Your Guide to Common Dental Procedures: Part 1- Implants, Whitening, and Veneers

image of an upper dental prosthesis

It used to be that walking into the dentist meant you were getting one of only a few potential procedures. A check-up and cleaning, a cavity removal and filling, a root canal, or an extraction. The worst-case scenario might have involved multiple extractions and the creation of a bridge or dentures.

Dentistry has always been a very important field in terms of healthcare, but for centuries, it was rather limited by the technology and knowledge that practitioners had at the time.

But today’s dentists have a vastly expanded knowledge of our bodies, and how dental care fits into our overall health. Thankfully this has also led to new innovations and improved skills — both technical and artistic. These days, while you may still need to get a root canal or a bridge, there are plenty of other options as well.

This series of articles will help you understand the different types of procedures that are available in modern dentistry, explain when each is used, what is involved, and how much it will cost to have done in one of the Meza Dental offices (San Jose, Costa Rica or Cancun, Mexico).

That way, you have everything you need to make an informed decision about your dental health!

One of the most common dental procedures is a dental implant, so that is where we will start.

Procedure 1- Titanium or Zirconium Implant

When A Titanium or Zirconium Implant Is Used

In simple terms, an implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed in the jaw to replace a tooth root that has been extracted. This fools your body into maintaining the bone density in that area of your jaw. Without an implant, your body will slowly reabsorb the bone, which can weaken your jaw and allow neighboring teeth to loosen or move.

What is Involved in Getting a Titanium or Zirconium Implant

In the case of a damaged tooth, an extraction must first be performed. The natural tooth is removed, the oral surgeon makes a cut to open the gums and expose the bone, and does a bone graft if necessary (in the case of molars). Holes are then made in the bone where the dental implant will be placed. Because the titanium or zirconium pin will serve as the root of the tooth, it must be implanted deep into the bone.

At this point, you will still have a gap where the tooth used to be. A temporary and partial type of denture can be created and placed for a better appearance if you wish while the implant heals. The patient can remove this denture for cleaning and while you sleep.

If the implant is to replace a tooth that has been missing for a while, a bone graft will likely be necessary to ensure that the jaw can support the implant. 

Before the implant procedure can take place, you will need a CT scan, as well as a recent X-ray, so we can determine the health and density of the underlying bone, determine if a graft is required, and create a treatment plan.

How Long It Takes For a Titanium or Zirconium Implant

The implant procedure relies on osseointegration to provide a solid foundation for your new tooth. This is a process whereby your body’s natural healing process grows new bone that covers the metal pin, incorporating it into your jaw. This can take several months, so this is a two-part procedure. International patients should schedule a week for the first (surgical) visit, and 1-2 weeks for the final visit, depending on how many crowns need to be created. 

If you require less than four crowns, they can be made in 3-4 days, and the second visit can be completed in a week. If you require more than four, a full two weeks will be required.

If only a minor bone graft is required, then the graft may be performed at the same time as the implant surgery, allowing both to heal simultaneously. However, if a more extensive graft is required, you will need to allow the bone graft to fully heal before the implant surgery can be performed, effectively doubling the time frame.

How Much a Titanium or Zirconium Implant Costs

In the United States, the cost of a single dental implant with abutment and standard crown averages $4,500, and in Costa Rica or Mexico, it starts at around $1,300.

Procedure 2- All-on-4/6/8 (also known as All-on-X)

When All-on-X is Used

This is a procedure that allows you to have a full arch (of 10-12 teeth per arch) replaced without necessitating a separate implant for each tooth. Depending on the available bone structure and density, 4, 6, or 8 implants are placed in the upper and/or lower jaw, then a prosthesis is created for each arch that mimics your natural smile. The prosthesis attaches to the implants via tiny screws and does not need to be removed daily as you would traditional dentures.

All-on-X is a cost-effective solution for people who need to replace all of their teeth but may not have sufficient bone structure, or the budget, for multiple implants.

What is Involved in Having the All-on-X Procedure

Before an All-on-X procedure is performed, you will need to have a CT scan, and a recent X-ray, and then molds must be made of your remaining teeth to be used as a reference. Since the procedure allows us to utilize the strongest areas of the jawbone for the implants, bone grafts are not always required. 

As with individual implants, this is a two-part procedure. The surgery is done, and the implants are allowed to heal before the final prosthesis is created and attached. Patients are given temporary prostheses to use during the healing process.

Once the implants have healed sufficiently, a secondary set of scans and measurements are taken and a prosthesis is designed and created using a 3d scanner. This allows our team to try it out, see how it looks, and make any necessary adjustments before the final prosthesis is made because it is an extremely hard material and cannot be adjusted once finished. Then our artists create the perfect smile for you over the course of a few days. 

