Depending on the circumstances, there might not be a safe or effective alternative to dental implants that would not impact your health and quality of life. This is because healthy teeth are essential for maintaining a balanced diet and proper nutrition. In the case of a single tooth damaged from a cavity or infection, a dentist might opt to perform a root canal procedure to remove the infection while preserving the tooth itself. However, this operation often still requires replacing the top of the tooth with an implant known as a crown. In general, the best alternative to implants is preventing the need for them through proper oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing helps prevent tooth decay that can eventually lead to loss of teeth and other dental problems.
What are the best ways to research dental implant options?
Start by looking into what is and is not covered under your health or dental insurance to understand and estimate costs. Then work with your primary dental care provider to understand treatment options and get recommendations for practitioners. You may also research oral and maxillofacial practices online.
Are dental implants covered by health insurance or dental insurance?
Coverage of implant procedures varies depending on the specifics of your health or dental insurance. It may also depend on whether or not the implants are considered medically necessary as opposed to being an elective or cosmetic procedure. If you are a member of a Medicare health plan, most elective dental procedures are not covered. Medicare may cover some costs for procedures that involve dental surgery, like reconstruction of the jaw following an accidental injury or emergency surgery. Check with your health plan provider for information on how dental implant services are covered.
What's involved in the recovery process after a dental implant procedure?
Full recovery from an implant procedure can take several weeks or months. Assuming the surgery is completed without any serious complications, patients are usually sent home within a day to recover. For the first day or two after surgery, patients are advised not to disturb the implant site or perform any kind of strenuous physical labor. Gauze pads will need to be periodically replaced to control bleeding for the first day or two. Pain medication to reduce discomfort and swelling is also prescribed for at least the first two weeks.
Doctors will advise patients to avoid hard food, hot food or liquid, or use of a straw for the first days after the procedure. The best foods are purees and soups that require minimal chewing and can be eaten with a spoon. Patients may also need to rinse implant sites for a few days after surgery. Follow-up appointments within the first few weeks are often required to ensure recovery is progressing.
Who performs a dental implant procedure?
Those who perform dental implant procedures are known as oral and maxillofacial surgeons. These physicians are generally certified as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) as well as one or more special degrees for dental surgery or osteopathic medicine. Becoming a dental surgeon requires at least 12 years of academic and professional training in the United States, and requires certification with the state medical board.
A general dentist with specific training in implantology can perform implant surgery, as well as certain specialists:
Prosthodontist – specializes in the restoration and replacement of teeth
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon – specializes in dental surgery
Periodontist – specializes in periodontal (gum) disease