Have questions about dental implants? Dr. Raymond Lim DDS at Dental Smiles of Willow Glen has answers.

As a top South Bay Area dentist serving residents in Santa Clara County including San Jose, Willow Glen and Campbell for more than 30 years, he’s heard all types of questions on dental implants—and provided thoughtful answers that have helped his patients easily learn about implants and feel comfortable with the procedure.  

Here’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions that you may find helpful if you’re thinking about having a dental implant procedure: 

Question: What is a dental implant?

Answer: A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that’s typically made from titanium or zirconia. It is used to replace a missing tooth or teeth. This “root” is essentially a small post that is inserted into the jawbone, on top of which a single crown can be attached. Fixed bridges, a partial denture or full denture can also be attached to the implant.

Once the implant integrates into the bone structure, a structure called an abutment is connected to the implant, then the artificial tooth or teeth are attached. So there are three parts of an implant tooth: 1) the dental implant 2) the abutment and 3) the artificial tooth. The installation process of the implant can take up to six months to complete, in the end providing you with an extremely durable and long-lasting prosthetic that looks completely natural.

Question: How do I know if I need a dental implant?

Answer: You can typically get a dental implant if you have a missing tooth, some missing teeth or all missing teeth. Or, if you have a tooth that’s fractured into the root, it probably will require an extraction and implant. Another instance is if your dentist diagnoses that you are going to lose a tooth due to infection, poor periodontal health, or severe bone loss.

Question: How can I tell if I have bone loss?

Answer: If you have loose teeth, you may have bone loss. The only other way to tell is to see a dentist.

Question: Will bone loss be an issue with a dental implant?

Answer: It depends on the amount of bone loss and weakness. If the bone is weak, the procedure may involve a bone graft, which is a surgical procedure to prepare the bone for the implant. A bone graft will take 4-6 months to regenerate and increase the bone density before an implant can be placed.

Question: How long does it take to get a dental implant?

Answer: If a bone graft is necessary, this procedure takes 4-6 months. The second procedure is to surgically place the implant, which will take another 4 to 6 months to heal. Once this phase of healing is done, then the last procedure, which is the placement of the crown is done. Overall, the dental implant procedure can take 4 to 10 months depending if a bone graft is required.

Question: Who is a good candidate age-wise for implants?

Answer: Individuals who have their permanent teeth and have lost a tooth or teeth can have implants—even seniors if their dental health is good. Teens may have implants only after their jawbone stops growing, typically at 17 or 18 years of age.

Question: What are the advantages of a dental implant?

Answer: Dental implants can last a lifetime and improve your quality of life, your appearance and your confidence. For example, you can continue to eat the foods you like and maintain an active lifestyle without worrying about your teeth. Since dental implants are made of titanium, you will never have to worry about tooth decay again.

Question: What are the disadvantages of a dental implant?

Answer: As with any minor surgical procedure, there’s a risk of inflammation, pain and infection. However, you can discuss this with your dentist to see how the procedure can be managed for your situation. Another potential disadvantage is that only a small percentage of insurance companies will provide implant coverage.

Question: What type of dentist do I need to see for implant?

Answer: You typically would start with an experienced general dentist like Dr. Lim who can answer your dental implant questions. He will assess your condition and recommend an implant specialist for the surgical placement the implant.

Question: Who does the implants?

Answer: At Dental Smiles of Willow Glen, Dr. Lim diagnoses and refers patients to a qualified implant specialist to place the implant surgically. After the surgical procedure and healing periods, Dr. Lim does the final restorative phase, which includes placing the abutment or “body” of the implant and completely covering it with cap or “crown” which makes it look like a natural tooth.

Question: What is a crown?

Answer: A crown is a basically a cap or covering of the implant that makes it look like a natural tooth in size, shape and color. It can be shaped like your original tooth or designed to help improve your smile. 

Question: Can crowns change color over time?

Answer: No, the color is steadfast and should remain true for the long run.

Question: How much do dental implants cost?

Answer: Quite honestly, the cost of replacing a single tooth with a dental implant will be more expensive than replacing it with a regular fixed bridge. But even though it’s more expensive, you will preserve your natural teeth that are adjacent to your missing tooth. If you have dental insurance that has implant coverage, that may help lessen the expenses.

