Are dental implants for you? 5 things to consider

by Oriana Biela Lieu, Registered Dental Hygienist

My last blog was about our adventure in the bat caves of Puerto Rico. One thing I did not delve into was all the interesting cave formations we saw. Caves are interesting because they can be living or actively forming. Calcite is the mineral makeup of most caves. Calcite is porous and made of calcium.

How does this apply to dentistry? The formation of caves is reminiscent of how bone forms. It is not uncommon to see examples of the same kind of action in nature that happens with the human body. Dr. Lieu (pictured here at our dental practice in Rohnert Park, California) loves to place and restore dental implants. A big factor in the success of placement is how much bone there is around the implant. The more bone the better. Bone is dynamic and individuals have different densities, types of bone and other health factors that play into how bone replacement reacts in the body. For example, people with diabetes have problems with circulation. When placing bone in someone with diabetes, the healing time is slower and the bone may not ever become very dense.

Caves form by water movement and gravity. Slow trickles of water down through the calcite forms stalactites and stalagmites. When they meet, they form a column or pillar. Similar action happens when bone is placed in the body, or when one breaks a bone and it begins healing again. Of course, there are many more steps; I am simplifying the concept.

If you have not heard of dental implants, they are a wonderful solution for people missing one or more teeth. They offer the freedom of chewing stress-free. You can use a dental implant to replace one missing tooth, or it can be an attachment for a denture. If you are missing multiple teeth, you can understand the hassle or uncomfortable nature of a partial. This permanent solution also has an advantage over bridgework, in that it does not stress the surrounding teeth for support and there is no chance for recurring decay and need for replacing another bridge one day.

Patient 1: Before
Patient 1: Before
Patient 1: After
Patient 1: After

Dental implants are permanent. They are small titanium screws that are surgically implanted into the bone and allowed to set. The bone grows around it, forming a tight connection. Once the implant is firmly set in the mouth, the dentist – in our case, that would be Dr. Lieu – then puts a replacement tooth on top of the implant. Implant anchors are another great option for stabilizing loose dentures.

Dr. Lieu has had many years of experience placing implants. He started when he was first in dental school and then later attended the Implant Symposium for Boston University back in 2002. His hunger for more implant experience and knowledge continued and he completed a Master of Implantology course with the famous Dr. Arun Garg in 2011. He has been placing implants at our practice in Sonoma County and has many successful stories he could share with you.

If you are thinking of getting dental implants here are the top 5 things for you to consider:

1: Cost

More often than not, dental implants are not covered by your dental insurance because it is considered a prosthetic cosmetic procedure. Implants vary in price depending on each individual’s existing teeth and the quality of their jawbone, ranging from as little as $1,000 for a single implant to as much as $100,000 for a complete set. However, many considering this surgery are not discouraged by the high cost when weighed against the cost of dental treatment such as root canals, bridges, and crowns over their lifetime. It is usually estimated that although there is a higher initial cost, it is a smart investment for many people.

2: Provider Experience

Only 10% of dentists perform this procedure. Instead of having to go to a specialist to do the procedure, we offer you this service in-house, which makes the process much simpler and less stressful for you. Dr. Lieu has a reputation as a master in performing dental implant surgery throughout Sonoma County and the North Bay region. He also uses CEREC technology, which is a state-of-the-art “tooth printer” that allows him to quickly restore damaged teeth with natural-colored ceramic fillings. At Blue Apple Dental Group, we can also offer a financial payment plan that fits into your budget.

3: Personal Consultation

We offer no-cost dental implant consultations. Dr. Lieu can evaluate your dental needs and talk with you about your goals for the procedure. We can give you a treatment plan that explains the cost and work to be done. Our treatment coordinator can also help answer any questions about time and best options for you.

4: Ask Questions

As with any major surgery, be sure to ask as many questions in order for you to fully understand the procedure. Ask the doctor if there is anything that you should be aware of regarding the healing process. Finally, make sure that you are able to take the prescribed medication following the procedure to manage the pain.

5: Consider Future Care

Although dental implants will require the same care as your regular teeth, good oral hygiene habits will still be important. Prolong the life of your dental implants by avoiding hard, chewy or sticky food, as well as avoiding smoking or heavy drinking. Finally, it will be essential not to miss your annual dental appointments. We recommend dental hygiene visits four times per year for patients with dental implants.

Oriana