Losing a tooth can be a very traumatic experience, both emotionally and financially. If a dental implant is an option you are considering, you need to understand the process and just how much that implant will set you back before making a decision. Let me help you by answering many common questions about dental implants.
How much will my dental implant cost?
The simple answer is this: it depends. Just like any surgery—because, yes, it is surgery—there are many factors that determine the price of a dental implant. The dentist’s overhead, geographical location, and individual fee structure will all be calculated into the cost of the procedure. And, each patient’s physical circumstance must be evaluated as well. Jawbone and gum condition, whether or not a bone graft and/or an extraction or temporary tooth is necessary, and anesthesia options are all considered in the cost of an implant.
Because of all these variables, I hesitate to quote a price. But, that’s not what you want to hear. You want to know just how much an implant is going to set you back. So, taking away any insurance differentials, I’d say you should expect the entire procedure, including the crown, to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 per tooth.
Why are implants so expensive?
In order to comprehend the high cost of dental implants, you have to understand what the procedure entails.
First of all, an implant is considered surgery. Your dentist must have completed training in implantology, otherwise, you will have to see an oral surgeon, prosthodontist, or another type of specialist. Either way, the rate charged may be significantly higher than the rate charged for a simpler procedure because of the credentials and training required to do the work.
Though we refer to the process as a tooth implant, the actual implant is only a part of the procedure. Because the success of the implant depends on proper diagnosis and subsequent care from initial consultation through the crowning touches, it’s imperative that certain steps are followed and they all cost money.
The Implant Process
First, diagnosis and prognosis are determined after X-rays (preferably panoramic X-rays or a CT scan) have been taken and jawbone and gum condition, as well as the location of the tooth in question, have all been evaluated. An impression will be taken of your teeth and gums. The dentist will explain the procedure and timing and whether or not he or she thinks a bone graft will be necessary.
Next, a hole is drilled into the jawbone and the implant is inserted. You will leave the office with a “fake tooth” if you have a hole in your smile that you want to be covered.
Third, after the gum is healed, an abutment is screwed into the implant and a temporary crown is attached to the implant. An abutment is a device that connects the implant to the replacement tooth. Sometimes a healing cap or collar is needed to help the gum heal properly and sometimes the abutment can be placed at the same time as the implant.
Next, the temporary crown is removed and a permanent crown is attached.
Are dental implants covered under insurance?
Yes and no. Some dental plans include implant insurance, and some do not. How’s that for an answer? We’ve all dealt with insurance plans and policies, and coverage can be vastly different, even within the same umbrella company. So, while it may seem obvious, I can’t stress enough the importance of checking with your insurance companies, both medical and dental, before you commit to an implant.
Don’t make your decision based on what was covered for your co-worker or even someone in your immediate family. There are yearly limits, pre-existing conditions, reasons for replacement, and deductibles that all need to be taken into account.
A dental implant is usually considered an elective procedure by insurance companies and therefore is not typically covered. However, there’s more than one component to an implant and your policy may cover a portion of the procedure, such as part of the cost of a crown. Or, if you’re really lucky, maybe all!
Can I get implants cheaper abroad?
We’ve all heard about people traveling to other countries to save money on everything from plastic surgery to joint replacements to dental procedures. We’ve heard the success stories and the horror stories. So, how do we know if it’s worth it?
The first thing to remember is this: there are great dentists in the United States, just as there are great dentists in Mexico, Thailand, and in many, many other countries. There are also not-so-good dentists all over the world as well. It is imperative that you do your research before using any dentist, anywhere.
The best place to start is with your own dentist. After an initial consultation, you’ll receive an estimate and/or a referral if he or she thinks you’d be better served by a specialist. If you are comfortable with the dentist’s or surgeon’s credentials and demeanor and if you can afford the cost, there’s no reason to look any further.
However, we all have different financial thresholds.
Especially if you are faced with multiple implants, it might be worth your while to explore other options. But, don’t go into it blindly – do your research! While the best references are personal, there are plenty of reputable online sources you can consult such as PatientsBeyondBorders.com and TreatmentAbroad.com. These sites will give you information on accreditation, facilities, cost comparisons, and offer a look at what to consider before going abroad.
Dental tourism has become so popular it even has its own moniker. And it’s very easy to be swayed by low costs combined with exotic destinations. But, one thing to consider is that getting an implant is not a one-day procedure. Before you can get the crown, your bone needs 6-12 weeks to heal. And remember, if you run into a problem down the road, it’s much easier to travel down the road than across the ocean for follow-up care!
Is there any other way to finance the cost of an implant?
Most dentists will work with you, offering a payment plan to make the cost a bit more manageable. You can also look for financing through a healthcare-related third-party company, but make sure to check with the Better Business Bureau for its reputability.
It may be worth looking into dental schools that offer low-cost implants. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research provides a list of participating schools.
I saw an ad for cheap implants! Is it for real?
We are inundated with ads – on the internet, on television, in magazines, in newspapers, and on the side of buses. They scream low-cost! One-day service! Money-back guarantee! It’s hard not to get excited over claims like these when you’re facing expensive dental work but, you know what they say: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Which is not to say you should immediately discount any of these ads you see. As I said before, you have to do your research.
What to ask your dentist before your implant
- What is included in the quoted cost?
Make sure you get a price for the complete procedure which should include the implant, abutment, and crown. Ask about the cost of an extraction and bone graft if either is needed and also if you’ll be charged for a temporary tooth.
- Why do I need a temporary tooth?
Because the bone needs time to heal after the implant is inserted, you won’t leave the office with a permanent tooth. However, if your implant is in an inconspicuous part of your mouth or if you don’t mind having a missing tooth showing, you won’t need a temporary.
- What are the options for a temporary tooth?
- Dental Flipper: this is, essentially, a partial denture. It is made of plastic and is easily removable.
- Clear Essix: this retainer fits tightly over the entire arch of your teeth and will include a tooth to cover your gap. It is nearly invisible and also removable.
- Snap-on Smile: this retainer is made out of crystallized acetyl resin. It is a full set of “teeth,” is more durable than the Essix, and may be recommended for someone with multiple implants. It is also more costly.
- Temporary Crown
Make sure you get an estimate in writing before committing to having your procedure done!
The bottom line is, a dental implant is not an inexpensive procedure. As you explore your options, perhaps the single most important thing is to find a trusted dentist who is willing to have an open dialogue with you. Ask a lot of questions to make sure you feel comfortable with what you are committing to!
Dr. Mark Burhenne
Have more questions about crowns? Let me know in the comment section below.