Dental Implants FAQs Washington

Answers to Common Questions About Dental Implants in Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way, & Woodinville WA

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What are some of the benefits of dental implants?

  1. Overall quality of life is enhanced with replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. With implant-supported replacement teeth, the appearance of the smile is more natural and the teeth function more like natural teeth. The result is increased comfort and confidence when smiling, speaking and eating.
  2. Integrity of facial structures is preserved. By preventing the bone resorption that would normally occur with the loss of teeth, the facial structures remain intact. This is particularly important when all of the teeth are missing, as the lower one-third of the face collapses if implants are not placed to preserve the bone.
  3. Adjacent teeth are not compromised to replace missing teeth. Tooth replacement with traditional tooth-supported bridges requires grinding down the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth/teeth, so that the bridge can be cemented onto them. This tooth structure can never be replaced and the long-term health of these teeth is compromised. The teeth are then made to do the work they were intended for plus the work of the missing tooth. Partial dentures have clasps that hook onto adjacent teeth, putting pressure and unnatural torquing forces on them as the partial rocks back and forth. Eventually these teeth can loosen and come out as a result of this pressure. Replacing missing teeth with implant-supported crowns/bridges does not involve the adjacent natural teeth, so they are not compromised or damaged.
  4. The mouth is restored as closely as possible to its natural state. By replacing the entire tooth, including the root, it is possible to replicate the function of natural teeth, with a strong, stable foundation that allows comfortable biting and chewing. In addition, nothing in the mouth looks or feels artificial.
  5. Increased stability and a sense of security that teeth will not fall out when eating, laughing or sneezing. People who wear dentures often worry that their dentures will fall out when they laugh, sneeze and sometimes even when they eat. Since the bone bonds to the implants, replacement teeth have a stable foundation and are securely attached to the implants, so there is no fear that teeth will fall out.
  6. Improved health due to improved nutrition and proper digestion. People with dentures usually have problems eating certain foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, which can compromise their nutrition. Additionally, since it is difficult to chew properly with dentures, digestion is often compromised.
  7. Improved appearance. Since implants preserve bone, preventing deterioration of the facial structures, appearance is improved. Collapse of the lower one-third of the face caused by complete tooth loss can be visually corrected and the remaining bone preserved. The appearance of wrinkles around the mouth caused by posterior bite collapse or complete facial structure collapse, are virtually eliminated. The smile is improved when replacement teeth look more like natural teeth. Even when only one tooth is missing, long term esthetics are usually much better with an implant-supported replacement tooth than with a traditional tooth-supported bridge. This is particularly important in the front of the mouth, where preventing a visible bone defect is critical for natural appearance.
  8. Improved ability to taste foods. Wearing an upper denture can prevent someone from really tasting food, as the roof of the mouth is covered. With implant-supported replacement teeth, it is not necessary to cover the roof of the mouth, so it is possible to enjoy the taste of foods.
  9. Increased convenience of hygiene. It is much easier to care for an implant-supported crown, which can be cleaned like a natural tooth, as opposed to a tooth-supported bridge, which requires the use of a flossthreader for proper cleaning. It is also easier to clean implant-supported replacement teeth than a removable partial.
  10. Elimination of denture adhesives. Since implant-supported teeth are securely attached to the implants, there is no need for messy denture adhesives, which are often needed to keep dentures from falling out.
  11. Restored self esteem and renewed self confidence. Many of the people who now enjoy the benefits of implant-supported replacement teeth state that their self esteem and self confidence have been restored as a result of improved appearance, function, comfort and health.

Who is a candidate for dental implant treatment?

Nearly everyone who is missing one or more teeth and in general good health is a candidate for dental implant treatment. There are a few medical conditions that can undermine the success of implant treatment, such as uncontrolled diabetes and smoking. However, there are very few conditions that would keep someone from having implant treatment altogether.

Quality and quantity of available bone for implant placement is more often a factor in qualifying for dental implants than medical conditions. However, even people who have lost a significant amount of bone can qualify for dental implant treatment with additional procedures to add bone or create new bone. Advances in this type of treatment have made it possible for thousands of patients who would not previously have been considered candidates to have successful implant treatment.

