Local News

Dental Implants Next Generation Of Dentures

Posted July 12, 2006 10:27 a.m. EDT

— It is not unusual for today's older generation to have dentures, bridges or partials. But the newer generation might be more likely to choose a more permanent option: dental implants, or false teeth that are anchored to the jawbone, just like a natural tooth.

Getting dental implants used to involve lengthy procedures and high costs, but now the procedure is more affordable and, in many cases, the whole procedure can be performed in one visit.

After removing the damaged tooth root, doctors use a short temporary tooth to fill the gap while the bone beneath grows permanently around an implanted titanium screw, said Dr. Glenn Reside, a maxillofacial and oral surgeon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.

Some patients, Reside said, need grafting to build up enough bone to support an implant, but that is usually for patients who have previously worn dentures.

"The purpose of the bone is to hold onto teeth, and when the teeth are gone, its function is gone, so it starts to melt away," Reside said.

That is why dentures often lose their fit and become uncomfortable. Implants ensure a snug, permanent fit

The average cost of a single dental implant is about $3,000, Reside said. The cost decreases for additional tooth replacements.

Insurance typically does not cover implants unless they are the result of trauma from an injury or from a disease such as cancer.

Reside said, however, that insurance could broaden its coverage because the long-term cost of implants might be less than bridges and dentures that always need to be replaced or readjusted.