Few of us wish to actually lose teeth, but a fact of life is that for many at some point in our lifetime we will lose one or more, maybe all of our teeth.
Poor oral hygiene might be a reason, age and medical condition another, whilst accidents can too be a cause of tooth loss.
For many years, artificial teeth and body parts have existed. Known as prosthetics, the best example of this in relation to oral health are dentures or false teeth as you might know them as.
For decades dentures have been and remain the default option for those who have lost 1 or more teeth.
No longer are they bulky and unsightly thanks to advances in technology and production.
But, they never quite look and feel like the real thing. Of course you can’t replace natural teeth, but dental implants are the next best option.
Still classed as a prosthetic, the decision process and steps involved with getting an implant are complex.
This guide explains clearly what an implant is, how they work, the procedure, associated costs as well as answering many commonly asked questions.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root.
This man made component is surgically inserted into the jawbone of your mouth.
It forms the base to which attachments can be made for different purposes.
The principle is that the implant acts in a similar way to which your natural tooth root would.
A common misunderstanding is that an implant is the whole replacement tooth, the root and the white crown that sits on top. However, an implant is just the bit that is inserted into the jawbone and is not actually visible.
To create a whole replacement tooth using an implant, there are 3 key parts that are needed and used to make the tooth.
There is the implant (the root that sits below the gumline), the abutment (the connector between the implant and the artificial tooth) and the crown (the White top of the tooth that is visible). All of these will be explained in more detail shortly.
An implant is considered a long term, almost permanent solution, although thanks to their design they do allow for removable elements. Also popular is the implant retained denture.
Why would I need a dental implant?
Tooth loss can occur as a result of poor healthcare, genetics or as a result of an accident.
Most dental professionals will recommend taking steps to replacing those missing teeth. Whilst it always remains your choice, failing to do so can lead to the gum and jawbone weakening, facial sagging and in turn knocks your overall confidence and happiness.
Prosthetics, more commonly known as dentures are the default solution and choice for most as they are fairly easy and cost effective to create.
However, your gums change over the years and as they do, the fit becomes worse and wearers find them uncomfortable and can develop a whistle. This is when they require replacement This is 5-10 years on average.
Some people will try then and simply don’t get on with them.
Under normal circumstances the denture has to removed for daily cleaning and to allow the gums to recover.
An implant is an option available to those missing teeth, who wish to restore a natural smile or tooth structure to their mouth with the extra confidence of stability they bring.
Essentially it does away with many of the negatives of dentures. Once implanted, they generally last for life.
When completed properly, an artificial tooth attached to an implant can look, feel and function just like a natural tooth.
For you this can mean the confidence to smile again, as a gap in your teeth has been restored.
It can help with chewing of food and simply living daily life with more confidence.
In some cases it can help retain or bring back structure to the mouth, jaw and surrounding facial tissue that has been lost as a result of the natural teeth no longer being present.
In more severe cases, where trauma or disease affects facial tissues, an implant is used as an anchor for facial prosthetics.
Dental implants are in most cases not a vital need, but they are a cosmetic option that can have significant beneficial impact for those who are suitable for and chose to have them.
Who can have implants?
Implants are a potential option for anyone aged 18 or over.
They are not suitable for anyone younger as their bodies and bones are still changing.
Whilst any adult might be a candidate there are factors that mean not everyone is suitable for them.
Factors that need to be considered in the success of implants include:
- Bone (your jaw)
An implant is designed to fit within the ridge of thickened bone (known as the alveolar bone) that contains the sockets that hold your teeth in place.
There needs to be enough depth within that bone for the implant to be screwed into, without it damaging nerves or affecting your health in any other way.
If you do not have enough bone, there are techniques (including bone grafting) that can be used to to provide more space for the implant, but additional considerations have to be made at this point.
Many patients who do not have enough bone structure find that mini implants are suitable for them.
You might be generally fit and well but if you have conditions like haemophilia, diabetes and Osteoporosis all cause poor wound healing, and are conditions that can complicate an implant procedure and limit the chances of success.
An implant is also not recommended in people who have had radiotherapy to the jaw, a recent heart attack, who take bisphosphonates, or have immunosuppresion (poor wound healing) for any other reason.
- Oral health
Should the reason you lost teeth be as a result of a poor brushing and flossing routine, the dental professionals are going to consider seriously whether you are a suitable candidate for implants.
Even if you commit to paying the fees necessary, implants need as much care as real teeth.
We clean our teeth as a result of a substance called plaque. A naturally occurring bacteria that grows within the mouth, if not removed, it can lead to gum disease (periodontal disease) developing around the implant and causing the implant to become loose and fail.
If you have lost teeth due to severe periodontal disease, the implant is less likely to be successful, and you will need to have excellent cleaning habits before being considered for an implant.
Smoking reduces healing and therefore reduces the success of an implant.
Poor dental attendance may also lead to a failure of an implant.
History of the implant
As far back as 4000 years ago, there are pieces of archaeological evidence that show the people of the time attempted to replace the natural teeth they lost.