What is involved with dental implant procedures?

  1. Consultation. The first step is an examination and consultation to determine whether or not you are a candidate for implant treatment. This usually involves x-rays and may include taking impressions for models of your teeth. If you have already lost a significant amount of bone, additional x-rays taken at another facility that specializes in this type of x-ray may also be recommended. During the examination, Dr. Guo and Dr. Christie will be evaluating the area(s) of your mouth where teeth are missing, including the amount of bone available to support the placement of implants. He will also be evaluating the type of replacement teeth that will best meet your needs. A review of your health history will indicate whether there are any medical conditions that could prevent you from being a candidate for implant treatment.
  2. Implant Placement Procedure. The implants are placed in the bone using a standard surgical technique. Following the implant placement procedure, the implants may be left undisturbed for a period of 3-9 months so that the bone can bond with the implants, or the implants may be placed and immediately “loaded” with replacement teeth. Your surgeon and dentist will select the procedure that is best for you. In any case, you will always have the option of some type of temporary replacement teeth, so that you never have to be without teeth during treatment.
  3. Abutment Attachment Procedure. Following the appropriate healing period, a small connector, or extension, called an abutment, is attached to each implant. Sometimes this is a temporary part used to help shape the gingival (gum) tissue and sometimes this is the “final” abutment. The permanent replacement teeth will eventually be attached to the abutments.
  4. Fabrication of Replacement Teeth. A series of appointments with your dentist will be needed to take impressions of your teeth and the implant abutments, to place temporary replacement teeth, to select the appropriate shade for your replacement teeth, and to try them for proper fit. In between these appointments, the laboratory technician will fabricate your replacement teeth and the underlying structures that will be attached to the implants.

Why should I see an oral surgeon for my dental implants?

Placing a dental implant is a significant surgical procedure. General dentists are very good for routine care, but they often don’t do the extensive training required to place implants. Dr. Guo and Dr. Christie provide the full scope of oral and maxillofacial surgical procedures, with special interest in dentoalveolar surgery, dental implants, bone grafting surgeries, orthognathic surgery, facial reconstruction, TMJ disorders and cosmetic procedures. She has also trained extensively on in-office sedation and general anesthesia.

How Long Does It Take to Complete Treatment?

Dental implants preserve bone because they function like tooth roots, firmly embedded in the bone. In order for the implants to become embedded in the bone, the bone must bond to the implants. This process takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months, depending upon the quality of the bone into which the implants are placed. In selected cases, dental implants can be immediately loaded after placement.

Thus, the time to complete this treatment plan is minimal. Your restorative dentist and/or oral surgeon will evaluate your options for immediate loading.

There are other treatment options that do not include dental implants that do not take as long to complete; however, none of these traditional methods of tooth replacement preserve bone. And, in fact, dentures and partials actually accelerate the bone resorption process.

Is the Surgical Procedure Painful?

Most implant patients report that the discomfort is far less than they expected, and is much like having a tooth extracted. And although everyone is different with regard to pain tolerance, most patients are very comfortable simply taking Ibuprofen afterward.

What Is Involved With Taking Care of Dental Implants?

The home care recommended varies depending upon the type of implant-supported replacement teeth. For example, a single implant-supported crown is cleaned like a natural tooth, with regular brushing and flossing. Implant-supported bridges that replace a few teeth are cleaned like tooth-supported bridges, brushing and flossing with a floss threader.

Home care is a little different for people who are missing all of their teeth. Special brushes and floss are often recommended. With overdentures, it is necessary to clean the implant attachments, as well as the overdenture. Permanently fixed implant supported replacement teeth are cleaned like all other bridges.

In all cases, it is recommended that patients see their regular dentist and hygienist at least twice each year unless they routinely see the periodontist, in which case they would continue to alternate visits. If a surgical specialist placed the implants, it is usually recommended that the patient see the specialist at least once each year as well. These visits, combined with proper home care, are essential to the long term success of implant treatment.

How Long Do Implants Last?