A final fitting is done and then the prosthesis is attached to the implants.

How Long It Takes For an All-on-X Procedure

After the initial surgery, the implants must be allowed to heal into the jawbone.  This can take 6-8 months. Once we are sure that the implant is fully healed and there is no longer any swelling or movement, we can take the precise measurements used to create your new smile.

International patients should schedule a week for the initial visit and a week (6-8 months later) for the final visit.

How Much it Costs for All-on-X

The cost for All-on-X depends on how many implants you need but averages out to around $25,000  per arch. In Costa Rica or Mexico, that cost drops to around $10,700.

Procedure 3- Mouthguards and Occlusal Guards/Splints

When Mouthguards and Occlusal Guards/Splints are Used

There are two common types of mouthguards. One is used to protect your teeth while playing sports, and the other is worn at night to prevent you from clenching or grinding your teeth (known as bruxism) which can damage your teeth, and lead to headaches, or jaw and neck pain.

What is Involved in Getting Mouthguards and Occlusal Guards/Splints

In both cases, a mold is made of your teeth and a plastic guard is created to fit snugly over your teeth. While sports mouthguards can be purchased over the counter, the best protection is provided by a guard that is custom-made to fit over your teeth. This is especially true if you wear braces, or have fixed dental appliances, such as a bridge or prosthesis.

An occlusal mouth guard is made of thinner, smoother plastic so that it is comfortable at night, but comes in three types; soft, dual laminate, and hard. The type you need will depend on the severity of the bruxism you display.

In some cases, the best solution is an occlusal splint, which is another term for a custom-designed mouthguard for people who grind their teeth. While the splint will not stop you from grinding your teeth, it will guide your jaw into a more natural/neutral position which then alleviates some of the pressure that grinding puts on your jaw joints.

How Long It Takes for Mouthguards and Occlusal Guards/Splints

For mouthguards that are custom-made to protect restorations, it will normally take 1 day to produce whereas occlusal guards or splints will typically take 3 days to make. 

How Much Do Mouthguards and Occlusal Guards/Splints Cost?

In the US a custom night guard will cost around $150 which is comparable to Costa Rican prices.

In the US a custom sports mouthguard will be between $75-100, also comparable to Costa Rican prices.

A top and bottom Occlusal night guard or splint is $400 in Costa Rica, compared to the US where it can go as high as $1000.

Procedure 4-Whitening

When Whitening is Used

Professional tooth whitening is a safe and effective way to remove stubborn stains and discoloration that brushing won’t touch.

What is Involved in Whitening

At Meza Dental, we prefer to use the chairside whitening method, during which your teeth are coated with a whitening solution, and then subjected to an LED light which helps the solution break down the stains.

How Long Whitening Takes

This is a quick and painless process involving a 1 hour trip to the office.

How Much Does Whitening Cost?

In the USA this procedure averages $1,500, in Costa Rica or Mexico the price is $350.

Procedure 5- Veneers

When Veneers are Used

Veneers are a common solution for people whose teeth are generally healthy, but which have cosmetic issues like crack, chips, discolored enamel, or which have a displeasing shape. While some of these problems can be solved through bonding, veneers are a practical and functional solution that many prefer.

What is Involved In Getting Veneers

Veneers are created using either a composite resin or porcelain to fit in front of your existing teeth with a minimum of modifications. If necessary, we will grind your existing teeth slightly to allow the proper shape of the restorative material. Composite veneers are made by adding the material directly to the existing teeth.

For porcelain veneers, a mold is made of your teeth. If cosmetic adjustments are to be made, scans may also be taken, so that our lab technician will use digital technology to design the perfect smile. They will then build a porcelain veneer that will fit precisely onto the front of your existing teeth. Once complete, the veneer will be attached to your teeth using a dental adhesive.

How Long Veneers Take

This process requires several visits to the office, a consultation, a visit for scans and molds, another to fit the diagnostic cast, and then 3-4 days to create up to four veneers. If you need more then the procedure will take two weeks from beginning to end. Once they are made, you will come back to the office for a fitting and bite adjustment which can take another two days. 

For international patients, the process is normally completed over one 10-14 day trip.

How Much Do Veneers Cost

In the USA this procedure averages $2,500, and in Costa Rica $600.

There Are Plenty of Reasons to Travel for Dental!

The difference in price when compared to the US is the main draw for many people who start the dental tourism journey, but it’s certainly not the only reason to come and spend time in a tropical paradise.

After all, when you can get the same procedure, with the same world-class quality, and enjoy the beauty of one of the world’s premier destinations, we feel it’s a no-brainer!

For more information about how you can start your journey to the perfect smile, head to the Meza Dental website. Or call us directly toll-free from the US and Canada at 1-(877)-337-6392.

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