Dental implants can repair missing teeth, but they come with big costs.
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If your teeth are missing or damaged, implants are considered as close as you can get to a natural tooth. But they come at a cost when compared with traditional dentures and bridges.
Here's the lowdown on this dental procedure, including how it's covered by insurance.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is a strong, durable replacement tooth and root system that is implanted permanently into the jaw. It looks, acts and feels like a natural tooth.
It consists of three major parts:
- A titanium implant. This is a screw-like device that is drilled into the jawbone and will eventually fuse with the bone creating strong foundational support for the new tooth.
- Small metal post. When the implant has healed and fused to the bone, a small metal post is inserted into the implant so that it is partially inside and partially outside of the gum line.
- The artificial tooth crown. This is the actual "tooth" that is placed onto the outer part of the metal post.
The entire process requires multiple visits over the course of several months since the initial implant needs time to heal and merge with the jawbone before the crown can be placed on top.
What types of dental implants are there?
There are two main types of dental implants in Australia:
- Single implant. This is a single tooth replacement consisting of a single root, post and crown.
- All-on-4 implant. This is when four implants are used to replace an entire row of teeth. The implants will be spaced apart, then 10-14 artificial crowns are joined together with four crowns attaching to the implant, and the rest attached to each other. This is sometimes called an implant-supported bridge.
Why would you need dental implants?
Almost anyone who has one or more missing teeth is a candidate for an implant, as long as the following are true:
- You have healthy gums. Your dentist or surgeon will be able to assess your gums to determine if they are suitable for an implant.
- Your facial structure is fully developed. A male's facial structure is usually developed by age 18, and a female's at 16.
So whether you're a senior who has lost a few teeth to old age or you're a 20-something who took an elbow to the chin in a pick-up game of footy, a dental implant could be a great option to fix your smile.
How much do they cost?
Although the cost of implants has decreased over the years due to advances in technology, prices can still be quite dear. Here is what you can expect to pay for an implant in Australia:
- Single implant. A single implant can cost anywhere from $3,000-$7,000. It could go even higher if more complicated procedures are required, such as a bone graft or sinus lift.
- All-on-4. An all-on-4 implant can cost anywhere from $15,000-$30,000.
Despite the high cost, implants can be worth it in the long run. They are generally more durable and longer-lasting than dentures or bridges.
Does Medicare cover implants?
Medicare largely does not cover dental work, and that includes implants. There are two major exceptions:
- Your oral health is impacting your overall health. In this case, you would need a referral from your GP under a GP Management Plan and Team Care Arrangement.
- You’re a concession card holder. Certain concession card holders are eligible for state-based dental vouchers that may be applied toward medically-necessary dental implants.
How does health insurance cover dental implants?
Finding cover for dental implants is not the easiest thing you can do, but it is possible. Here are two ways you can find cover for implants:
- Hospital cover: Some policies will cover dental implants as part of their hospital cover, but this would require that you are admitted to a hospital as an inpatient. Most implants are done in an outpatient setting, so in order to be covered on a policy like this, you would have to have special anesthetic needs or extensive bone grafting.
- Extras cover: Implants are categorised into an area of major dentistry called periodontics, having to do with the gums. If your policy covers periodontics and doesn't specifically exclude implants, you may be covered. You'll have to check with your insurer to be certain, and be ready to pay out-of-pocket because your benefit almost certainly won't cover the whole amount. If you can get a quote that lists your treatment item numbers - that will really help you work out final costs with your health fund.
Compare some major dental options
We looked at health funds from Finder partners to compare major dental options. All have a 12 month wait period and quotes are based on a single living in Sydney.
Simply complete the form, hit Search Policies and use the refine search button in the top right-hand corner to sort by major dental.
Picture:Unsplash - Peter Kasprzyk
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