Over 36 million Americans are missing all of their teeth, while 120 million are missing at least one tooth. Many things can lead to missing teeth, including gum disease, cancer, injury, and tooth decay. Around 2.3 million implant-supported crowns are completed each year to replace missing teeth.
Since 1999, dental implants have gained a lot of ground. While they were once extremely expensive and out of reach to many people, they’re slowly becoming more affordable.
It’s hard to estimate exactly how much it will cost without seeing a dentist due to the steps involved. The American Dental Association places a range of around $3,000 for a single tooth to upwards of $45,000 for full mouth implants. How much your dental insurance covers is also a big factor in the final cost.
The financial pain of a dental implant may be tougher than the physical pain. How painful is a dental implant procedure? It depends. To get a dental implant, one goes through several steps starting with x-rays and going to the installation of the implant post, the hardware, and the crown.
Is it a pain-free procedure? That’s not likely, but people have different pain tolerance levels. Take a closer look at what happens with a dental implant and where most patients experience some pain.
The Steps to a Dental Implant Procedure
The first step to any dental implant surgery is a consultation and examination with a specialist in dental implants, usually an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, periodontist, or prosthodontist. Before anything takes place, you will have a complete examination and consultation with a doctor and 3D images and dental x-rays are taken to get a model of your jaw and teeth.
During this consultation, you’ll learn exactly what’s going to happen, how much it costs, if your insurance will cover any part of the procedure, and what medications are best to control pain during and after the dental implant surgery.
This isn’t a one-and-done procedure. You’ll return a few times to complete the different steps.
Removal of the Damaged Tooth or Teeth
The first step in a dental implant is to remove any decayed or damaged teeth where the implants will fit. Teeth will be extracted surgically and you’ll go home. There may be pain after the tooth extraction, and you have to be careful about what you eat and drink.
You don’t want to remove the blood clot before the opening has healed as that can lead to a very painful condition known as dry socket. Dry socket also occurs if a blood clot fails to develop.
When the nerves and underlying bone are not protected by a blood clot, the pain is tremendous. Food can get in and cause an infection that makes it even worse. If you experience severe pain in the first three days following your extraction, talk to your dentist.
If you have a thin or weakened jawbone due to severe gum disease or another issue, bone grafting is necessary. During a dental bone graft surgery, your jawline and gums are numbed with a local anesthetic, and the gum tissue is moved to expose the jawbone. The affected jawbone is cleaned and disinfected in preparation for the graft.
Bone is grafted to the prepared area and a membrane is placed over it. The gum tissue is returned to the proper place and stitches are placed to close the incision.
Pain from a dental bone graft surgery isn’t usually too bad. Over-the-counter pain relievers are often all you’ll need. You may be sent home with a prescription for antibiotics to help prevent any infection. If you feel a lot of pain or swelling, there could be an infection that needs to be addressed.
Placement of the Dental Implant
Once the jawbone has healed, if you underwent a bone graft, the metal rod that attaches to the jawbone is inserted. This is the dental implant and it’s completed by making an incision to expose the jawbone, drilling a hole in the jawbone, and inserting the pin deep into the bone. The incision is closed, and you’ll go back home.
As was true for a bone graft, the pain shouldn’t be too bad. Over-the-counter pain relievers are often all that’s needed. You do need to listen to your dentist about what you can and cannot eat while the metal post and jawbone fuse to form the artificial tooth root that a crown attaches to.
During this stage of the process, the pain may last the longest. It can be painful for around two weeks, but it does come down to your pain tolerance. Most people experience pain for a couple of days and find it subsides after that. If pain extends beyond two weeks, call your dentist.
Placement of the Abutment
If the abutment wasn’t attached to the implant during the implant surgery, it is done after. Typically, this is done to hide the appearance of the metal abutment before the crown is ready.
The crown attaches to an abutment that sits at the top of the metal post. Another surgery is performed to place this abutment. Like the others, an incision is made, but this time, it’s only exposing the top of the metal implant. The abutment is placed, and the gum tissue is secured around the edges of the abutment.
Pain should be minimal as this incision is less invasive. Watch for signs of infection. If you do experience pain, it will feel kind of bruise-like and be easily managed with over-the-counter pain medications. In a couple of weeks, the final step takes place.
Creation of the Crown
Once your gum has healed and the dental implant is secured to the jawline, the crown is created. It involves taking a cast of the mouth to properly size and shape the crown that will fill the gap. You’ll work with your dentist to decide if you want a fixed or removable tooth.
After the crown is created, it will be affixed to the abutment. That’s the final step, but you do need to take care of your new tooth. Brush twice a day, floss daily, and avoid damaging habits like smoking and chewing hard items like ice and popcorn kernels.
Keep Up With Dental Cleanings and Exams
Whether you decide to get dental implants or not, prevent future issues with tooth loss or cavities by seeing your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and examinations. If you do have cavities, the earlier they’re caught, the easier it is to repair them and save the tooth.
Are you one of the 36% of Americans with a fear of dental treatments who are in a state of anxiety but still go for periodic cleanings? Or, are you one of the 3% with dentophobia that avoids going to a dentist at all? It’s not uncommon and Jody Jones DDS is ready to help you with your oral health while also understanding and helping you through your fear.
We offer sedation dentistry, where you are given medication to help you relax while you remain alert and conscious. Give us a call to learn more about how we can help you have an anxiety-free dental visit.