Let me start by saying that most advanced procedures in restorative dentistry are expensive. Including implant dentistry. But before you decide that implants are too expensive for you, please read on. There’s more to the story.
Despite the many great advances in dentistry, about 65% of the U.S. adult population are still walking around with missing teeth. Why? You guessed it…cost. The single biggest deterrent to having a tooth replaced is cost.
Compared To Other Solutions – Is Implant Dentistry Expensive?
When compared to basic dental care such as fillings, cleanings, etc., yes, the financial cost of tooth replacement is quite significant. Dentists basically have two options to permanently replace a missing tooth: a bridge or an implant. Let’s take a look at the two permanent options mentioned above and the cost of each:
1) Replacing A Tooth With A Three-Unit Bridge
For decades in conventional (non-implant) dentistry, the most common technique used to replace a single missing tooth was a three-unit permanent bridge. This is where your dentist cements a crown onto the two teeth on either side of the void where your missing tooth once sat. These crowns are called abutment crowns. The void where your natural tooth once sat is then filled with a pontic crown. The result is three crowns connected to each other – the abutment crowns on your real teeth and the pontic crown supported by the abutment crowns. Because there’s no tooth under the middle crown the entire restoration is called a bridge.
2) Replacing A Missing Tooth With An Implant
Implants offer an option to replace a single missing tooth. Here, your dentist places an implant into the bone that supported the missing tooth. The implant replaces the root. After a period of healing time a crown is affixed onto the implant and voilà! – the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth has been replaced, root and all. Not one other healthy tooth is involved in the procedure, and obviously, the fewer teeth involved to replace one missing tooth makes sense, right?
So, is implant dentistry more expensive than a three-unit bridge?
Let’s compare the cost of a three-unit permanent bridge to the cost of an implant. Notwithstanding variables of dental insurance and where you live, the actual dollar outlay to replace one missing tooth with a three-unit bridge is higher than for an implant. That’s because with a three-unit bridge you actually pay for three crowns. Moreover, the success of a three-unit bridge is completely dependent upon the health of the supporting (abutment) teeth. Unfortunately, it’s extremely common that one or both of your abutment teeth will require root canal before the bridge is made.
The cost of maintaining a three-unit bridge grows over time – not so with an implant and here’s why:
- Decay can easily form around the abutment teeth. It requires you to be diligent with your home care in order to avoid it. In fact, the decay rate of an abutment tooth is about 20%.* An implant, on the other hand, never decays.
- There’s a 15% chance your abutment teeth will require root canal during the lifespan of the bridge.** Several factors explain this such as the increased likelihood of tooth decay (mentioned above), which often leads to nerve damage. And, your dentist may have had to file down one or both abutment teeth to ensure the bridge fits properly, leaving them more vulnerable to decay. An implant, on the other hand, never requires a root canal.
- If your abutment teeth become decayed or require a root canal, the entire bridge could be compromised and will likely need to be totally replaced. When this happens your dentist might be forced to involve even more teeth than the original two abutments in order for the bridge to have enough support, further increasing the cost of care and jeopardizing more healthy teeth.
- If one of your bridge crowns should fracture it’s often necessary for your dentist to replace the entire bridge. On the other hand, in the rare circumstance that an implant crown breaks, only that one single crown must be replaced but the implant itself remains intact. Moreover, implant crowns are easy to replace.
In conclusion, the answer to your question “Is implant dentistry expensive?” is this: Compared to the long-term costs of maintaining a bridge implant dentistry is not expensive!
If you’ve been walking around with a missing tooth and are considering having a bridge made (and you live in the NYC area) please call my office to schedule a time to talk to me about a dental implant, instead. It’s not as expensive as you thought!
Link here to read more about Single Tooth Replacement.
* Source: Contemporary Implant Dentistry by Carl E. Misch, 5th Edition.
** Bridges must be replaced about every ten years, on average.