Are Dental Implants for Tooth Replacement Considered Cosmetic?

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If you face tooth replacement, your oral surgeon has probably told you about the benefits of dental implants. They function just as naturally as your original teeth. They are a permanent solution to lost teeth. To the naked eye, they look every bit like your original tooth.

But are dental implants considered to be just cosmetic dentistry?

The answer is yes and no. First, you have to ask yourself if you are getting the dental implant purely for cosmetic reasons — the appearance of your teeth — or are you getting dental implants as a means of tooth replacement? Is the dental implant central to the function of your teeth — or is it really just a matter of appearance?

If the dental implant will replace a tooth you would otherwise lose, the dental implant is a functional procedure. If you are merely replacing a chipped or discolored, but otherwise healthy tooth because you want a perfect smile, then dental implant surgery a cosmetic dentistry procedure.

Why Dental Implants Might Not Be Covered by Your Insurance

Some insurance companies consider dental implants to be cosmetic regardless of function — they might not cover the procedure. Though dental implants may be central to the function of your teeth, they reason you could just as easily make do with dentures, a bridge or another less expensive tooth replacement alternative. Dental implant surgery is easily the most expensive form of tooth replacement and mouth reconstruction. But that’s because it’s also the most comprehensive and holistic form of tooth replacement. The implant itself actually replaces the tooth as well as its root, which halts any bone deterioration and movement of other teeth that occurs when a tooth socket is left empty. Dental bridges, even with implant anchors, and other options like dentures and flippers don’t replace the tooth root. They don’t actually replace the tooth the way dental implants do, even though your insurance company likely regards all of these things equally as tooth replacement.

But whether or not your dental implants are covered by your insurance company, they are worth the price. Dental implants are a permanent solution to tooth replacement that preserves the health of your mouth and jaw. They function just as naturally as your original teeth. You never have to remove them — to clean, you simply care for them like you would your regular teeth. And to the naked eye, dental implants look no different than our natural teeth.

Some Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures Are Covered By Insurance

Your dental insurance will cover cosmetic dentistry procedures if they are considered medically necessary. That determination is open to interpretation and the answer may come down to how good of an insurance package you have. Your oral surgeon can check with your insurance company to see if dental implants are covered. He or she may be able to make the case that the dental implants are medically necessary and not just being done for cosmetic reasons. Also, some oral surgery practices are breaking with the status quo and offer patients alternate routes to payment plans and costs associated with dental implant surgery, including any dental bone grafting you may need. A great oral surgeon is going to do everything in their power to get you the best care possible, so if you’re in need of tooth replacement, choose an oral surgeon who is clearly committed to patient-focused care.

Tooth Replacement Alternatives to Dental Implants

There are a number of alternatives to dental implants as solutions for tooth replacement. While dental implants are the ideal solution for mouth reconstruction, they’re not always a viable option for patients – and not just because of cost. Because dental implants interact with your jawbone, you need enough bone density for the jaw to properly integrate with the implant. So patients with extensive previous facial trauma, who have jaws compromised by cancer or radiation treatments, or patients with osteoporosis may not be able to take a dental implant even with dental bone grafting. It’s unfortunate, but there are other options.

You can get a removable partial denture, even if it’s just for one tooth or a few teeth. You could also get an all-on-4 — a more affordable option to replace several teeth located next to each other. This option involves securing a set of 4 or 5 teeth to two bridge dental implants — essentially forming a bridge. However, unlike dental implants, this is not a permanent option for tooth replacement.

If you are replacing front teeth, you have the option to do a resin-bonded bridge. This is a more fragile option that only works for the front teeth because those teeth don’t do much chewing. This option consists of two wings attached to the abutment teeth on the tooth surfaces nearest to the tongue. The wings are then attached to the replacement tooth or pontic.

Dental Implant or Not, Never Ignore Missing Teeth

Regardless of your choice for tooth replacement, the thing you definitely should not do is ignore missing teeth. Your jawbone will slowly disintegrate and your remaining teeth can shift and become loose in the gap where the tooth is missing, potentially leading to more missing teeth.

Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon. We can find you the right option for replacing missing teeth that’s right for your budget.

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