Dental implants can be costly, but after losing a tooth, I have decided to go through with the procedure. Here`s my story.
Dental implants are artificial roots and teeth (usually titanium) that are surgically placed into the upper or lower jaw bone of the gums and supporting bone. Dental implants replace teeth without affecting bordering healthy teeth. Acting as natural tooth roots, dental implants are known to provide the necessary pressure to the bone and prevent further bone loss. (from the website of ADVENTIST MEDICAL CENTER INFORMATION)
Dental implants can be very costly but provide an alternative for dentures or bridges. I will explain later why I decided to opt for a dental implant.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Dental Implants
The first advantage is that missing tooth or teeth can be replaced without affecting adjacent teeth. Second, unlike dentures, dental implants are embedded in the jaw bone so it is possible to bite properly, which prevents bone loss. One does not have to worry about implants falling out or sticking to food.
Being able to bite and chew properly are very important factors in leading a healthy life. Because the force of biting is reduced significantly with dentures, there is less stimulation going to the brain. In the long run, this can cause dementia in seniors. With bridges, the teeth that are grounded down can become weak in the long run and may require extraction.
Dental implants do have disadvantages, as well. The first is the high cost which cannot be covered by insurance. I was taken aback when I was presented with the estimate. After discussing the payment options, it was decided that I would pay for it in two installments, although the clinic wanted me to pay for the entire cost in a single payment!
The second is that surgical procedure is required. To be honest, I am not excited about this. This will be the first surgery of my life and I just hope all will go well! Fingers crossed!
How I Lost My Tooth
My #4 tooth on my left had an artificial crown since my 30s. I believe it was a cavity that made the dentist decide to "carve out" all but the root of that tooth. It was a few months after I had my daughter back in 1996. Apparently, pregnancy and childbirth creates a host of oral problems including cavities and gum infection!
I experienced numerous episodes of root canal treatment on that tooth after experiencing pain in the root multiple times.
In early March 2021, the artificial crown suddenly appeared to be loose. There was visible gum inflammation and pain. I went to the dentist the following day. I was immediately informed that there was a strong possibility of a root fracture and that tooth extraction was necessary. The dentist didn`t bother to take an X-ray or a CAT scan and said that he will extract my tooth right then and there. I told him I wanted to get an opinion from another dentist and consult him later.
IT WAS A ROOT FRACTURE!
I went to another dentist nearby. The dentist there was kind enough to take a picture after removing the artificial crown. I recognized a clear horizontal break on the remaining root of my tooth. I was informed again that I needed the root to be extracted. The dentist also said the teeth on either side of this tooth still had nerves. He said if it hurts, the nerves will be removed. Neither of the dentists I visited had any detailed information on dental implants. If I was interested in getting one, I would need a referral to a nearby university hospital where dental implant procedures are done regularly.
After receiving a referral to the university hospital`s division of dental implants a few days later, I decided against going there. I figured it would take a while to schedule a tooth extraction and I wanted the procedure to be done right away since the pain and discomfort was not going away.
My husband did some search online and found a dental clinic which was located only one stop away on the subway. It was conveniently located in a shopping center where I shopped every once in a while. They were open on Sundays and I called them to explain my problem. I got an appointment for the following day.
On to the Third Dental Clinic!
I was met by a young attractive dentist still in his early 30s who also headed the clinic. I was told immediately that I needed the tooth to be extracted since there was now a pus forming as a result of an infection caused by the root fracture. I told him I wanted the tooth to be extracted right away, but he replied that extractions are not done on first visits. I was able to secure an appointment for the extraction three days later.
He told me getting a bridge has no real advantages. Also, a cheap dental implant is likely to cause problems in the long term. One may end up requiring another procedure to fix it.
THE DAY OF THE EXTRACTION
The extraction was over very quickly. After local anesthesia was provided, it took less than a minute for the tooth to be extracted. I could feel the dentist pulling at my tooth but other than that, I didn`t feel a thing. I saw the remaining root of the extracted tooth. There was a clear horizontal fracture and a pus equally large which had formed. "This is a bad condition", he told me.
I went for a few more visits to help the extracted area to heal.
In April, a denture was made.
After the denture was made, I had to wait until the extracted area`s bone was formed. In June, I had a CAT scan taken to see how much of the bone has formed. It was discovered that the height of the extracted area was inadequate.
"Let`s wait another three months. Usually with adults, after six months, new bones are no longer formed", the dentist explained.
In late August, I went to have my denture adjusted and a CAT scan was taken again. This time, it was discovered that bone formation was adequate.
At the following visit, the dentist said he had discovered that the height of the extracted area was not quite adequate for the fixture of the implant to be placed securely. It was decided that a socket lift will be done. This involves adding artificial bone. The procedure will be done at the time of the surgery.
THE ESTIMATE OF THE DENTAL IMPLANT
The estimate of the dental implant ended up being:
$6880 USD (750, 000 JPY)
Insurance does not cover dental implants!
The denture costed:
$154 USD (the price I paid after insurance coverage)
Getting a bridge would have costed:
$229 USD (the price I would have paid after insurance coverage)
WHY ARE DENTURES AND BRIDGES NOT A GOOD OPTION? (My Case)
Let`s start with dentures. Because they are placed on top of the gums, they are likely to be unstable and the force of biting is decreased significantly compared to natural teeth. Over a period of time, the denture can be bent out of shape and the condition of your gum and teeth can change as well. As a result, the denture might not fit as well as before.
After I had my tooth extracted in March, I had a denture for a single tooth made in April. By August, the wire attached to the denture appeared to be out of shape. The denture would start to fall off when I was eating. Sticky food such as Japanese pastry would cause problems. I was warned by the hygienist that extra caution should be exercised when eating rice cake. It can easily stick to the denture and one can bite on the denture without knowledge, causing injury to the surrounding area.
Bridges involve grinding down on the adjacent teeth of the tooth that has been lost. After this, a crown of three teeth are placed on top. In my case, the adjacent tooth (#3) is intact with no cavities. The #5 tooth has a cavity but it still has a nerve. If I opt for a bridge, both of these teeth will be sacrificed. The dentist told me firmly "the last thing I want to do is to grind down on healthy teeth". His words were convincing enough that I decided against a bridge right away.
How Long Will This Take?
The entire dental implant procedure will be completed a full year after my tooth extraction. Compared to dentures or bridges, it is a very time consuming procedure.
My mother-in-law received a dental implant last year so I asked her how she felt about it. She replied that "it fits very well and it feels like my own teeth".
Well, that was an encouraging comment!
Hopefully I will be able to eat and smile with no worries!
Thank you for reading!
© 2021 Takako Komori