What are all-on-four dental implants?

Remember the days when having dentures involved the use of dental adhesives, overnight soaking of the teeth in a jar, and horror stories about bites of food gone terribly wrong?

Thanks to the advent of dental implants, those days are rapidly disappearing. An implant takes the form of a small titanium screw that is placed in the jawbone. A prosthetic tooth is attached to the screw, and it is left there permanently, functioning as a regular tooth root.

Although the advent of single tooth implants has revolutionized the world of dental rehabilitation, it is not the most cost-effective method of replacing an entire mouth full of teeth. With one screw per tooth, the procedure is lengthy and expensive, not to mention uncomfortable.

That is where all-on-four dental implants come in. Instead of a screw for each tooth, the dentist strategically places at least four screws in the upper jaw and at least four in the lower jaw. A row, or arch, of prosthetic teeth, can then be attached to these screws.


Am I a good candidate for all-on-four dental implants?

If you have lost one or two teeth, single implants are still your best option. The all-on-four dental implants might be the ideal solution for you if you have lost all or most of your teeth, generally as a result of extensive dental decay, gum disease or severe wear and trauma.

In some cases, this procedure might be an appropriate measure if several teeth have been lost in the same part of the jaw. This can happen, for instance, if the jaw experienced an impact during an accident.

all on four procedure

How does the procedure work?

All dental implant procedures, whether a single tooth or all-on-four dental implants, should start with thorough planning and preparation. Well before your implant placement appointment has been scheduled, you should have had a comprehensive dental exam, complete with imaging and moulds of your jaw. Your dentist should be aware of your medical history, and any questions you have should have been answered to your satisfaction.

Approximately 3 short visits a week apart will allow your doctor to plan and design an arch of teeth that will be connected to the dental implants on the day of your procedure. This set will act as the “Test Drive” implant connected smile.

On the day of your procedure, you will receive local or general anesthesia, or dental sedation – whichever option you and your dentist have agreed upon. It is important that you follow the pre-procedure instructions if you were given any. Failing to do so can render your chosen sedation method unsafe or ineffective.

Once your anesthesia or sedation has taken effect, your dentist will make sure your jaw is ready to receive the implants. Any teeth that need to be taken out will be extracted, and your gums will be thoroughly cleaned to ensure that there is no infected tissue.

Now you will be ready for your all-on-four dental implants. The titanium screws will be placed in your jaw in such a way that the pressure of the prosthetic teeth is balanced along your jawline. In most cases, two or three screws are placed near the back of your mouth and two or three near the front, but the precise placement will be determined by your preliminary imaging and moulds.

Finally, the incision sites will be cleaned and sutured, and you will be provided with a comfortable space in which to take your time to wake up from the sedation or anesthesia.

The dentist or denture specialist will then spend time adjusting and connecting your new smile to the implants which have just been placed.

How long does it take to recover?

The overall recovery time for all-on-four dental implants is about seven days. During this time, it is important for you to follow the care instructions given to you by your dentist. You will be advised how to keep your mouth clean to avoid infection, how often to change your gauze, and what foods to eat. Generally, it is advisable to avoid strenuous exercise for a few days and to limit your diet to soft foods.

Remember that you are not only recovering from the implant procedure itself. You are also recovering from the anesthesia. You may feel tired or light-headed for a few days.

If you experience excessive bleeding, severe headaches or any other troubling symptoms, get in touch with your dentist or doctor immediately.

The “test drive” smile will be in place for 3-6 months and follow up appointments will be used to confirm that the all-on-four dental implants are healing well with the bone and to evaluate the patient’s response to esthetics of the teeth and the support of the lips and cheeks, functional abilities and phonetics (how they are pronouncing different sounds).

Then a final arch of teeth with more precise specifications and connections to the implants will be produced to ensure all desires and improvements on the test drive denture are met.  The test drive denture will be kept as a long term back up if the final set ever needs repairs or maintenance. This way throughout the process, beginning to end, the patient will never have to be without a set of teeth.

How much do all-on-four dental implants cost?

The depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • How many prosthetic teeth you need
  • What material the prosthetic teeth will be made of, the most common choices being acrylic and porcelain
  • Whether you are also undergoing other dental procedures, and what level of sedation is requested

It is important for you to find out the details of your dental insurance plan. When you receive your quote from the dentist, send it to your insurance company. That way, you will avoid any nasty surprises.

dental implant cost

Final Thoughts

Many people fear rehabilitative dental procedures such as all-on-four dental implants. With a well-qualified dentist and a trusted person to drive you home afterwards, you can have a brand new set of teeth in just one day. After a brief period of recovery, you will have a beautiful healthy smile to show off, and you can enjoy improvements in the quality of your life.