If you need to have all or most of your teeth removed, you are probably not looking forward to the prospect of dentures. They slide around, rub, and make it notoriously difficult to eat crunchy and sticky foods. Thankfully, there is a good alternative to dentures: all-on-4 dental implants. This tooth replacement option consists of four titanium posts implanted into your jaw bone and a type of denture that attaches to the implants. All-on-4 implants are relatively new, so most patients have a few questions about them—such as the following.
How does the dentist insert the implants?
Inserting implants for all-on-4 dental implants involves a very similar procedure to that used to insert a single dental implant. Your dental surgeon will open up your gums and then use a special tool to insert the screws directly into your jaw bone. Your gums will then be sutured closed over the implants. This procedure is usually done under local anesthetic with a sedative, so you will be awake, but very relaxed—and you won't feel any pain at all. If you have a severe dental phobia, some dentists will perform the surgery under general anesthetic or a heavy IV sedative instead. In either case, the surgery will take a couple of hours, and you can return home immediately afterwards. You will need to have someone drive you home.
How long do the implants take to heal?
The important part of the healing process following all-on-4 dental implant surgery involves the annealing of your jaw bone to the implanted screw. Your jaw bone will stabilize the screws so that they can withstand chewing pressure, just as the roots of your teeth would. This entire healing process takes about 6 months. During this time, you can wear normal dentures while your gums heal. You'll have to stick to soft foods, especially at first. Then, when you are healed, your dentist will open your gums to re-expose the screws and attach the denture to the screws.
What are the advantages of all-on-4 dental implants?
This dental device has so many advantages over traditional dentures! It's more stable in your jaw, so you don't have to worry about it wiggling around and causing abrasions or bruises on your gums. You can eat crunchy foods like chips and nuts with all-on-four implants; these foods are challenging to eat with standard dentures. You don't have to remove the implant dentures at night, either. They will look more similar to real teeth, which helps to preserve your appearance. The implants also stimulate the jaw bone and help prevent the bone deterioration that can happen with normal dentures.
How do you care for the implants?
Just brush and floss them like regular teeth. Even though the implants themselves won't develop cavities or damage like regular teeth, brushing them will keep oral bacteria levels down so your gums stay healthy—and so you don't develop issues with smelly breath. Your dentist will want to examine and potentially remove and clean the implants every 6 months, so you will need to keep up with regular dental appointments just like before.
Does insurance cover all-on-4 implants?
The answer to this question depends on your insurance company. Most dental insurance plans offer coverage for dentures. This may or may not extend to all-on-4 implants. In some cases, you may have to pay the difference between the cost of standard dentures and the cost of the implants. Talk to your dentist about their financing options.
All-on-4 implants are a great choice for many patients who are missing multiple teeth. Talk to your dentist to learn more about dental implants.