Airway Heights Dental Center: Spokane, WA (Washington) Dentist Rex Menke, DDS
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Frequently Asked Questions about Dental Implants

» What are Dental Implants?
» Who is a Candidate for Dental Implants?
» What are the Benefits of Dental Implants?
» What do Dental Implants Cost?
» What is the Procedure for Dental Implants?
» How Long do Dental Implants Last?

For teeth that are lost or damaged beyond repair, modern dental implants can provide a permanent replacement that maintain the look, feel, and function of natural teeth. Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about dental implants.

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What are Dental Implants?

Professor Per-Ingvar Branemark was perhaps the most important figure in the advancement of implant dentistry. His significant breakthrough, in the 1950's, was the discovery that bone can integrate with titanium components. That is, living bone could become so fused with the titanium oxide layer of an implant that the two could not be separated without fracture. This process, whereby nature allows the attachment of bone cells to the titanium surface became known as "osseointegration."

As a result of studying the osseointegration process, scientists developed dental implants, which are simply small titanium cylinders placed into the jawbone to support replacement teeth. These titanium implants fuse with your bone and provide a permanent anchorage for a prosthetic reconstruction which looks and feels like a natural tooth. Worldwide more than 800,000 patients have been treated since 1965 with dental implant reconstructions.

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Who is a Candidate for Dental Implants?

In general, anyone missing at least one tooth and healthy enough to undergo routine dental treatment, including tooth extraction, is probably able to undergo dental implant treatment. There are some medical conditions that warrant special consideration before placing dental implants. Certain chronic diseases, heavy smoking or alcohol abuse may contraindicate dental implant treatment.

If you already wear dentures but are psychologically uncomfortable with them (i.e. you lack confidence due to the appearance or poor fit of your false teeth) or find them physically diffcult (i.e. you cannot taste food properly due to the dentures), you should consider implants. You are never too old to get dental implants.

There are two things to keep in mind, however, when considering dental implants. First, they may not be covered by your dental insurance, although that is currently changing. Second, you may need to have the patience to wait several months for the entire dental implant process to be completed, depending on the type of restoration that will best serve your needs.

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What are the Benefits of Dental Implants?

Dental Implants Eliminate Pain and Discomfort

Aside from dental implants, one of the other methods of replacing missing teeth is through the placement of removable full or partial dentures. However, since dentures sit on top of the jawbone and gums, continuous shrinkage of the jaw bone alters the fit of the denture, resulting in slipping or rocking of the dentures. Exposed nerves and irritation of the gum tissue may add to the discomfort. Dental implants eliminate the pain and discomfort of removable full or partial dentures. Dental implant supported replacement teeth are like natural teeth because they are anchored securely to your jawbone. Gum irritation and the pain of exposed nerves associated with conventional full or partial dentures are eliminated.

Prevent Bone Loss

As a result of losing one or more teeth, you inevitably lose mass in your jaw. This affects the overall skeletal structure of your face which can change your profile. Spreading bone loss in the jaw affects the gums and ridges in your mouth, as well as the muscles and nerves in and around the mouth. Dental implants prevent bone loss, because implants halt and even reverse the bone loss that results from losing teeth. Complete denture wearers on the other hand become aware of jawbone loss as their dentures become loose. People who lose one tooth, which is replaced by a bridge, may even be unaware that the jaw bone is resorbing.

It is as if dental implants "trick" the bone into thinking there is still a tooth present. By transmitting the natural forces of chewing to the jaw, dental implants increase bone density. Dental implants have been proven not only to stop bone loss, but in some cases actually to reverse bone loss and restore the health of the jaw. By preventing the loss of the bony structure of the jaws and face they prevent facial collapse. This preserves your youthful appearance. No one will ever know that you have a replacement tooth.