Your implants will serve you well for many years if you take care of them and keep your mouth healthy. Documented clinical research demonstrates that implant-supported replacement teeth have been successful for over 35 years. These were some of the first root-form implant cases ever completed and they have been closely monitored from the beginning. It is highly likely that these cases will be successful throughout the lifetime of those patients.

Dental implants are designed to be permanent; however many factors contribute to the long term success of implant treatment, such as home care and regular maintenance visits to the dentist or dental specialist.

By comparison, research demonstrates that the typical tooth-supported bridge lasts from 7-10 years and that partials and dentures are functional for approximately 5 years. Insurance statistics indicate that bridges, partials and dentures last 5 years and they generally pay for replacements every 5 years.

Do Dental Implants Ever Fail?

Dental implant treatment is one of the most successful procedures in the medical/dental field, with documented success rates over 95%. Although successful treatment is very predictable, there are rare occasions where the bone does not completely bond to the implants. When this occurs, new implants are placed. Smoking or putting too much pressure on newly placed implants, as with excessive grinding of the teeth, can cause problems with the bone bonding to the implants, and should be avoided.

Is Dental Implant Treatment Covered by Dental Insurance?

Insurance coverage of implant treatment depends on the individual policy. Insurance plans are more frequently covering dental implants because they are realizing that implants are a cost-effective treatment option in the long term. However, policies do differ and the amount of the available benefits can be directly related to the amount of premiums paid. Sometimes employers select insurance benefits that will not cover dental implants, but will pay what is considered an alternate benefit. This amounts to providing the benefits that would be paid for bridge, partials, or dentures.

What Is the Cost of Implant Treatment?

A dental implant is an investment in your health, appearance, and quality of life. A dental implant investment involves preserving the integrity of your facial structure as well as replacing missing teeth. Implant treatment cost depends on a number of factors, including the number of teeth being replaced, the type of implants, and the need for additional procedures that are necessary to achieve the best result. Each situation is unique; so, the only way to obtain an accurate cost for the implant treatment that is right for you is to have an examination and a consultation with a surgical specialist and a restorative dentist.

How expensive is the cost of implants compared to alternative treatments?

Many people make the mistake of assuming that dental implants are more expensive than traditional treatment. The fact is that in many cases implant treatment is more cost efficient in the long run. The two most common options when replacing a single missing tooth are the tooth-supported bridge and an implant-supported crown. The bridge often costs less initially; however, a bridge needs to be replaced every 5 to 10 years. Further, a bridge requires grinding down adjacent teeth to cement it into place. Such treatment generally causes permanent compromise to the long-term health of these teeth. And, perhaps most importantly, a bridge does not prevent bone loss. A traditional bridge commonly requires additional procedures. A few definite possibilities are replacing the bridge, having to re-treat the teeth that were ground down, or repairing a defect in the bone. Of course, any of these additional treatments could increase the cost of treatment significantly. Dental implants are substantially better long-term alternatives from a financial and health standpoint.

Does Medical Insurance Cover Implant Treatment?

There are a few cases where medical insurance is available for people who are missing all of their teeth, and as a result, have medical complications.

This type of coverage depends solely on the individual policy. Work-related injuries and other types of accidents are the other cases that are sometimes covered by insurance. Other than these situations, medical coverage is very rare. Medicare does not cover implant treatment.

I have a “bubble” or abnormal swelling and pain in the site of my implant(s), is that normal?

No! Successful implants heal without complications. After the initial surgical swelling and discomfort have subsided, call the doctors if you notice a “bubble”, drainage, or anything out of the ordinary. Do not wait.

Is age a factor in implant treatment?

Dental implants have roots back to the 1950’s, specifically as a solution for older patients who were missing teeth. Overall health and a desire to improve your quality of life are usually more important factors than a person’s age. In fact, we are quite experienced helping patients in their 90s have dental implant treatment without any problems.

Is it too late for a dental implant if my bone has already deteriorated?