Question: What is the success rate of a dental implant?

Answer: This varies based on the individual’s health and dental habits. For a healthy person with good oral hygiene and health, dental implants a typically successful with a success rates above 90- 95%.

Question: How long do dental implants last?

Answer: Dental implants do not decay like natural teeth; however, good gum health is essential to the long-term success of implants. If you have an implant, it’s important to be conscientious with your home care and schedule regular checkups and professional cleaning. Each patient has a unique situation, so success relies on care, diagnosis and planning, medical history and more. 

Question: Can dentures be made into implants?

Answer: No, dentures can’t “be made into implants.” As discussed earlier, implants are screwed into the jawbone to help anchor artificial teeth. However, it is possible to place implants underneath existing dentures to help stabilize those dentures. This is only possible if the current dentures are in excellent condition. Consult your dentist to have your dentures examined.

Question: Are dental implants removable?

Answer: No, because they are anchored into the jawbone which allows teeth to be replaced securely much like natural teeth.

Question: What’s the advantage of a fixed bridge over an implant?

Answer: A fixed bridge will cost less because the majority of insurance companies will have some type of coverage, which means less out of pocket cost for the patient. In addition, a fixed bridge can be done more quickly than an implant.

Question: What’s the disadvantage of a fixed bridge?

Answer: Over time, a fixed bridge may break or redecay and require another replacement. Also, with a fixed bridge, the dentist has to do crown preparations on the adjacent teeth next to the missing tooth area to place the bridge, therefore weakening your natural teeth instead of preserving what nature gave you.

Question: Would I need a dental implant to replace a wisdom tooth?

Answer: No, a wisdom tooth is often extracted to make room in the mouth for other teeth. If you’ve kept your wisdom tooth throughout adulthood and lost it, you are mostly likely fine without an implant.

Question: Can a dental implant shift its position over time?

Answer: No, because it is firmly anchored in place in the jawbone.

Question: Can I eat anything I want with a dental implant?

Answer: Yes, the dental implants are made to function as well as natural teeth, so you can eat virtually anything within reason.

Question: Can bridges or dental implants crack?

Answer: Yes, it is possible to crack them. So please use your best judgement when eating.

Question: Can a dental implant set off a metal detector at the airport?

Answer: Generally speaking, no it can’t set off the metal detector because the amount of titanium used is miniscule—there is not enough metal to set off the detector’s alarm. However, with security technology continually advancing there may be a chance it will set off high end security alarm. So the best course of action is to give yourself a little more time to go through the TSA check. If you do happen to set off the alarm, make sure to inform them of your dental implants.

Question: In what situations should I NOT get a dental implant?

Answer: There are several situations — called absolute contraindications —where you should not get a dental implant. According to infodentis.com, here are some serious general conditions that make anesthesia, surgical procedures and the overall placement inadvisable.

• Heart diseases affecting the valves, recent infarcts, severe cardiac insufficiency, cardiomyopathy
• Active cancer and certain bone diseases
• Certain immunological diseases, immunosuppressant treatments, clinical AIDS, awaiting an organ transplant
• Certain mental diseases
• Strongly irradiated jaw bones
• Treats of osteoporosis or some cancers by bisphosphonates

Question: What situations need evaluation to determine if I can have an implant?

Answer: According to infodentis.com, dental implants much be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis if the individual has any of the following:
• Diabetes (especially insulin-dependent)
• Angina pectoris
• Significant consumption of tobacco
• Certain mental illnesses
• Certain auto-immune diseases
• Drug and alcohol dependency
• Pregnancy

Are you interested in getting a dental implant, or have more questions about implants?

Feel free to make an appointment to see our dental implant dentist, Dr. Raymond Lim, at Dental Smiles of Willow Glen today. Dr. Lim is an expert at diagnosing the need for dental implants and can refer you to the best implant specialist for your needs. Best of all, Dr. Lim is well-known for his expertise in creating beautiful crowns that provide the finishing touch to the implant procedure. Get an attractive healthy smile and the full capability to eat the foods you want to enjoy with utmost confidence. Make your appointment today by calling (408) 978-1888 or by using our online contact formFor future blog updates, be sure to like us on Facebook.