Remains from ancient China have bamboo pegs tapped into the bone, whilst 2000 years later in Egypt, they used metal.
The influential and powerful people of the time who were mummified have even been found to have ivory teeth. And there are those that had real human teeth transplants!
It was in 1940 that research by Bothe, Beaton and Davenport looked at the relationship between bone growth and the metal that is Titanium.
Titanium actually forms the basis of modern implants, but in 1951 it was tested in rabbits by Gottlieb Leventhal
American dentist Leonard Linkow, was one of the first to insert titanium and other metal implants into the bones of the jaw during the 1950’s.
However it was not until 1965 that Per-Ingvar Branemark placed his first titanium dental implant into a human volunteer.
It was in 1982 that Branemark really showed off the clinical success. and from there implants have developed into what they are today.
Types of implant and tooth reconstruction
There are many different factors to consider around the subject of implants, particularly when as part of the implant process there needs to be consideration for what will top off the implant. Will it be a crown, a bridge or a denture.
However, the first consideration is the type of implant, something that needs to be considered for each individual patient based on their needs.
The main types of implants are as follows.
The most common implant. It fits into the jawbone and actually stops just below the gumline.
Once the implant has fused into the bone and the surrounding tissue has healed, a post or to give it its technical name, abutment, is fitted to the implant. The abutment acts like a connector between artificial root and artificial tooth.
The artificial tooth is stuck or fitted to this piece and is not visible once the crown, bridge or denture is fitted.
In this instance a metal frame is fitted onto (but not into) the jawbone.
Sitting on top of the jaw bone, but under the gum tissue, the healing process ultimately fuses the metal and bone together for a secure mounting.
Protruding through the gums, abutments are then fitted to the frame. The purpose of the abutment is to give a surface area onto which the artificial teeth can be mounted.
Less common, this is an option in some cases for those who are not suitable for an endosteal implant, due to a lack of bone structure.
Still a couple of decades since it was first introduced, mini implants are considered ‘newer’ by dental standards.
They act in a similar way to regular implants but are normally half the size and require a lot less surgery and have much quicker healing times.
Ideally suited to those with lesser bone structure, they work best and are most widely used as an option to retain a denture.
Whilst it does not offer quite the same stability of endosteal implants, there are other benefits, notably cost that make them a great option, particularly for older patients.
Our guide on mini implants explains them in a lot more depth.
An approach that is not so widely offered and works only in a few cases, an instant implant allows for an implant to be placed into the jaw almost immediately after tooth loss.
For instant implants to work, the bone around the failing tooth must be intact and the gum and surrounding area must be infection free.
Teeth lost as a result of an accident are most frequently replaced in this way.
PLEASE NOTE – The remainder of this article focuses on endosteal implants. Whilst much of the information still applies to subperiosteal and mini implants it is not as comprehensive.
What are implants made of?
There are 2 key materials that are used in the construction of implants. They are Zirconia and Titanium.
Zirconia is classed as a ceramic and is an option for those that do not want the go to option that is Titanium.
Not pure Titanium, the implants are an Titanium alloy as without mixing with other metals a pure titanium implant would be too soft and not survive decades implanted into the jaw.
Both are approved choices, but do have their pros and cons.
Titanium tends to be the go to option as it is a more proven option, having been used globally for much longer than Zirconia. It is cheaper too and gives a little extra control to the surgeon when fitted.
Replacement teeth that fit to implants
An implant is not really much use unless something is attached to it.
Connecting to the artificial tooth root via an abutment there are a number of different artificial teeth attachments that can be made.
The options available to you will depend on your circumstance, most commonly how many teeth are being replaced.
Where just 1 tooth is being replaced, what is known as a crown is fitted to the abutment.
If you have 2 or more teeth in a row that are being replaced with artificial options, then a bridge is the most common solution.
In this instance, a bridge allows for normally up to 4 teeth to be placed into positioned and securely fastened, but with just 2 implants, rather than an implant per tooth.
A small, but noteworthy difference we should explain, is that an implant bridge is different to a traditional bridge. A traditional bridge requires healthy teeth, either side of the missing teeth, to be cut down and the bridge fitted to them. An implant bridge fits to those artificial roots placed in the jawbone and does not rely on surrounding teeth.
If all teeth in both the upper and lower jaw are to be replaced, most will opt for an implant retained denture. It is however perfectly possible, albeit rare, to have an implant for each tooth.
If you have an implant, abutment and crown for each tooth, this is the most natural looking, but most expensive and time consuming course of treatment.
The abutments come in different shapes and sizes and in the case of implant retained dentures, a ball or bar is used most often so the denture can snap on or off of the implant for cleaning and maintenance.
Full mouth dental implants
For those who are replacing multiple teeth, be that in a row or a full arch, it is perfectly possible to have an implant and crown for every individual tooth, and not make use of a bridge or denture.
