Dental Implants Frequently Asked Questions

The surgeons in Emory’s Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery have the depth and breadth of knowledge and range of experience you want when you’re having any kind of surgery. They know what they’re doing, and they do it well

A dental implant is a replacement tooth root made of a small titanium post that is surgically anchored into the jaw. If you’ve lost a tooth or your existing tooth isn’t healthy, a dental implant provides a permanent solution for holding a crown in place.

If you lose a tooth as a result of an accident, tooth decay, root canal failure, or gum disease, your dentist may recommend a dental implant and an artificial replacement tooth (a crown or cap). Dental implants also may serve as secure anchors for a bridge or dentures if you have multiple missing teeth.

Dental implants are stronger and more durable than dentures or a bridge. They offer a permanent solution to tooth loss. In the case of multiple missing teeth, dental implants may be used to support a dental bridge or with dentures to increase stability and reduce gum irritation. Dental implants, whether used in combination with dentures or a bridge or on their own, make it easier to eat the foods you love, speak clearly, and smile with confidence.

When you don’t replace a missing tooth, it can result in damage to adjacent teeth by causing gum recession and bone loss around those teeth. It can cause your other teeth to wear prematurely. You may experience difficulty eating and speaking, shifting teeth, jaw aches, and headaches. Also, when you lose a tooth and its accompanying root, you can experience bone loss in your jaw. A dental implant gives the bone purpose, providing it with something to hold onto. If a great deal of time has passed since the tooth came out and too much bone in the jaw has been lost, grafting may be necessary to increase bone mass before an implant procedure can be done.

In many cases, the entire implant procedure can be performed using local anesthesia. However, sedation can be used in conjunction with local anesthesia to make the procedure easier for you.

First your oral surgeon will prepare your jaw for implantation. This involves creating a small-diameter hole in the jaw bone to guide the titanium screw that holds the dental implant in place. After the initial hole has been created, your oral surgeon will slowly widen the hole to allow for placement of the implant screw. Following this placement, often a protective cover screw is placed on top to allow the implant site to heal and the dental implant to anchor. The process of implantation is called osseointegration. Sometimes, a temporary abutment is placed on the implant at the time the implant is placed, and a temporary crown is placed on the implant.

Surgery time varies according to the number of implants you need. One implant usually will take just over an hour. Multiple implants generally take no more than two or three hours.

After osseointegration has occurred (this can take up to six months), your dentist will remove the protective cover and place a healing abutment on top of the dental implant. Once the gum has grown around the healing abutment, your dentist will replace the healing abutment with a permanent crown. If you have been wearing a temporary crown on the healing implant, after three to six months your dentist will change the temporary crown to a permanent crown.

Overall, the success rate for healthy patients who receive dental implants is high—from 92–98%. However, patients who are over age 72, who smoke, or who have a history of diabetes or head and neck radiation, or who are postmenopausal and on hormone replacement therapy, may carry a higher risk of implant failure as compared with healthy patients. During your initial consultation, your Emory oral and maxillofacial surgeon will review your medical history thoroughly. This will allow him to determine whether dental implants are right for you.

Dental implants are not generally covered by medical insurance. However, coverage may be possible, depending on your insurance plan and/or cause of tooth loss. Check with your plan administrator to find out about your coverage.