Are you considering getting dental implants to improve or restore your smile? It’s a big decision for anyone, both in terms of cost and the surgery required, so we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you make an informed decision.
Keep reading to find out the answers to the following questions:
- What is a tooth implant?
- What are the different types of dental implants?
- What does the implant procedure involve?
- What is the cost of dental implants in the US?
- Does dental insurance cover implants?
After answering these questions, we’ll explain the different kinds of implant and look at ways you can save money on them, too.
Our aim is to provide you with all the information you need to decide whether implants are the most suitable dental solution for you.
Table of contents
- 1 What are dental implants and how do they work?
- 2 Types of dental implants and tooth reconstruction
- 3 Dental implant procedure
- 4 Comparison of cost of dental implants
- 5 How much are dental implants abroad?
- 6 Are implants right for me?
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 FAQs
- 8.1 How much do tooth implants cost?
- 8.2 What are ClearChoice dental implants?
- 8.3 How long do dental implants last?
- 8.4 How much do mini dental implants cost?
- 8.5 Are dental implants safe?
- 8.6 What are same-day dental implants?
- 8.7 How do dental implants work?
- 8.8 Do dental implants hurt?
- 8.9 What are alternatives to dental implants?
What are dental implants and how do they work?
An implant is an artificial tooth root which is surgically inserted into the jawbone. It is used to hold a prosthetic tooth or series of teeth in place. In this way, implants function in a similar way to a natural tooth root.
Many people use the term ‘implant’ to mean the entire replacement tooth, but it actually only refers to the part inserted into the bone. We’ll explain all the different components in just a moment.
Implants may be used in cases where the patient has had an accident which has caused them to lose one or more of their teeth. There are also some medical conditions which result in missing teeth, such as hypodontia and cleft palate and lip. Other people choose to have implants for purely cosmetic reasons.
The result is artificial teeth which look, feel, and function just like natural teeth.
Who can have implants?
In order to be a good candidate for an implant, the patient should have strong, healthy gums and a jawbone that is capable of supporting the new root.
However, in many cases, it’s possible to carry out a bone graft to strengthen the jawbone before implants are inserted.
One alternative for patients who can’t have conventional implants is mini dental implants. These are similar in structure to their larger counterparts but have a thinner root, about the width of a toothpick. This means that less bone is needed to hold them in place.
If you have been told you can’t have implants because you have suffered jawbone loss or your bone density is too low, mini dental implants may still be an option.
An added benefit of mini dental implants is they can usually be fitted in a single visit—no need to wait three to six months for the implant to settle.
Types of dental implants and tooth reconstruction
There are two main types of dental implants.
The first is the endosteal implant. These are inserted directly into the jawbone and hold one or more artificial teeth in place via abutments. They look like small screws, either tapered or cylindrical.
The other is the subperiosteal implant. This implant has a metal base which is fitted under the gum tissue but above or on the jawbone. The artificial teeth are fitted in the same way, to supports which protrude from the gums. This type is less common but is an alternative for patients with a shallow jawbone that won’t support endosteal implants.
The following animation shows the different components of an endosteal implant being placed:
Dental implant materials
There are different materials that can be used for the part of the implant inserted into your jawbone, which functions like a tooth root.
Titanium implants are most commonly used and are considered the best dental implants by many dental surgeons. This metal is incredibly strong and is biocompatible with your jawbone, meaning there should be no reaction and the bone naturally grows around it over time. The implants are not made from pure titanium as this is too soft; instead, various alloys have been developed.
For people who don’t like the idea of having metal implanted in their bodies, various ceramics and polymers are available. By far the most common alternative to titanium is zirconia implants. Although this material contains traces of metal, it is classed as a ceramic.
So how do you decide which is best for you? Because titanium has been used in implants for much longer than zirconia, more studies have been conducted to demonstrate its safety, effectiveness and longevity. Many dentists, therefore, feel more comfortable recommending titanium.
There is also the matter of versatility. Titanium implants come in two parts: the implant and abutment. Because the abutment is fitted separately, there is some flexibility to adjust the position of the crown placed on top. Zirconia implants, on the other hand, usually don’t have a separate abutment.