Many prefer the extra strength and natural feeling that comes with teeth that are fixed in place. Not to mention, not having to remove them for cleaning.
Due to the strength that an implant offers, it is not actually necessary to have these artificial root for each tooth and there are different solutions that give you the look and feel without having to endure the same levels of cost and surgery that goes with lots of individual implants.
One such solution is called ‘All-on-4 ’. his modern technique places just four implants in each jaw (arch) and is a less invasive approach to implants. All-on-4 allows for a full arch of teeth to be fitted to just 4 implants within each arch of the jaw.
This solution has gained rapid popularity due to the speed at which the procedure is completed and the lower costs compared to traditional techniques using 6-8 implants per arch.
Faster and cheaper is a positive, but there are cons, the biggest being that the fitting is not as precise as it is with custom made, traditional implants.
Whilst a highly trained professional must fit the artificial teeth, you could consider it a more off the shelf system that essentially allows for new teeth within a day rather than the many months required with more regular implants.
Dental Implant Procedure
The process from first consultation through to having the implant and fitting the replacement tooth (or teeth), can be fairly long.
Different dentists have different techniques. In some cases they may place the implant immediately after having the natural tooth taken out, whereas other prefer to wait up to 6 months for the bone to fully heal, before placing the implant in the bone.
Then there is the time allowed for the implant to heal in the bone before a crown, bridge, or denture is placed on top.
Whilst each case is different, typically you can expect the process to take 3-9 months.
Within this time period you have 4 main phases.
- Consultation and preparation
- Placing the implants
- Fitting the abutment
- Fitting the crowns
There will likely be additional visits and check ups required, but each of the key stages is explained in more detail below.
Consultation and preparation
The consultation and preparation phase is the first and a vitally important step in the process.
It is essentially where you as the patient and the dentist are both doing their research.
You are getting a professionals opinion on whether you are a suitable candidate, what is involved, learning about implants and the costs.
The dentist on the other hand will make an assessment of your current oral health, your general health and medical history too.
Amongst the physical examination of the mouth, the x-rays and CT scans, expect a number of questions from the dentist to understand your needs and wants.
The mix of questions and assessments allow the trained professional to truly understand what it is they are dealing with and what is possible.
X-rays give information on the bone structure and existing (if any) tooth position whilst CT scans relay more information such as nerves and tissues they need to be wary of.
The dentist wants to get a 3D picture of where your nerves and blood vessels are, as well as your sinuses, before they can discuss treatment any further.
This is all fed into a computer system, so the dentist can see in what they are dealing with from a whole new angle. It can even be used to create special tools and guides to help the dentist when they come to placing the implant.
Depending on your circumstances additional work such as tooth removal or bone grafting might be required. The dentist will explain, what if anything is necessary.
You are not committed to anything at this stage. This consultation allows you to understand all you need to and ensure you can have the work done.
From this you can then take time to consider your options and make your decision.
Placing the implant
Precision is required at this stage by the dental professional, as the placing of the implant will have a big impact on the success of the surgery.
If you commit to the surgery, it will normally be carried out in the dental office, with no need to go to a hospital.
Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area and stop you feeling any pain or discomfort during the surgery. You will be conscious throughout and expect the sound of drilling!
Whilst you will not feel any pain or discomfort, if you are particularly nervous, speak to the dentist before treatment. They can ease you or help with solutions to make the treatment more bearable. Listening to some of your favourite music might be one option.
Without getting into the fine detail, there are a few key steps as part of placing the implants.
In a more routine case, the first stage is to cut into the gum to expose the bone underneath.
Using specialist dental tools, a hole will be drilled in the jaw, for the implant to fit into.
The dentist may use several different drills of increasing size to slowly make the perfect fitting for the implant. Often they will have a template made specifically for you – essentially a bit of plastic – to make sure they avoid any vessels or nerves they could see on the scan.
The implant is then tapped or screwed into the jaw, subject to its design.
Once correctly positioned, the tissues surrounding the area are adapted around the implant to help with successful rooting into the jaw.
In many cases a cap might will be placed over the implant (removed at the next stage of surgery), then the gum stitched over, with dissolvable stitches.
The time taken for the actual placement of the implant is not all that long, around an hour or 2, subject to the number of implants being placed. However, it will vary from one patient to another, based on personal circumstances.
It is now really a waiting game, 3-6 months on average for the implants to heal securely in place.
During this time the bone in which the implant has been placed regrows and heals. As it does this, the implant fuses into the bone and is subsequently held firmly in place. The technical term for this process is called osseointegration.
Depending on how many implants you are having and your current teeth will depend on whether you are offered any artificial teeth at this stage.
If you are having many teeth replaced or a full arch, you will likely be given a temporary denture to wear until the healing is complete. For some, this might mean having abutments fitted sooner than is typical, to retain the denture.
Whilst they will provide a good enough fit and allow you to eat and live life fairly normally, these are not generally designed to last as long and do not fit as well. They are a temporary solution, until your custom teeth can be placed.