If you have dentures or a partial already, you may be concerned that your bone has deteriorated – making it too late to consider dental implants. The good news is that technology now makes it possible to grow new bone or add bone to areas where the bone has melted away. The placement of dental implants can then be accomplished. Bone grafting procedures allow dental specialists to repair defects in the bone and even further, to place implants to improve appearance. Oral Maxillofacial surgeons can also use bone grafting techniques to make it possible for people with significant bone loss to have implants, thereby restoring function and integrity of facial structures. Sometimes it is even possible to graft bone and place implants at the same time; however, each person’s situation is unique. Unfortunately everyone is a candidate for bone grafting. If you wear dentures or a partial, you will do yourself a favor by talking to talk to a qualified, experienced surgeon. Determining whether you qualify for bone grafting and dental implant treatment can be a very big step in your life.

Is it true that dental implant treatment is painful?

Implant patients generally say that the implant procedure is not as traumatic as having their tooth extracted. Everyone tolerates pain differently, but most patients are comfortable simply taking Tylenol after the procedure.

What options do I have for anesthesia at Washington Jaw & Facial Surgery?

As a specialty surgical practice, we can provide you with more options for sedation than a general dentist. We have specially trained staff, certified and/or licensed, who administer and monitor your vital signs during surgery. We offer everything from nitrous oxide to oral sedation to IV sedation. The type we use depends on the procedures you are having done, as well as your personal preferences. We’ll be happy to discuss patient comforts and your sedation options with you.

Do each of my missing teeth require an implant?

Each patient we see is different and we evaluate each patient individually to determine the number of implants required to support the replacement teeth that will best fit the patient’s functional and aesthetic needs. Usually, it is possible to replace all of the lower teeth with an implant-retained denture supported by 2-4 implants. Back molars take most of the brunt of chewing. When they are missing, some clinicians recommend replacing them with individual implants.

How do dental implants preserve the bone to which they are attached?

Dental implants serve as substitute natural tooth roots by stimulating the bone and preserving it. Since the bone forms a bond with the implant, a stable foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function is provided, basically the same as natural teeth provide. Bone deterioration is prevented with implants, so the facial structures remain intact and do not collapse. Additionally, replacing missing teeth with implants prevents other problems associated with tooth loss (such as other teeth shifting into the spaces created by missing teeth and functional problems with the bite and jaw joints).

Is it true that dentures and partials accelerate the deterioration of facial structures?

A denture is a prosthesis which (like any other prosthesis) is designed to replace a missing body part. Because the jaws deteriorate and the face collapses when all teeth are missing, dentures are designed to replace missing teeth as well as the facial structures that have deteriorated. To achieve this, they must be fairly thick to compensate for the bone that has deteriorated away. As facial structures continue to collapse over time, dentures must be replaced or relined to be thicker in order to compensate for additional bone loss. Dentures accelerate bone loss because they press down on the gums and the underlying bone when one eats. This compresses the gums and bone; and, unfortunately, if you wear a denture, your bone will deteriorate faster. Additionally, your facial structure will collapse more quickly than if you do not wear a denture. A partial denture is also a prosthesis; but, it is designed to replace facial structures when just some of a person’s teeth are missing. A partial is held in place by metal clasps that hook onto adjacent teeth. A partial also accelerates bone loss as it presses down on the gums and the underlying bone as it functions. The hooks place pressure on adjacent teeth as the partial rocks back and forth; and, this causes the adjacent teeth to eventually loosen and come out. Then, more false teeth must be added to the partial and the pressure from the hooks shifts to other teeth causing them to become compromised. This process continues as long as the partial is used.

Is facial structure compromised by the loss of just one or a few teeth?

The bone in the front of your mouth is extremely thin. So, losing a front tooth usually makes the bone melt away rather quickly. This will cause the bone and gums to cave in; and, the defect that is visible when smiling tends to make people self-conscious about their appearance. When front teeth are replaced by a traditional bridge, the teeth on either side should look natural. But, as time goes by, the gums and bone above the false tooth collapse and leave the false tooth hanging and looking fake. As the bone deteriorates above the bridge, a visible gap often appears between the gums and the bridge. This problem is more obvious when more than one tooth is lost in the front of the mouth.

For more information about Dental Implants or to schedule a consultation with Drs. Guo or Christie, call our office in Bellevue, WA at Bellevue Office Phone Number 425-453-6975.