Approximately 178 million people in the United States are missing one or more teeth. This can affect speech, appearance, facial structure and eating. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is carefully placed to hold a replacement tooth or to help to stabilize a denture or partial.

One of the benefits of dental implants is they don’t rely on neighboring teeth for support, and they are a final restoration that is very stable. Dental implants are a good solution for tooth loss. When they are placed properly they heal and become part of the body, and look and feel like natural teeth.

Implants are made from different types of metallic and bone-like ceramic materials that are compatible with body tissue. There are different types of dental implants. One type replaces the natural tooth root with an artificial root. Another type holds a denture or partial in place.

The surface of a dental implant is engineered to look microscopically like bone structure. An artificial socket which mimics the dental implant is created and placed and your body heals to it — similar to the way a broken bone heals.

Speak with your dentist about whether you are a dental implant candidate. You must be in good health, have the proper bone structure and have healthy gums for the dental implant to stay in place. People who are unable to wear dentures may also be good candidates. If you suffer from chronic problems such as clenching or bruxism, or systemic diseases such as diabetes, the success rate for dental implants decreases. Additionally, people who smoke or drink alcohol excessively may not be good candidates. However, most people are able to receive a dental implant.

What it takes to implant

First, the dentist will place the “artificial root” in your mouth. You may choose sedation if you have dental anxiety; however, many people find dental implants can be placed with local anesthetic only. The placement of dental implants is very well-tolerated if expertly placed. Once the dental implant heals, it is exposed and impressions are taken so the final dental restorations can be fabricated. Sometimes, if a patient has good bone quality, posts can be placed and replacement teeth fitted in one appointment. Most patients return to work and regular activities the same day.

Dental implants can replace all your teeth in one day or take several months if extensive reconstruction is necessary. Each patient heals differently and healing time will vary. After the dental implants and posts are placed, the healing process can take up to six months. The fitting of replacement teeth may take from two weeks up to two months, depending on how well you heal and other factors. Doing things in the best interest of the person is the most important consideration.

Dental implants are generally very successful. The success rate depends on the tooth’s purpose and location in the mouth, as well as a patient’s overall health and compliance with follow-up maintenance.

The cost of dental implants depends on many factors and should be considered an investment in your body’s overall health. There is no “one price fits all.” Your dentist should develop a plan that is affordable and in your best interest. Some dental procedures and portions of the restoration may be covered by dental insurance and medical insurance policies. Financing options are also something to consider. Your dentist’s office can help you with this process.

Maintenance and follow-up care is extremely important in order to make sure your dental implants remain successful. You should make sure that the dentist you select is able to provide preventative follow-up care.

Here are some questions to ask a dentist:

• How many dental implants have you placed?

• How much experience do you have placing dental implants?

• What is your success rate with dental implants?

• Do you do the entire restoration, or will you need to refer me to another dentist for part of the process?

• Will your office be able to provide the necessary follow-up maintenance for my dental implants?

• Will your office help me maximize my dental/medical health insurance benefits and help with financing?