Installing the abutment
During the healing process you might be expected to have a number of checkup to check all is healing fine.
Once the dentist is satisfied you will be booked and for the next stage of surgery, for the fitting of the abutment.
The abutment is the connection between the implant and the artificial tooth that will be placed on top of it.
With local anaesthetic placed, the gum will be cut to reveal the previously placed implant.
Into this will be screwed the abutment.
There are different types of abutments that are suitable in different circumstance.
Stock abutments are off the shelf attachments that hold a crown or bridge in place, whereas there is the option of custom abutments that are made specifically for you and your teeth.
The best implant surgery and packages will make use of custom abutments as this allows for a neater and more natural looking fit.
It may well be that at this stage you have stock abutments fitted, only to be replaced in a few weeks with custom ones.
If implants are being used for an implant retained denture, then it is likely that a ball or rail style abutment will be fitted in. This type of abutment allows for the denture to snap on or off the fitting.
Once fitted, the gum ideally then needs a few weeks to heal again, before your final new teeth can be fitted.
During this healing time, you will usually be provided with a temporary crown or denture so that you do not have the awkwardness that comes with an exposed abutment.
Fitting the crown
The culmination of months of treatment and waiting, this is the final stage of the process.
Forming the new teeth, the bit we all see, sitting above the gumline, they are usually specially crafted for your mouth.
Consideration will be made for your existing tooth structure, your gums and tooth color, in order to get the best match and most natural look.
In theory, nobody should really be able to tell that you have artificial teeth.
To achieve this, moulds or models of your teeth will need to be taken, to make the perfect fitting crown.
Newer technology makes use of the computer and its scanning capabilities to create a 3D model of your mouth. The digital intraoral scanner replaces the need for impressions and offers a cleaner and more accurate approach.
The clinician simply moves the scanner around the mouth in a process that takes around two minutes. This results in a highly accurate, 3D digital model that helps create crowns that seamlessly blend with existing teeth without the need for messy impressions.
Depending on the approach used, there may be a number of adjustments that have to be made to ensure they are just right, but once ready, it will be permanently fixed to the abutment.
The following video gives a good overview of the implant process.
Whilst there is no significant pain associated with implants there is as you would likely expect a bit of discomfort that will last on average for about a week.
Those requiring more work, particularly to the jawbone might have extended recovery periods and but as a general rule, you can expect:
- Swollen gums and face
- Bruised gums and skin
- Pain and discomfort around the area of the implant
- Slight bleeding
After your surgery, the dental staff will advise you of all the do’s and don’ts to aid your recovery along with any tips to make the process a little more enjoyable.
On the day of the surgery, if you can be accompanied or at least transported to and from the appointment will make a big difference. You should avoid driving or undertaking any heave work that puts extra stress on the body.
For the first few days after the surgery these symptoms will be at their worst. However within 3-5 days these will usually subside and after about a week, whilst you might feel a bit of discomfort, for the most part you will be ok.
You may well be prescribed painkillers or given suggestions on what over the counter pain medication you can take to ease the discomfort.
Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics or an antiseptic mouthwash to reduce the chances of infections.
Should any of the symptoms get worse or you are concerned, do contact your dental centre for assistance.
For the first 24-48 hours you will want to eat very soft foods that are easy to chew. Don’t go biting into an apple!
As the first few days pass you will be able to return to a pretty much normal diet. That said particularly hard foods should still be avoided or steps taken to reduce the number of bites and pressure on the jaw.
A good test is if you can cut through it with a fork then you will be ok to eat it. Those foods that require a knife, you might want to think more carefully about for the first few weeks at least.
Here then follows several months of healing of the bone and the fusing of the implant to the jaw bone.
During this time, you will likely have to make several visits to the dentist who place the implant for reviews to ensure the healing is going according to plan.
Once the healing is complete and you have the abutments fitted you can expect similar symptoms in your recovery process to when the implant was first placed.
However, the softer gum tissue heals quite quickly and you will normally find the recovery time is shorter.
Once the treatment, including fitting of the artificial teeth is complete you can return to a full and normal diet. The implant teeth are as strong as, and act just like, a normal tooth.
Choosing a dentist/implantologist/prosthodontist
All dentists are highly skilled professionals, but some go onto specialise in certain areas of dental health.
Those trained in recommending and fitting implants and false teeth fall under the category of prosthodontics.
You want to ensure that when you are looking for implants, you have a trained professional known as a prosthodontist or implantologist carry out the procedure.
Your general dentist might well be trained in this area or can advise you of a local specialist if they are not.
The American Dental Association (ADA) offer a useful tool online at https://findadentist.ada.org/ where you can search for a registered prosthodontist in your area.
When undergoing such treatment, you need to be assured that the professional carrying out the job is capable. Making sure they have the appropriate training is one thing, but do try to get feedback from others and past patients on how they felt and what their experience was like.
Do not commit to any surgery unless you are satisfied with the process, the cost and who will actually do the work.
Most will have a consultation with 3 different specialist before making their decision.