Some studies suggest that zirconia, although extremely strong, is more susceptible to material flaws than titanium. Pores and micro-cracks in the material can cause the material to fracture, meaning zirconia implants have a slightly higher failure rate.
Finally, titanium implants are typically less expensive than zirconia. All of these factors point towards titanium as the best option, unless you particularly want to avoid metal or you know you are allergic to any of the metals used in titanium alloys. Still, you can discuss the options with your dentist and ask their advice if you have any concerns.
Dentures vs. dental bridges vs. implants
Remembering that an ‘implant’ is simply the artificial root inserted to hold replacement teeth in place, so we can now turn our attention to the different types of replacement tooth available.
The terminology can get a little confusing here since one word can refer to different things.
When a single tooth needs to be replaced, the implant will be fitted with an individual crown. This is different from the type of crown used to repair a broken tooth. The non-implant alternative is a bridge which affixes to the two adjacent teeth and fills the gap. The downside of a traditional bridge is it requires healthy teeth to be shaved down.
Where two or more teeth in a row are missing, an implant bridge may be used. Rather than inserting one implant for each tooth, just two implants can be used to support a row of three or four artificial teeth fused together.
Here you can see the process of how a three-tooth bridge is fitted using two implants:
If all the teeth in the jaw need to be replaced, denture implants may be the solution. These consist of a full set of plastic or porcelain teeth attached to a gum-colored acrylic base.
Whereas traditional dentures sit on the gum and are affixed with adhesive, implant-retained dentures clip onto fixed abutments and are much more sturdy. Denture implants tend to present fewer problems with eating and speech than traditional dentures. There is also no risk of them slipping out of place in the middle of a conversation or a meal.
Another benefit of implants is they can help stabilize the jaw, prevent greater bone loss, and maintain the natural shape of the jawline.
Although single-tooth implants and denture implants cost more up-front than conventional alternatives, they can be cheaper in the long run since they are designed to be much longer-lasting.
Complete dental implants
Patients who have lost all their teeth may also consider a complete set of implants. Unlike implant dentures, these are permanently fixed in place. Many people prefer the idea of having fixed teeth rather than ones they have to remove for cleaning.
It’s usually not necessary to insert an individual root for each tooth since a single implant root is strong enough to support several teeth if it’s placed well.
Solutions such as All-on-4 implants allow a full set of teeth to be placed using just four implants for the lower jaw. The upper jaw requires six since the bone density is lower. The implants are angled at 30 or 45 degrees to give them a stronger hold. This is a cheaper option than traditional implant technology which would require 8-10 implants in each jaw. Note that this type of implant is only available in titanium, since zirconia implants can’t be placed at such a sharp angle.
An added benefit of this kind of implant is the entire surgery is usually completed within a day, so you won’t need to make as many visits to the dentist. This is what gives them the nickname “teeth in a day”.
Dental implant procedure
Implant dentistry, or “implantology”, involves several stages. The work can be carried out by a dentist with adequate advanced training, a periodontist, or an oral surgeon.
Before the operation, a meticulous examination ought to be carried out. Your dentist will review the nerves, sinuses and bone structure around the area to be treated. This usually involves a panoramic x-ray of your jaw, but other scans may be required. A computed tomography (CT) scan is the most accurate type of radiography available. This will let your dental surgeon assess the current state of your jawbone and oral structure.
Your teeth and gums will be examined and any related problems will be treated before the dental implant surgery is carried out.
Patients who have low bone density or a damaged jawbone may first need a bone graft to strengthen the jaw. This involves removing bone from another part of the body and inserting it where the implant is to be placed. Bone is often taken from a different part of the jaw but may come from the shin or hip.
Having a bone graft delays the dental implants procedure considerably since it can be anywhere from three months to a year before the bone can support an implant.
Another thing that can prolong the process is extractions. If you need to have a damaged or decayed tooth removed in preparation for the implant, you’ll usually have to wait a month or two between these steps. In some cases, however, it’s possible to extract a tooth and insert the implant on the same day.
Placing the implant
The placement of implants in or on the jawbone is classed as an outpatient procedure, which means no overnight hospital stay is needed. It can take place at your dentist’s clinic, usually with a local anesthetic. Nervous patients can usually request IV sedation to make the procedure less stressful.