Improve the Quality of Your Life

One of the most important benefits of dental implants is that they greatly improve the quality of your life.
  • Speaking – When replacing missing teeth with dentures, the teeth can slip and slide around the mouth. The facial muscles become tense in an attempt to hold the teeth in place. This often results in mumbling, slurred speech or clicking noises. Dental implants allow you to speak with confidence in a relaxed and natural tone.
  • Convenience – Dental implants can eliminate the numerous embarrassing inconveniences of removable partial and full dentures. You will eliminate the use of gooey denture adhesives that must be reapplied throughout the day. You will no longer need to cover your mouth when you laugh or smile, for fear that your teeth will pop out or fall down.
  • Eating – Dental implants restore chewing efficiency comparable to that of natural teeth. Therefore, patients with dental implants can eat a wide range of food items with less difficulty, and experience less impact on daily life than patients with dentures. In addition, a full upper denture covers the palate of the mouth and reduces the ability to taste foods. With dental implants, you can have the palate removed from your upper denture so you can taste and enjoy your food.
  • Improved Appearance – Since dental implants look, feel and function like natural teeth, you will have a new set of teeth or a new tooth that will greatly improve the cosmetic appearance.
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What do Dental Implants Cost?

Interestingly, most people assume that dental implant treatment is more expensive than alternative methods of tooth replacement. In reality, dental implants are more cost effective other methods of tooth replacement. The basic reason for this cost differential is due to the fact that other treatments require extensive repairs, replacements, and procedures to preserve the integrity of facial structures and prevent additional tooth loss compared to dental implants.

In other words, additional procedures will probably be necessary in the future to treat the teeth that were cut down, repair the resulting bone defects, or replace the initial bridge. One bridge replacement and a procedure to repair the bone defect could increase the total cost of treatment to over $6,000 in a 10- to 15-year period. An dental implant supported crown, on the other hand, would cost anywhere from $2,500 - $4,000.

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What is the Procedure for Dental Implants?

The first step in the decision for dental implants is to make an appointment for an evaluation. This includes an examination of your mouth and teeth and a thorough medical and dental history. You'll receive x-rays and possibly a CT scan, which will give the doctor a good idea of your bone density and the shape of your jaw.

Dental implants are usually completed in two phases:
  • Phase #1 is the actual dental implant placement, a process generally performed in the office with local anesthesia or light sedation to help make the patient more comfortable. Using precise, gentle surgical techniques, the implants are placed into the jawbone while osseointegration (bonding to bone) takes place. This helps ensure a strong, solid foundation for replacement teeth. During this time, temporary bridges or dentures may be used to minimize any cosmetic or chewing inconvenience.
  • Phase #2 involves creating and attaching the new tooth or teeth to the anchored dental implant(s) in your jaw. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth or complete dentures. Your dentist can recommend the best choice for you.
Recently, an alternative to the two-step method has been developed that allows you to have the dental implant installed in one whole piece in one single session at your dentist. This new method has simplified the dental implant procedure a lot, both for patients and dentists. The procedure chosen depends on several factors, such as the patient's dental health, the number of teeth involved and which teeth are replaced. These factors will also determine the total number of visits to the dentist throughout the dental implant procedure and treatment period.

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How Long do Dental Implants Last?

Two of the major questions that people ask when it comes to dental implants is, "What is the long-term success rate?" and "How long will they last?"

The simple answer to the long-term success rate of dental implants are that dental implants can fail, but fortunately very infrequently. Failure rates vary depending on the site in the mouth, whether they are placed into natural or grafted bone and whether the patient smokes. If a patient smokes it has been shown that they are statistically two and a half times more likely to have an implant fail than a non-smoker.

As to the longevity of dental implants, honestly at the present time we cannot answer this question. At the moment we can only say that the first patient who had dental implants placed in 1965 still has his original implants in function today.

With that being said, undoubtedly, the best steps to take avoid encountering ailing or failing dental implants are to maintain meticulous oral hygiene and evaluate the dental implant both clinically and radiographically at frequent recall visits with your dentist.

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Airway Heights Dental Center,
Dentists: Dr. Rex Menke and Dr. Alan Cazan

Mailing Address: PO Box 1570, Airway Heights, WA 99001
Physical Address: 13326 W 14th (Sunset Highway), Airway Heights, WA 99001
Tel: 509-244-3655 Fax: 509-244-9527

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