Dental Implant Costs
This is cosmetic dentistry procedures and requires highly skilled professionals, when carried out in the USA, this is not a cheap procedure.
A full set of implants and teeth can cost over $40,000.
But, the implant and the artificial tooth are an investment and can bring benefits and gains that are not easy to sum up financially.
How can you put a price on confidence and happiness it brings.
Getting a quotation
You need to take a very methodical and reasoned approach to selecting your dental care provider and it is important that you get several different quotes for the work you want to be completed.
The opinions of more than 1 professional helps confirm the options of other but gives you a better understanding of what is involved and what the real costs are.
If you only ever see one specialist how do you know whether the price they quote you is cheap, reasonable or expensive.
During the initial consultation, which may well be free, your needs and expectations will be discussed. Your suitability and circumstances will be considered.
From here the dental office will be able to confirm whether or not you are suitable and then in turn offer up a cost for the treatment based on what came out of the consultation.
Different dental offices will break down the price in different ways.
It is best if you can get a full breakdown of the costs to make a fair comparison.
It is important to remember and be aware of subtle differences that can affect the price such as the brand used, the techniques used, and the type of artificial tooth placed on top.
Some might offer better value implants, but be very expensive for the crowns, whilst other practices might charge a lot more for the time in the chair. All of these factors need to be considered.
Most importantly, you need to know that the final price you will pay.
Nobody wants any hidden fees or charges to appear once the surgery is complete.
If you are not clear ask for clarification.
You want to ensure that the quotation includes all the costs such as
- Dental impressions
- CT scans
- Follow-up visits
- Every part of the implant (root, abutment, crown/bridge/denture)
- All surgical procedures
- If an emergency appointment is required
Although most will get the implant, abutment and artificial tooth from the same dental office, it is actually perfectly possible to have each stage carried out by different professionals should you really want to.
However, costs, quality and service are generally better managed when completed by just 1 professional.
How much does a single tooth implant cost
It is difficult to give an accurate cost as individual circumstances will affect the price.
As we have shown there is a cost associated with the implant, the abutment and the crown that fits to the top.
For all 3 parts, including the associated surgery and consultations that go with fitting an single tooth implant, the cost will be anywhere between $1500-5000 on average.
Broken down further the cost might look like:
$2,500 – Implant
$1,000 – Custom abutment
$1,200 – Crown
Expect even higher costs if you need bone grafting and extra work prior to placing the implant.
How much do multiple teeth implants cost
With every extra implant comes extra cost in materials and the time of the dental professional.
However, the cost per tooth as an average tends to fall as more are required.
Consultation fees, x-rays, scans and associated fees can be reduced as these typically are being done once, rather than at different times if you had each implant placed at different times.
You will need only 1 anaesthetic and surgery time as opposed to multiple instances of each.
If you are having 2-4 teeth in a row replaced, an implant bridge can help reduce the cost potentially as only 2 implants might be needed as opposed to 3 or 4.
Don’t be surprised but costs for this treatment can range from $3000 to $25,000
How much do dental implants cost for a full mouth
$40,000-50,000 is a good benchmark in terms of price for a full set of implants, but this is by no means the limit, you can pay a lot more. How does $90,000 sound?!
As previously mentioned there are some innovative solutions such as All-on-4 (implant retained dentures) that can bring the costs down to around $15,000 per arch or $30,000 in total.
As you should be aware, if you have read the other sections of this article, there are many factors that influence the total cost, so it really is important that you get a professional assessment done to understand what the cost would be for you, as the prices we provide are nothing more than rough estimations based on typical procedures.
Are implants covered by dental insurance?
Yes and no.
Most dental insurance policies cover only routine dental care, basic dental care and emergencies.
Implants are usually classed as cosmetic surgery and are an elective procedure rather than a necessary treatment and are therefore not covered by the majority of insurance plans.
However, plans and what they cover differ significantly. You need to refer to your paperwork.
There may well be some exceptions or contributions that can be made, after all an implant retained tooth is made up of several pieces and associated services.
Sadly, for the vast majority it will be up to you to fund or find alternative ways to finance the treatment.
In some instances be that an accident or as a result of a health condition there might well be an exception that can be made or a contribution that can be offered to help with the overall cost.
It may well be possible to claim some costs back depending on how the work is classified by the dental office. For example use of the word ‘restoration’ when filing a claim may achieve more success than ‘implant’ or ‘surgical therapy’.
It is best to consult your policy, speak to your insurance provider or dental office for assistance and guidance.
Why are dental implants so expensive?
There are a number of factors that add to the overall cost of getting an implant.
Whilst a routine treatment, it requires highly skilled individuals and specialist products to complete the work and give you the replacement tooth (or teeth) you desire.
Even in the first consultation, before you begin agree to any treatment, specialist machines such as X-Ray scanners and CT machines are required. Highly technical pieces of equipment, they are expensive to buy and maintain.
Manufacturing and fitting the implant and artificial tooth takes many hours of time not only from the dentist, but a team of associated professionals to deliver what you need.