Your dentist will advise you on what’s best according to the number of implant teeth planned, the complexity of the operation, and your anxiety level.
The procedure itself consists of several steps. The first step is to make an incision in the gum to expose the bone. Next, a hole is drilled where the tooth implant is to be placed in the jaw. Then, the implant itself is screwed into place.
This is, understandably, a difficult procedure with little room for error. Dentists must undergo specialist training so they know exactly where and how to place the implant to make it last as long as possible. In China, where there is a shortage of qualified dentists, they’re working on robot technology that can accurately place dental implants without human involvement. The first successful placement of an implant by a robot dentist took place in 2017!
Once the implant is in place, the gum is stitched or secured over the implant to protect the area from any debris that may enter it, for example, while eating or chewing.
During the complete healing process, which can take four to six months, the implant fuses with the bone, a process called osseointegration. This is why implants use materials such as titanium which are biocompatible with our bodies.
Installing the abutment
Once osseointegration is complete, the abutment is installed. This is an extension that protrudes from the gums and connects the replacement tooth, or crown, to the implant.
The gum above the implant has to be opened up again to place this abutment. Again, this procedure is an outpatient operation that only needs a local anesthetic. Once the abutment is in place the gum is closed around it, but not covering it this time.
In some cases, it’s possible to put in both the implant and the abutment during the same surgery. No long-term negative effects have been reported from doing this, as long as the area has sufficient time to heal.
Your dentist may be able to provide you with a temporary denture or bridge to wear while the gum tissue around the abutment heals. This avoids the awkwardness of people seeing you with metal stumps poking out where your teeth should be.
Around two weeks later the gum tissue should be completely healed. This marks the end of the surgery, and it’s time to get the crowns made.
Fitting the crown
Once your mouth has recovered fully, you’ll visit the dentist again to begin the process of making your crown. After taking fresh dental impressions, your dental surgeon will shape the replacement tooth to fit your existing tooth structure.
The color of the crown will be matched to the surrounding teeth to make it look as natural as possible. This is especially important with a front tooth implant.
A lot of work goes into planning, creating and placing implants. In the following video, a dentist explains some of what goes on behind the scenes as part of the tooth implant procedure:
Once ready, the crown is attached to the abutment.
Dentures and some bridges use a clip-on abutment which allows them to be removed for cleaning. Single-tooth implants and other types of bridges are fixed in place permanently.
After each stage of the process, your body will take time to recover. It’s common to experience some discomfort during this recovery time, including:
- Swollen gums and/or face
- Bruised gums and skin
- Pain around the implant area
- Slight bleeding
Most dental surgeons now use stitches that dissolve by themselves as the wound heals. If you don’t get self-dissolving stitches, you’ll need to make another trip to have them removed.
The above symptoms should all lessen in the days following your treatment. If you notice swelling, pain or bleeding getting worse, you should contact your dentist right away. It may be that you need antibiotics or stronger painkillers.
Dentists will usually advise that you eat on the opposite side of your mouth or avoid certain hard or chewy foods for a few days after each surgery, to allow time for your implants to settle. You’ll need to visit your dentist more often than usual so he or she can check your progress.
Once the process is complete and you have recovered fully, you’ll be able to eat normally. Implant teeth are usually just as strong as natural teeth. However, it’s of utmost importance that you brush and floss every day to keep your gums, implants, and remaining natural teeth healthy. A water flosser can help you gently clean around any teeth implants you have.
Comparison of cost of dental implants
It’s difficult to accurately compare dental implants prices since there are so many variables. The price of dental implants will depend on:
- The condition of your gums and existing teeth
- Your general oral health
- The current state of your jaw bone
- Whether surgery such as a bone graft or sinus lift is needed
- How many teeth are being replaced, and how many implants are required
- Whether you need an implant on your upper or lower jaw, and at the front or back
- The type of implant and tooth replacement
- Your location
Still, we will provide some general dental implant cost information in this section so you can get an idea of what you might have to pay for teeth implants.
Note that some dentists may offer cheaper implants which are not such good quality. While they present an initial saving, they usually aren’t guaranteed for as long, so they could end up costing you more in the long run. With something as important as your teeth, the cheapest option is not always the best.
