. There may also be coverage for certain concession card holders.
It may also be covered under an extras policy that includes ‘major dental’ or a similar service. This can be a helpful step in reducing the cost. However, all cases must be taken individually, and it is best to consult your policy, and talk with your insurer and your dental specialist, for precise answers.
The cost of dental implants varies in Australia, and will depend on the dentist, and the complexity of your individual case. Generally, the cost of an implant can range from between $2500 and $6500, making dental implants one of the more expensive procedures. However, as outlined above, the impact that dental implants can have on your wellbeing, your ability to eat comfortably, and your confidence often makes this a worthwhile investment. It is a personal decision.
What are the alternatives to dental implants?
If dental implants are not right for you, there are a range of other options that may be considered. These options include:
- Not replacing the tooth, or extracting the problematic teeth if they were not already missing. This option carries some risks which your dentist can talk through.
- Dental bridges. This involves using the remaining, natural teeth to hold the replacement teeth in place, rather than the jawbone. For this procedure, your dentist will prepare the surrounding teeth, and then affix a series of interconnected crowns to these teeth, to bridge the gap.
- Dentures are a removeable plate or frame that holds artificial teeth. It is a common option among elderly patients. It may be locked into place by shaping around the gums, or connecting to an implant anchor.