It takes years and thousands of pounds to become trained as a dentist, but even more time and money to be trained and certified in fitting implants.
Products have to be precision crafted, tested, revised and meet approved safety standards before they can be deemed safe for fitting in a patient’s mouth.
Ultimately, these professionals and the products that are used do not come for free and their time and expertise needs to be paid for.
You could say you get what you pay for.
Ways to get cheap dental implants
Cheap is not always the best solution or what to look for when choosing implants.
Cost effective is perhaps a better way of looking at things.
“From where?” or “how can I get the best value or most cost effective package of treatment?” is what you want to ask yourself.
The best route to achieving this is shopping around, getting the opinion and prices from several implant specialists.
As part of this process you may want to consider travelling a little further afield, outside of you main town or city.
In some cases you can save hundreds of pounds, just by travelling 30-60 minutes down the road. Generally, prices will be lower where there are a few different surgeries offering the same treatment.
The biggest cost savings can be made by travelling abroad, more on that shortly.
Whatever quotes you get, consider them carefully as it is not always best to go for the cheapest.
If one quote is particularly cheap, question why? Is there a catch, why are they so much cheaper?
Would you really feel happy having your implants completed at this price by that surgery?
Our guideline figures should help you piece together the puzzle.
Paying for dental implants
As you will have read most dental insurance policies will not cover the cost of dental implants.
Therefore it will be your responsibility to pay for your dental implants.
Different dental offices will handle the payment differently.
If you can afford to pay for the implants outright with cash you have available, you will likely pay for your treatment as you complete each stage of the journey.
There may be a payment for consultation, another for the actual implant procedure and then another for the fitting of the teeth.
In some instances you might be expected to pay a deposit in advance of the treatment.
Given the cost of implants, particularly if having more than 1, many dental practices offer a payment plan.
Some payment plans might be managed by the dental practice, but most will be run by external companies who you will be taking out a contract with.
The quality of the offer can vary considerably and may well be influenced by your credit history, as credit checks will be completed. This is the same if you are borrowing money for anything you buy.
Be sure to research and understand any payment plan contract before signing it.
Aim for a 0% plan if possible to avoid paying more than you have to.
Only agree to paying for what you can reasonably afford. In most instances implants are not essential and there may well be more cost effective options, such as implant retained dentures or even temporary solutions, until such time as you can afford to have the work done.
How much are dental implants abroad
Having just learnt how much dental implants actually cost, you might now be thinking are there ways that I can get the same treatment for less money.
The simple answer is yes.
You can easily achieve savings of 70% or more if you are prepared to travel outside of the USA for dental care.
It is quite common for people getting implants or other dental treatment, to go on a dental holiday.
Travelling to countries like Brazil and Mexico can potentially result in the biggest savings, even with the cost of flights and accommodation.
Go to Mexico City and what was a $4000 implant in the USA is now a $900 treatment. It is just $1000 in Brazil.
Head to countries like Thailand or the Philippines and prices increase a bit to around $1500, but still a faction of the cost to get it done at home.
Of course much peace of mind that comes from having the work done by a dental professional just a few miles down the road and just a few minutes away should anything go wrong.
But, with such savings to be had, it is very hard to ignore.
Many have concern over travelling abroad and worry about standards. These concerns are certainly valid. Most of us are more comfortable with what we know, and we cannot always be sure that dentists abroad will treat you to the high standards you would receive in the USA.
However, there are practices that are internationally recognised and have invested lots of money into state of the art equipment and training to deliver the very best experiences and results for those wishing to benefit from the cost savings available in other markets.
It is not uncommon to be treated like a guest of a 5 star hotel and be pampered from the moment you arrive.
Just as you would if getting treatment in the US, you need to thoroughly research and practices abroad and should not book on a whim or just because it is cheap.
Just bear in mind when having treatment abroad that if something goes wrong, and you need to be seen in the USA, it may be difficult for the dentist to help if treatment has not followed a standard procedure.
Advantages and disadvantages of dental implants
A clear list of positives and negatives can be really helpful in better understanding a topic.
Here is a list of what can be considered the main advantages and disadvantages to having dental implants.
- Long-lasting and durable – This is a solution that can last 25+ years with the correct care.
- Versatile – Implants can be used to replace, 1, 2 or even a whole set of teeth, in most positions in the mouth.
- Feel and comfort – Once fitted the teeth for intents and purpose feel and act like natural ones for a more natural and comfortable feel.
- Restore confidence and happiness – Having missing teeth can restore confidence and happiness by plugging a gap you may have had for years.
- Prevents bone loss – When teeth are lost, the bone that surrounds them shrinks. Having implants keeps this bone, which can help keep the shape of your face.
- You can’t lose them – Silly as it might sound, when attached to your jaw, these teeth can’t be set aside and forgotten like dentures can.
- Stand alone – The implant does not rely on other teeth in the mouth to secure them.