Getting a quotation for dental implants cost near you
Your dentist may be able to give you a dental implant cost estimate without a consultation, but won’t be able to provide a final price before first examining your teeth, gums, and jawbone.
Some dentists provide a single price for a complete implant, while others break it down so you can see the cost of each individual component and procedure.
When you receive a quote for dental work, be sure to check whether the following things are included or if they will be charged separately:
- Dental impressions
- CT scans
- Follow-up visits
- Every part of the implant (root, abutment, crown/bridge/denture)
- All surgical procedures
Sometimes, implant patients need preparatory surgeries such as a bone graft or sinus lift. This is usually the case if you have suffered bone loss for some reason. The cost of this work can be anywhere from $300 to $5,000 in the US, so this is something you’ll have to factor in when deciding whether you can afford implants.
Some clinics may lure you in with offers of cheap implants, but once you add on the cost of the crown, surgery, and scans, it’s not so affordable after all. Get several quotes from local dentists before you decide on one—you may be surprised by how much they vary.
What do dental implants cost for one tooth?
As a guideline, the total dental implant cost per tooth can be anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 in the US. It’s often the case that front tooth implants cost slightly more than those at the rear of the mouth. If multiple single implants are needed, the cost per tooth should reduce slightly since some costs (such as x-rays and scans) only apply once.
Mini dental implants cost as much as 60-70% cheaper than conventional implants since the materials themselves cost less and the implant procedure is more straightforward.
How much does it cost to get a full mouth?
A three or four-tooth bridge held in place by two implants can cost anywhere from $5,000.
If all teeth are missing, full dental implants cost $40,000 or more using traditional methods. As mentioned above, the overall state of your gums and jawbone will affect the cost of the procedure, as will the condition of any remaining teeth.
All-on-4 dental implants cost from around $15,000 per arch in the US but are available for much less if you’re willing to travel overseas (more on this below).
Be aware that these costs are just starting dental implants prices; the actual cost may be much higher if you need extractions and other preparatory work, and if you opt for more expensive materials.
Financing teeth implants
If you can’t afford to pay for your treatment in full up-front, there are various dental financing options available to help cover the cost of dental implants. These include dental loans, credit cards and payment plans. We cover these in detail in our dental financing guide.
Dental loans are a popular option because they allow you to borrow up to $100,000—more than enough to fund teeth implants. Ways to get make dental implants more affordable.
One of the best ways to help with the cost of dental implants is simply to shop around. As well as researching the price of dental implants near you, consider broadening your search to nearby towns and cities. It may be worth traveling an extra half an hour for treatment if it means saving hundreds of dollars.
As a general rule, dental implants costs in urban areas will be cheaper than in cities, in line with property and rental prices. Where there is competition between several dentists in one place, this should help keep dental implants prices lower.
Does dental insurance cover implants?
If you think you may need implants in the future, you should consider taking out a dental insurance plan. Some insurance policies cover 20% to 50% of the cost of replacement teeth, although it can be as little as 10% depending on your level of cover. In the US, you can find a variety of dental plans that cover implants for seniors.
However, keep in mind that most policies have an annual payout limit which is below the average cost of dental implants. There is also usually a waiting period of six months to a year before you’ll be covered for implants.
Always read the small print carefully before signing up for dental insurance for implants. Check how much you will need to pay yourself for each part of the dental implants procedure and how long you will have to wait before being allowed to claim for this type of treatment. Many providers only cover checkups and emergency treatment for an initial waiting period. There may also be restrictions on work to treat pre-existing conditions.
You can read our full article on how to save money on implants, including getting treatment at a dental school.
Need help finding dental insurance for implants or other dental needs? EasyDentalQuotes.com offers the tools and resources you need to understand how dental insurance works. They also make it easy to find plans in your area—just click the link below and type in your zip code.
Do Medicare or Medicaid cover dental implants?
You may be eligible for dental insurance for implants through state or federally-funded health coverage like Medicaid, or get help with a supplementary Medicare plan. You can read our full article on Medicaid and Medicare to find out more.
Alternatively, the best dental insurance for implants in your case may not actually be “insurance.” You may want to ask your dentist about dental discount plans or dental payment plans, as these may be cheaper than paying a high monthly premium.
