When you’re considering a procedure like dental implants most dentists are going to write about the wonderful advantages. And yes, there are a lot of advantages to dental implants, but equally important to understand are the cons.

You probably have read about the advantages of dental implants in my The Most Comprehensive Guide to Dental Implants, but you may also wonder, what is the downside of dental implants?

As you know, I’m not one to leave you wondering what could be, so I will tell it to you straight. I decided to dedicate an entire article about what can go wrong with dental implants and how to avoid complications. In this article, we’ll discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly about dental implants so you can make an informed decision if dental implants are for you.

The Downside of Dental Implants Isn’t the Full Story

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We’re going to get to the downside of dental implants, but before that we need to set some things straight. When it comes to dental implants, setting expectations matters. Dental implants by themselves are a great procedure. However, if the patient is prepared what they need to be on-board with to achieve success, that’s when there can be issues.

Here’s what I mean, it’s all about setting the stage. If the patient is not an ideal candidate for dental implants, the risks should be discussed ahead of time. Why does it matter? Because there are things you can do to make yourself a better candidate. For example, lifestyle changes like smoking cessation, or adjusting nutrition to improve diabetes. We’ll discuss more on these topics later.

A patient also has to be on board for the ride.  There is somewhat of a commitment required for dental implants. Compared to most alternatives, a dental implant generally takes much longer to complete. There’s no doubt about that. To give you an idea, a dental implant takes about 4 to 10 months to complete. But along with that negative tradeoff comes advantages. A dental implant has the ability to restore a tooth (or even multiple teeth) to near perfect prior function. No other option at this time allows for that. That’s a significant amount of upside compared to the alternatives.

The downsides of dental implants come down to expectations. The downsides aren’t that bad if you are expecting them and navigating them properly. Theres a few, and we’ll talk about them all, but they all seem easier when they don’t catch you by surprise. By setting proper expectations and committing to them upfront, much of the downside of dental implants can be avoided.

And without further ado, let’s look at my top 7 responses of things to know when considering what is the downside of dental implants.

The Top 7 Disadvantages of Dental Implants

Not for Everyone is a Great Candidate.

When it comes down to determining if you are a good candidate for dental implants, implant dentists consider three main things: What is the condition of the bone, are there any underlying health conditions, and how good is the patient’s lifestyle and hygiene habits.

Let’s explore each a little bit more.Some people cannot have dental implants because the bone is too thin to hold them. Yes, bone grafting can be done to make most people a better candidate for dental implants, but the success rate may not be favorable in all circumstances.

Underlying medication conditions that affect how dental implants heal are uncontrolled diabetes, severe autoimmune disease, and severe osteoporosis treated with bisphosphonates. Most medical conditions including these ones can be managed and coordinated to make the patient an acceptable candidate, but the point is for ideal success there needs to be coordination of dental health with overall health.

Patient lifestyle is perhaps the hardest to change. Habits like smoking, alcohol use, and poor oral hygiene have a grave effect on the success rate of a healing dental implant. These habits although seemingly easy to change, are easier said than done. I always recommend the patient to speak opening and candidly of what they think they can reasonably achieve before having a dental implant procedure done. With an understanding of the environment the dental implants will be exposed to, the implant dentist will be able to properly guide the patient to a treatment plan that is best for them.

Cost of Dental Implants

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Let’s get right to this one. Most patients wonder, how much do dental implants cost. In fact, I wrote an entire article about it. Here’s the thing: Dental implants are an investment. Just like other investments, a new home, a college education, starbucks coffee, good things nowadays are not cheap.

Most patients consider the cost of dental implants as being a barrier to treatment. The thing you need to remember is that dental implants are an investment that restores comfort, confidence, and natural feel. There is value to that compared to the alternatives. You must also consider that the longterm costs over a lifetime for a dental implant may be less than some of the alternatives.

