First impressions count so you want to make sure you get this right. Breathe in. Breathe out.
A quick glance in the mirror (you’re early) reflects back everything you’ve been wanting. Confidence. It’s amazing what a change can do.
And it’s all because you’ve finally got back your smile.
If you’re imagining yourself at a job interview, a first date or even at a birthday with friends, you’re not alone. That’s why dental implants have changed people’s lives. In fact, a smile is what lies behind human connection – it can make someone’s day brighter, convey trust and most of all, display confidence.
Unfortunately many people avoid implants because of worry about pain, cost and longevity or simply because they didn’t even know it was an option until now. If it’s that missing front tooth you’d like to fix or a renovation of your whole mouth, read on to discover the tooth (sorry, truth!) about dental implants so you can decide if they are right for you.
How dental implants work
Dental implants are the permanent tooth replacement solution you’ve been waiting for. Custom fit perfectly to your mouth, implants create a smile that looks naturally yours, whether you need a whole set or just to fill in some gaps, and they become a full time fixture, never needing (or even able) to be taken out overnight.
The process involves surgically inserting individual artificial teeth into your jaw to create a natural looking result. The implant itself looks similar to a screw and is inserted into the space your lost tooth once had its roots. The surrounding jaw bone will slowly grow around the implant solidifying its place in your mouth. Your new tooth is then specially made to match the rest of your natural smile and attached on top of the implant. Finally your new smile is complete.
Why you might need dental implants
As we enter retirement, it’s common for our teeth to eventually start to fall out. Dentures are a routine solution, however, many seniors do not like the fact that they have to remove them overnight and would prefer to have a full smile at all times. This makes dental implants an attractive option as they truly do function as regular teeth and are part of your mouth all the time.
Injuries or decay
It’s possible to prematurely lose teeth from a variety of circumstances; sports injuries, accidents, decay and more. Sometimes patients come in with only one or two lost teeth. A benefit of dental implants is that because each tooth is individually implanted, it works for cases of just one or two missing spots, or entire mouths.
Who is eligible for dental implants
In discussions with your dentist, you will discover if you are in fact eligible for the procedure. In most cases, these are the most common requirements to be deemed a suitable candidate:
Good oral health
Absence of gum disease
Fully developed jaw and gums
No conditions related to bone health.
What to expect: the procedure
Visit one: Consult and examination
First you’ll have your mouth examined and have x-rays taken to assess your overall dental health and to determine whether or not dental implants are right for you. You’ll also be presented with alternate treatment options that could work to ensure that you get the results you’re looking for.
Visit two: Placement of dental implants
For your second visit, a fixture used to replace the root of your missing teeth will be surgically inserted. You’ll have the area numbed and the fixture will be placed in your jaw bone. Then a healing cap is inserted sometimes with a temporary tooth replacement for the healing phase. In total, the procedure takes between 60-90 minutes. After this visit the dental implants need time to bond with the bone, usually this takes about three months.
Visit three: Test your implants
Once fully bonded, the temporary tooth and healing cap is removed from your implant and you’ll have an impression taken to make the final crown. Sometimes you’ll also have follow up “try on” appointments to fine tune your new smile.
Visit four: Fit crown and bridge
It’s almost time for your new smile. Here you’ll have a fitting of your new crown or bridge to make sure everything fits and looks good.
The final step: Your new smile
Once you’re fully happy with the fit and shape, your new crown and/or bridge will be permanently inserted and the treatment will be complete!
The cost of dental implants
There are several factors that influence the cost of your implants and how much you will need to pay out-of-pocket. Here’s all the answers to the most common cost related questions:
How much dental implants cost
The cost of your dental implants will vary based on a variety of factors like how many implants you need, if you need preliminary work done or if you require grafting. On average, the total cost, from implant to final crown, starts at $5,000.
Usually, Medicare won’t cover dental treatments like implants or dental exams, however, there are some related procedures and costs that they will cover, if deemed clinically necessary. There are also two exceptions where Medicare will cover treatment:
If your oral health is impacting your overall health: for eligibility, you’ll need a GP Management Plan, Team Care Arrangement and a referral from your GP
Concession card holders: some concession card holders can receive state-based dental vouchers which you can use towards medically required dental implants.
Health insurance cover
Depending on your level of coverage, most health insurance funds provide partial coverage of dental implants.
Bupa: Partially, depending on coverage*
HBF: Partially (between $800-$1,000) depending on on your type of cover*
Medibank: $500 annual limit for all general and major dental*
*As of November 2020. This is only a guide, please check your health insurance provider for further detail.
Opting for dental implant procedures which seem a lot lower in cost (particularly overseas treatments) comes with some initial savings however includes some big risks which could burn a hole in your pocket or damage your mouth.
Before your embark on this adventure, check with your health insurance provider to see if they will cover any of your international treatment. More often than not, you will not receive any rebate. Additionally, many countries do not have the high standards and strict safety regulations as Australia when it comes to health or dental care. It’s this which can put you in a position where you have an increased risk of injury or damage to your mouth and when overseas you don’t have your medical cover to assist. These could mean even more treatment to fix the damage when you arrive home.
Pain and the procedure
The dental implant procedure itself is painless, following treatment, you may experience some irritation or pain, depending on your surgery. Simple implant procedures will usually have little to no pain, but if you have a full mouth done, you may have some pain or discomfort for a week or more. Your dentist will advise you on any ways you can assist the healing process, and will prescribe any pain medication if needed.
Longevity of dental implants
The life span of your implants will be influenced by how well you take care of them and if you stay on top of dental checkups. 95% of dental implants last at least 10 years. The better you look after your oral health, the longer they will last. Speak to your dentist who can help you understand this better.
Bridge vs implants
When it comes to understanding what option is best, each option comes with pros and cons. While bridges are the longstanding option for teeth replacements, and last a long time, they require the nearby teeth to be reduced and run the risk of these teeth getting infected, even years down the line. They are also much harder to clean than implants
Dental implants are the new kid on the block in comparison to bridges, however they’ve still been around since the 1950s. Dental implants are easier to look after, look more natural and don’t run the risk of further complications later down the line.
However, every mouth is different and as such, every treatment will come with different pros and cons, specific to you. Your dentist will be able to examine and assess your situation, to help advise you on the best course of treatment for your desired results.
Benefits of dental implants
Dental implants look the most natural out of all tooth replacement options.
Dental implants last for at least 10 years in most cases.
Oral Health and Hygiene
Dental implants are much easier to clean and look after than other tooth replacement options and can essentially just be treated like regular teeth.
Dental implants shouldn’t impact your speech in any way.
Although the entire process spans several months, you only need to come to, on average, four appointments. After your dental implants are inserted, you will have them checked at your regular 6 monthly dental appointments.
Having a permanent smile solution, and not one that needs to be taken out every night, can be a major confidence booster and help you feel your best at all times.
Tooth loss is one of the most common oral issues seen by dentists and while it’s easy to treat, can be a major root of self-confidence issues. So if you’re ready for a tooth replacement that brings back your quality of life, looks natural, doesn’t need to be removed and looks and feels just like your normal smile, it’s time to say hello to dental implants.
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