It may be due to the economy, or in response to supply and demand, but lately there have been a lot of dentists advertising dental implants and what the fee is for those implants. In some respects, we'd hope you wouldn't shop for a dentist based solely on price, especially a surgical procedure, but I also operate with a budget and realize saving money is important and getting affordable dental implants is a worthwhile pursuit. So I'd thought I'd suggest a few things to look for and ask, when looking for a deal for dental implants.
The first thing is what exactly does the fee include. A dental implant to replace a missing tooth is comprised of 3 parts. Part 1 is the implant itself, it is placed in the bone and serves as the anchor for the new tooth. Part 2 is the abutment. The abutments is the connection between the implant and crown. The last part is the crown or the tooth. Ask if the fee includes all 3 parts. Some fees I have seen advertised include only the implant.
What kind of training does the dentist or surgeon have? Did they learn in a weekend course and have placed only a few? Dental implants are very predictable when done well, but have the potential for complications if not done well.
Another thing to know is does the fee include any bone grafting that may be needed. If there is not an adequate width or height of bone a bone graft may be needed. This requires an examination, and x-rays to decide if a bone graft might be needed. The fee may or may not include any bone grafting.
What kind of abutment or connection between the crown and implant is planned? A stock abutment is a one-size fits all abutment. A custom abutment is custom-made. Custom abutments are more expensive, but can make the difference between making the tooth look and feel real. One of the challenges with dental implants is the area where the implant comes out from the gums. Often times there is a space there and food will get caught. In the front, a space there can make the new implant tooth look fake. A custom abutment can resolve many of these potential problems. Sometimes a stock abutment will work great. Sometimes you can't decided which will be better, until after the implant is placed and it has healed. You should know going in what the fee will include.
Does the fee include a temporary to wear while waiting for the implant to heal? Sometimes you can go without a temporary, and sometimes you need a temporary to shape the gum tissues during healing so that your new implant tooth looks real.
Where are the parts from? You can get parts from China to the United States. Maybe you care maybe and maybe you don't. The lab fee's for the crown can range from less than $100 to close to $500 or more. The difference is in the materials used, the skill of the technician.
Do you even need an implant? Maybe a specialist could save your tooth with crown lengthening or orthodontic extrusion or retreatment of a root canal and maybe not. Maybe you might be better served with a bridge or a removable partial denture. Maybe you don't even need to replace the tooth, because you don't need it. That's a lot of maybes.
The point is it's tough to say you can replace your tooth for $900 from a phone conversation or an advertisement. There's a lot more that goes into making the decision to what will be needed and the potential for the fees to be much more. Avoid surprises and know going in what you're getting into. Dental implants are an excellent way to replace a missing tooth or one that will be missing soon. Good luck in your efforts to replace your tooth and restore your smile.
Jonathan Campbell is a dentist in Salt Lake City. He places and restores implants. He says, "I'm not the cheapest nor the most expensive" and has been placing implants for almost 12 years.