Your Regular Dentist May Not Do Implant Surgery

I know right, as if one doctor isn’t enough, just what you want, more doctors. The reality is I’m a bit of the exception to the rule. My training blends surgery, restorative, and anesthesiology specialties into one implant dentist. That’s not the norm. Most dental implants in USA are done by a team of doctors. One doctor is trained specifically in dental surgery, and another is trained in restoring teeth with prosthetics like crowns. The upside is that the field is highly specialized with the upmost focus, however the downside is coordinating care at separate offices and building rapport with an additional dental implant specialist.

Dental Implants Take Time To Heal

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Let’s face it, most people would rather have a quick fix than a procedure that takes a few steps, but is that really what we want? A common disadvantage for dental implants is that they take time. As your parents tell you, good things really do take time. Yes there are concepts like same day dental implants, but most dental implants require at least some time and steps to complete at the highest standard. The majority of implants take three to six months to complete.  This is because dental implants require steps for the bone to integrate before moving on to the next step, and you just can’t rush that. A regular dental bridge can be made in days or weeks, however, it requires a higher level of hygiene commitment to clean under the bridge long term. There are tradeoffs of commitment to each.

Insurance Coverage isn’t 100%

Let’s talk dental insurance for a little bit. When it comes to dental insurance, each plan can vary widely. Most dental insurances cover a portion of the fee for a dental implant and the crown restoration on top of the implant. When I say a portion, I mean, most commonly about 50%. Whether or not you consider this an advantage or a disadvantage, is a bit of the glass is half full versus the glass is half empty situation.

Now how about medical insurance. Does medical insurance cover dental implants? The answer is it depends on why the implant is being recommended. A dental implant must have a medical reason to be covered by medical insurance. There are some medical reasons for a dental implant, but more often than not a dental implant is for a dental condition.

So what’s a medical reason? If the implant was needed because of trauama from an accident or was from a congenital condition, then medical insurance may cover your dental implant. If your dental implant is needed because of tooth decay that caused an extraction, that’s a dental condition, and medical won’t cover any of it.  

Dental Implants are a Surgical Procedure

Because dental implants are a minor surgery, there is some recovery to expect and some aftercare to keep the area clean. Now its probably not as bad as you might expect. The procedure can vary from 20 minutes to 60 minutes, and you will be comfortable the entire time. For recovery, you can plan for about 3 to 5 days of mild to moderate pain and swelling, and then some tenderness in the area for about 2 weeks. You will need to be careful when chewing near the area and you will need to be conscious about keeping the area clean while it heals. The majority of the healing is completed the first three to five days. Not so bad for a surgical procedure.

There are Some Potential Complications

Although rare, dental implants have some complications. Lets talk about the two most common ones. Dental implants can become infected. What that means is that bacteria can inflame the gum and bone around the implant and cause bone loss. Sometimes this happens during healing and sometimes years after the implant is completed. The second complication that can happen is the patient’s body rejects the implant. In other words, the implant doesn’t integrate.

The good news is that dental implant complications can usually be addressed and corrected. Often times the dental implant specialist can treat the condition to set the implant back on the right track. In some instances, the implant may need to be removed and a new one placed in it’s location.

With all that said, the best method for avoiding complications is preventing them by following good hygiene and following the doctors post op instructions. With good planning and patient cooperation, the average success rate of dental implants is more than 97% success.

How you Really Should Think of the Downside of Dental Implants

If you’re not considering dental implants after reading this, here’s why you should. Dental implants are the closest thing we have to replacing a missing tooth with a natural tooth.

And its not just about the tooth. By placing a dental implant, you are reaping the benefits of preserving youthful bone and gum levels. Have you ever seen a person who has been missing teeth for many years? Their mouth begins to sag inward. This is because without teeth, the bone slowly widdles away. A dental implant is a placeholder in the bone. It keeps the bone level stable and stops the clock of bone loss.

When reading the disadvantages of dental implants it can be discouraging, but there are pros and cons to all procedures. The beauty is that you are more prepared to avoid complications by understanding them. Although I’ve laid out all the downsides of implants here, the reality is dental implants are life restoring and have a success rate in the high 90 percentile.

If you’re a suitable candidate for implants, dental implants are often the best option to replace one or more missing teeth. Use this article to move forward with knowledge of making the proper decision for you. For most patients, dental implants are a great option to look, feel, and smile to your fullest.