How much are dental implants abroad?
With the cost of dental implants with private dentistry in the US so high, many people look further afield for affordable dental implants.
Dental implants cost much less in other countries. Patients can save as much as 70% on implants and other dental treatments by traveling abroad, a trend which has become known as ‘dental tourism’.
By traveling to Mexico or Costa Rica, for example, you may be able to get teeth implants for $1,000 or less. Several of Mexico’s border towns are accessible overland and receive hundreds of dental patients every day.
You may also turn your trip into more of a vacation by visiting a destination like Thailand or the Philippines. Or, visit one of several European countries renowned for their high-quality dental work.
Even taking into account the price of flights and accommodation, these trips can easily work out cheaper than the average cost of implants alone back home. If you need full mouth implants or have several missing teeth, the savings from getting treatment abroad will multiply.
You might worry that lower dental implants cost means lower standards, but in fact, the opposite is often true. In destinations that have become popular for dental tourism, dentists have invested heavily in modern, state-of-the-art equipment.
There is also a much stronger emphasis on good service and making the experience comfortable and enjoyable. Some clinics go as far as to provide patients with a luxury spa experience during their stay.
Find out more about your options in our full guide to dental tourism.
American patients often choose to travel to South American countries looking for a lower cost for dental implants, since these are the closest. Others hop across the Pacific to Southeast Asia. In the table below you can see approximate costs for a single dental implant in countries that are popular alternatives to the US.
|Destination||Capital city||Approx. cost of dental implant|
|Average price for an implant in the US is $4,000|
|Costa Rica||San José||$800|
|Prices don't include medical insurance, flights, or accommodation costs|
Traditional implant treatment requires several visits over a number of months. Making this many trips does cause some inconvenience with time off work, among other things. Because of this, overseas clinics commonly offer single-visit implant options such as mini dental implants and All-on-4 (also called ‘teeth in a day’).
Before committing to any dental treatment abroad you should first:
- Choose a dentist you feel comfortable communicating with
- Read online reviews of that dentist and clinic from people who have had treatment there
- Check the governing bodies for dentistry in that country
- Request and verify your chosen dentist’s qualifications and experience
- Ask how long you will need to stay for treatment and recovery, and how many trips will be required
- Understand exactly what is and isn’t covered in the price you have been quoted
- Calculate the total cost of all trips and treatment and compare this to treatment at your local dentist
- Speak to your regular dentist to get advice and find out about aftercare
Are implants right for me?
It’s understandable that you may be unsure whether implants are the best option for you, especially considering tooth implant cost. Your dentist will be able to answer a lot of your questions, but there are other ways to get information to help you decide.
If you have any friends, family or colleagues who have had implants, ask them if they have any advice or recommendations. You may be surprised to find out how many people have had the dental implants procedure.
You can also read about other people’s experiences (both with a particular dentist and with implants in general) by checking dental implant reviews online.
Don’t be shy about questioning potential dentists, you’re spending a lot of money with them, after all! In particular, ask to see some pictures of dental implants before and after treatment from previous clients, so you can judge how natural they look.
Additionally, check out the before and after pictures of dental implants in this short video:
You’ll probably feel more comfortable choosing a dentist who has extensive experience with implant dentistry, although this may come at a premium.
Advantages of implants
We can sum up the advantages of tooth implants as follows:
- Permanent, long-lasting solution to tooth loss
- Stable and durable
- Can’t be misplaced since they aren’t removable
- No issues with speech
- Allow normal eating
- Look and feel like natural teeth
- No adhesives or special cleaning required
- Don’t affect adjacent healthy teeth
- Success rate of 90-95%
Potential dental implants problems
There are some drawbacks to having implants, of course. It’s important to be aware of these before deciding to go ahead with any surgery:
- Some people may not feel comfortable with the invasive surgery involved
- Pain and swelling are expected after surgery
- There is a slight risk of infection following surgery
- It’s possible for implants to damage nerves and sinuses
- Patients who don’t maintain good oral health may experience complications
- Although a long-term solution, they may need to be replaced after a decade or so.
