“How much is a dental implant?” This is a common question from patients, and unfortunately it is not always so easy to answer. The purpose of this article is to outline the factors that affect the cost of dental implant therapy and offer recommendations to help patients understand their dental care.
One misconception in implant dentistry is terminology. If you are missing a tooth, and your dentist recommends a dental implant, it is important to understand that there are actually 3 parts required to replace a single missing tooth:
- The Dental Implant – this is a titanium screw that is placed in your jawbone during a minor surgical procedure, and is what serves as an anchor for the future tooth.
- The Abutment – once the implant has healed, this is a highly specialized and precisely manufactured component that fits into the dental implant and connects the implant to your future tooth.
- The Crown – this is the artificial tooth that is made from ceramic and/or metal, and sits on top of the abutment.
Each of these procedures has a cost associated with it. Additionally, there are several other procedures that may need to be done in certain cases. If you are not yet missing a tooth, but instead, you have a tooth that is planned for extraction, there is a cost associated with extracting the tooth. Further, dental implants need to be placed entirely in bone and surrounded by an adequate volume of soft tissue to ensure an esthetically pleasing and lasting outcome. If you do not have enough bone or soft tissue, a bone graft or a gum graft may be recommended. There are several different ways to graft bone or soft tissue, and thus a variety of costs associated with each. Finally, this calculation gets more complex still when we discuss the need to replace multiple teeth, not just one.
Dental implants may be the most ideal treatment option for your particular case, but the number of procedures, and therefore the cost, required to obtain a successful outcome may be prohibitive. The difficulty of a case therefore plays a huge role in determining cost. But wait, there is more. Not every dentist views a clinical situation the same way. Some cases may be harder for one practitioner than another, which may result in a cost difference. In complex cases, a general dentist may decide to refer their patient to one or more dental specialists (prosthodontist, oral surgeon, periodontist, etc.) who have specialized training in implant therapy, but who sometimes have different fees than the general dentist. Finally, there are literally hundreds of dental implant companies, and some are better than others. Using higher quality components generally increases the cost of implant therapy.
If this sounds confusing, it certainly can be, and we have not yet discussed the role of dental insurance in dental implant therapy. Unfortunately, many dental insurance plans do not cover implants, and of the ones that do, they usually only cover 50% of the cost. This assumes that your yearly maximum has not been used up for other work. Today, dental implants are still largely an out-of-pocket expense.
Given this fact, it may be tempting to shop around for the best deal; however, this can lead patients into trouble. In dentistry, it is still true that you get what you pay for, and high quality dental care can be expensive. On the other hand, it is also true that the most expensive care may not necessarily be the best. A practitioner may inflate prices to cover for high overhead costs (marketing, decorating, etc).
So where does this leave us?
First, the cost to replace a single tooth, that is already missing, has adequate bone volume, with good quality implant parts should be between $3200-$4500. Hopefully, the discussion above will help highlight what factors may alter this range.
Second, high quality healthcare is about trust, whether it is dentistry or cardiology. It is important that you trust your healthcare provider’s diagnostic ability, knowledge base, skill, and ethics. If something doesn’t feel right, it may be reasonable to get a second opinion.
Third, there are alternatives to dental implants. If the cost is prohibitive, your dentist should discuss other options. There may be less expensive or a better treatment choice.
Forth and finally, if you would like to learn more about dental implants, please feel free to contact us to schedule a consult appointment with Dr. Bryan Limmer.