- No issues with speech – The fitting is so good that you don’t get the whistle or difficulties speaking that you might with dentures.
- Allow normal eating – Eat foods you would have or do with normal teeth, no special diet required (once treatment is complete).
- No adhesives or special cleaning required – Clean them and treat them like regular natural teeth
- Success rate – 90-95% of those that have implant treatment are considered a success. Only in a few instances are they not suitable or treatment does not go to plan.
Of course it is not all positives, there are some negatives to consider too.
- Price – Be it 1 or multiple implants, these are a more expensive treatment.
- Upkeep – You treat them like regular teeth, so brushing, flossing, dental checkups are all still necessary.
- Longer treatment time – With 3-9 months average treatment time, implants are not a quick fix.
- Surgery – Whilst relatively routine, it is invasive and requires anesthetic, drilling, discomfort and healing time, which will not be right for all.
- Infection – Like all surgical treatments there is a risk that infection can occur.
- Complications and failure – Implants do not work for all, not all implants will fuse with the jaw bone and be the success hoped for. Other complications such as nerve damage can occur.
- Suitability – Implants are not suitable for everyone. They are not recommended in people with severe gum disease, patients who have have radiography to the jaw or are taking certain medications such as bisphosphonates, patients who suffer from immunosuppression. Smoking will also affect whether a dentist will treat you or not.
Alternatives to dental implants
If you are not a suitable candidate for implants, or you are put off by the cost or the treatment involved, there are some other options that you can consider.
Many of these are cheaper and involve a lot less treatment, but of course have their own pros and cons.
In many cases a dentist will often recommend or suggest these prior to implants, primarily because the cost of the alternatives are cheaper than implants and more readily available.
It is your decision on what you want but some alternatives to consider include:
- Mini Implants
Half the size of regular implants, they can be placed faster with less hardware than traditional implants and offer up a quicker healing time. Find out more here.
- Removable implants (Implant retained dentures)
With this approach, a typical implant into the jawbone is required, but the removable element is the prosthetic that is attached to the implant.
Using ball joint or bar fittings, the artificial teeth and gum that are attached can essentially be snapped on and off of the implant.
This means you can remove them when necessary for cleaning to make the process easier.
More affordable, they can be better suited to those who have unhealthy gum tissue or a weaker jaw bone.
Your alternative implant free options include:
- Tooth supported fixed bridge
Where only 1 tooth is to be replaced, a tooth supported fixed bridge is a popular option.
This approach relies on the tooth either side that needing to be replaced, being ground down. This then allows the bridge to be fitted and secured in place. The teeth either side are supporting the artificial tooth that sits in between.
- Resin bonded bridge
Unlike the tooth supported bridge, this does not require any grinding down of perfectly healthy teeth.
It is however suitable only for those teeth that don’t have a lot of pressure going through them, like the ones at the front that don’t typically bite into or chew food.
It can function and work better than removable dentures, but is weaker than a fixed bridge and will not last as long, normally lasting approximately 10 years.
- Dentures (partial and complete)
Subject to how many teeth need to be replaced, you can get partial and complete dentures which are removable.
Partial dentures replace multiple teeth, bone and gum. Not as strong as regular implants, the denture usually sticks to the gum or clips around the existing teeth.
Lasting up to 15 years you can eat and speak normally with a partial denture, but remove it for cleaning and to allow the gum to recover overnight.
For those who need replacement teeth for one or both arches of the mouth, the remaining gum tissue will hold a denture in place by the power of suction or with the help of adhesive.
Modern dentures really do not restrict most wearers in day to day life. There are a cheaper option, and they tend to last 5-6 years on average as your gums will alter over time, meaning a new denture is required for a secure fit.
Read our guide to types of false teeth and their costs to learn more.
You only have to speak to or listen to the stories of those who have had implant treatment to realize what a difference it makes to their lives. It has transformed for the better in most cases.
The natural look, feel and maintenance required can make everything feel normal again, restoring a confidence and happiness that has long been forgotten as a result of prior tooth loss.
Able to give intangible benefits that really hard to put a price on, the dental professionals do this bit for you. Sadly, that price is high.
A single implant retained tooth might available for $1500, but expect on average to pay $3000-5000.
A full set will be somewhere around $40,000-50,000.
Price is very much influenced by personal circumstance and there are ways to get some of the benefits of implants, with a lesser cost.
However you want to ensure that the option you select is best for you and you will be happy with the results.
Take time to really think about the procedure and who you want to do it, take the time, do the research and ask the questions you want answers to.
Do not commit to treatment plans with dental professionals you are not happy with.
It is a lot of money to spend and you need to be assured at all stages.
All being well this guide has answered many questions you might well have had as you read through each section.
Here are though some extra commonly asked questions, complete with answers.
Are all dental implants successful?
Our research has suggested that on average there is a 90-95% success rate with dental implants, a figure backed up by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
This success rate does depend on a number of factors, notably patient suitability, health and lifestyle.
Are dental implants permanent?
For the most part, yes.