The only other thing that may be holding you back is the average cost of dental implants. Although a high initial investment, implants can prove less expensive in the long run than alternatives such as dentures and bridges. This is because implants are designed to be long-lasting and are less likely to get damaged or become uncomfortable.
Below is a table which sums up much of the information in this article so you can easily compare implants with other options you may be considering.
|Treatment||Implants||Bridges (fixed to adjacent teeth)||Traditional dentures||None (don't replace missing teeth)|
|Cost||High—the most expensive tooth replacement option||Cheaper solution to fill a single or double tooth gap||Cheaper solution to replace a full arch of teeth||Free|
|Longevity||Designed to be long-lasting (at least 10 years); possible to last a lifetime if maintained well||5–15 years, possibly longer||5–10 years, possibly longer||-|
|Comfort||Like natural teeth||Not noticeable if fitted properly||Become less comfortable as the mouth naturally changes shape; require adhesive to stay in place||Eating may be uncomfortable; risk of gum disease|
|Procedure||Jawbone surgery, multiple visits over several months (for conventional implants)||Requires removal of enamel on adjacent teeth||Any existing teeth must be removed||None|
|Appearance||Like natural teeth||Like natural teeth||May look artificial||Gap in teeth, obvious if at the front|
|Risks||Can become infected; small chance of rejection or complications||Bone and adjacent teeth may deteriorate over time||Can be lost; cause mouth sores if ill-fitting; may slip while being worn||Jawbone and surrounding teeth at risk of deterioration; may cause problems eating or speaking|
You may also find it helpful to read our guide about options for missing teeth.
There’s no denying that the average cost of dental implants in the US, and even in ‘cheaper’ overseas destinations, is significant. The question you have to ask yourself is, “How much are teeth implants worth to me?”
Having a confident smile can make a big difference to people in their careers, their love lives, and their social lives. You might view implants as an investment in your well-being for many years to come.
Before committing to any surgery, be sure to shop around to find a competitive price in your area, and check to see if there are dental savings plans available to you. Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist plenty of questions so you understand the ins and outs of the dental implants procedure.
How much do tooth implants cost?
The average cost of dental implants for a single tooth in the US is anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000. A full set of dental implants can cost $40,000 and All-on-4 implants cost $15,000 on average. For this reason, many people choose to seek dental implant treatment abroad.
What are ClearChoice dental implants?
ClearChoice is an implant center that provides a team of specialists to help facilitate your implant procedure. They use titanium implants and advertise comfort and convenience. It’s most likely that ClearChoice dental implants cost the same as other implants, but it’s not clear whether you pay more for having all of your services under one roof. You can read all about these implants by reading our ClearChoice article.
How long do dental implants last?
Your dental implants should last at least 10 years, and depending on the quality, can last much longer than that. In order to make your implants last for as long as you need them, make sure to engage in good oral hygiene.
How much do mini dental implants cost?
Since mini dental implants are smaller than traditional implants, they cost less. The average price for a mini implant is between $500 and $1,500. You can ask your dentist if you are a good candidate for this option.
Are dental implants safe?
Dental implants are widely accepted, including by the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, as a safe and effective dental restoration treatment. Possible complications may result from not enough bone structure, poor placement or bad oral hygiene. To ensure the safest procedure possible, make sure your dentist has specialized implant training and plenty of experience.
What are same-day dental implants?
Same-day or one-day dental implants are referred to by dentists as immediate load implants. This means that a temporary crown is attached to the implant right after implant insertion. They are functional and esthetic, as you can eat and brush with your same-day implant. To be a candidate for immediate load implants, your dentist will want to make sure that you have strong bones and a healthy mouth.
How do dental implants work?
Dental implants involve a screw being inserted into your jaw that fuses with your natural bone. An abutment is then connected to the screw, and holds the crown in place. The crown is normally made from ceramic and looks like a natural tooth. Implants are meant to be a permanent solution for missing teeth.
Do dental implants hurt?
When you get your implants, you’ll be anesthetized so you won’t feel any pain while the implant procedure is happening. Afterward, however, you’ll likely feel some discomfort, and your mouth will probably be sore at the site of the implant. But, once your implant has healed, you won’t feel a thing!
What are alternatives to dental implants?
Alternatives to dental implants include dentures, (false teeth) and bridges.