Providing the implants are well maintained, the lifespan can be 25 years of more and there should be little or no need to replace an implant.
Whether they last for longer depends upon how well you take care of implants with daily routines like brushing and flossing.
Whether your diet consists of eating many harder foods that can put extra strain on the implants.
Your overall health has a part to play as does how well the implant was placed and fused with the bone.
Another thing to note here is that although implants have been around for 40 or so years and many more people now have them, it takes a long time to obtain the data and really understand long term how well they can last.
Are teeth implants safe?
Having been used for many years they have proven themselves for the most part to be a reliable and practical option for suitable candidates. They are not without risk and cannot be considered 100% safe in all circumstances, but having been used for such a long period any concerns, or issues will have been raised by now.
The titanium commonly used in their production widely used in other medical implants and undergoes strict tests and study before being used as widely as it is.
Will having implants hurt/be painful?
There should be no real pain to speak of when having the dental surgery or afterwards.
Although you will normally be awake during the treatment anesthetics are used to numb the area and stop pain.
The immediate days after treatment you will likely feel some discomfort and tenderness, but the use of over the counter painkillers should aid with this.
If you have concerns over pain, prior, during or after treatment, speak to your dental professional.
How do I care for my dental implants?
For permanent (non-removable) implants, you care for them like you would a normal set of teeth.
You will need to brush twice a day, floss at least once a day and continue with regular dental checkups.
Although implants are man-made and designed to last, they require this regular maintenance to be able last. Failing to take this care will result in costly dental bills.
Plaque can still build up on the teeth, if not removed it can lead to calculus and tartar. This in turn affect the natural tissues of the gum. Ultimately a pocket around the implant could develop and the implant become loose.
Your gums are natural and require attention and as you age your body changes and it is important that you undertake these regular dental visits to get a professional opinion on the state of your mouth and teeth.
How long will the dental implant treatment take?
Every case is different, but it is on average from deciding to get implants to fitting the false teeth, the treatment will take 3-9 months.
After deciding upon implants, you might be able to actually have the surgery within a few weeks.
That surgery will usually take up to a couple of hours.
Then comes the longest period within the treatment and that is waiting for the implants to fuse to the bone and for the jaw to heal. Propper healing is vital to the long term success of the process, so this cannot really be rushed.
During this time you may have to go back for some checkups.
Another small surgery will be required once the healing process is over, to fit the abutments, that link between the implant and the artificial tooth.
After a few more weeks the false teeth can be fitted.
I grind my teeth, can I have implants?
Yes you can.
Whilst you dentist will look for signs of this condition, known as bruxism, as part of the planning and consultation phase before undertaking any actual surgery, you should advise the dentist if you know your grind your teeth.
The grinding act puts more pressure on the teeth and implants that can lead to extra wear and forces that may damage them n the long term.
Therefore the dentist and the supporting team can adapt the implants and teeth to cater for this. Extra implants may be required, different materials may well be used in the construction of the teeth, or you may well have to wear a mouthguard at night to protect the teeth.
What’s the age limit for a dental implant?
Any adult (18 years or older) can be a candidate for implants. There is no upper age limit either.
The older the patient, the higher the possible likelihood of diseases or medical conditions that may add complication to the procedure.
However, as part of the initial consultation and planning phase issues like this will be considered.
Why can’t children have implants?
Up until the age of about 18 years old (21 in males), the jaw bone and associated muscles are still growing, developing and changing as part of the natural process of growing up.
Implants are a permanent fixture that does not allow for this change in body conditions and as such is not suitable until the body has stopped growing.
Should children require some form of false teeth, dentures will be provided.
Using state of the art technology and design techniques, these can be very effective alternatives that can be easily adapted as the child grows.
Can dental implants be removed?
Yes, they can be.
An implant can technically be removed at any point, be that within hours or years after initial placement.
In cases where the jawbone and implant do not successfully fuse together, the implant may have to be removed as the process has not been successful.
Even when the bone and implant have fused and are essentially as 1, the implant can still be removed if necessary.
Dentists will not remove an implant without good reason as doing so can cause weakness in the jaw and bring on a number of other complications as a result.
The need for removal will be assessed on a case by case scenario, but any gaps left by a removed implant can heal.
In most cases, it is just a case of unscrewing the implant using the same sort of tools that screwed it in place in the first place. In some instances, specialist removal kits will have to be used.
What real patients say
There is no better explanation on implants from the perspective of a patient who has been there and done that.
Why not watch the following video, where US resident Bethany Wilhelm gives her answers to some common FAQ’s.
Your comments and opinions
If you should have any questions, comments or opinions you would like to add to this guide, please do so, by commenting below.
Should you have or be going through the process of implants yourself, why not share some feedback for others to take advantage of.
- Levinsons Textbook for dental nurses
- Sheen Dental
- Association of Dental Implantology
- Smile Makers
- Winning Smiles
- Centre for Implant Dentistry
- Progressive Dentistry
- Arizona Family Dental