As is the case with most goods and services, you often get what you pay for. Dental implants are the best solution for replacing missing teeth, but they’re not a cheap fix. As such, in the recent decade or so, unscrupulous marketers have started advertising dental implants for $399, a price that is too good to be true.
To fully understand how the “$399 dental implants” scam works, you ought to first understand what materials are used for dental implants as well as the basic procedure.
Dental implants are made of three parts:
- Implant posts. A dental implant is a small metal post that’s placed into small holes drilled into the exposed jawbone. Dental implants are typically made of bio-friendly medical grade titanium.
- Abutments: An abutment is a metal connector that fits onto the dental implant and serves as the connector between the implant post and the crown.
- Crowns. The only visible part of a dental implant, the implant crown is an artificial tooth. This can be made of ceramic, porcelain, or zirconia. Zirconia is the best material as it is a durable material that won’t crack, erode, or stain. High-quality zirconia crowns and bridges can last a lifetime.
Dental implants ought to be placed by a trained professional (typically an oral surgeon), using the above materials. The procedure should ideally be performed under IV sedation so it can be painless for the patient and allow the surgeon to work more efficiently. When done properly, dental implants deliver artificial teeth that completely restore the look and functionality of natural teeth and can last a lifetime.
What Are $399 Dental Implants (Allegedly)
$399 dental implant advertisements are exactly what they appear to be—too good to be true. A typical single dental implant will cost between $3,000 – $6,000 (see our cost and pricing page for information about dental implant pricing), and the “$399” price tag typically refers only to the cost of the implant posts themselves—#1 above.
The national average cost of a regular dental implant carried out by an ethical and properly trained doctor runs around $3,000 to $6,000 per tooth. The average national breakdown are as follows:
- Digital X-Rays $100-350
- Tooth Extraction $250-650
- IV sedation $350-1,250
- Dental implant post $1,500-2,500
- Abutment and Crown $1,500-2250
- Bone grafting (if needed) $450-1,250
Please note that these prices are national average and do not reflect our fees here at America’s First Dental Implant Centers. We provide all-inclusive upfront pricing. Our all-in pricing for single dental implants is typically 20-40% cheaper than that of competitors; our 4-on-1 full arch dental implants are backed by our lowest price guarantee.
Where Does the $399 Number Come From?
As mentioned, the “$399” number comes from the cost of one single dental implant post, typically made of poor-quality material. Naturally, an implant post by itself does not replace a missing tooth and is only one component of dental implants.
When it comes to dental implants, bargain-basement prices deliver poor quality implants and the potential for significant harm to your oral health. To be able to make a profit when charging only $399 for a dental implant, a dentist will use the cheapest materials to make the implant. These cheap materials are low-quality and will fail overtime, with some failing immediately
A dentist working for one of these deceptive offices will typically not have the proper equipment or the necessary education and training to correctly place a dental implant. A lack of the correct experience and training will greatly increase the chances of post-operative infection and dental implant failure with the potential for consequence of bone damage and defects after healing. Consider that to make a profit, dentists offering this “low price” have to perform many procedures in bulk, with little time to customize the procedure to the specific patient or provide a high-level customer service that patients deserve.
Note also that when you go to a dentist or any dental professional who is not an oral surgeon, you’ll experience significant pain during the procedure since you won’t be under IV sedation anesthesia. Regular dentists and periodontists are not trained or permitted to provide IV sedation and will resort to using Novocain local anesthetic injections, which will have to be given numerous times during the surgery. The patient will be awake during the procedure and multiple injections increase a patient’s discomfort, mental and physical stress, and anxiety.
Only an oral surgeon can use IV sedation, which ensures a pain-free and stress-free experience.
$399 pays for the cost of one dental implant post. That’s all it covers. You’ll need all of the following services, and each service will have its own charge.
Here’s what the $399 number does not cover:
- The pre-procedure consultation
- X-rays or other imagery like CT scans
- The surgical procedure to place the implant
- The abutment
- The implant crown
- Any potentially necessary bone grafts
All of these components of dental implants are necessary, but the $399 price doesn’t cover any of them. Furthermore, to “make up” for the low cost of the dental implant post, some providers raise the cost of other components of the dental implant procedure (e.g., overcharge for the crown, recommending bone-grafting when it’s not needed, etc.). And so not only is the advertising defective and misleading to the customer, the overall cost of a “$399” provider may very well be higher than most other providers, clinics, and offices.
No, cheap dental implants are cheap because they use substandard implant materials that will fail, leading to expensive surgical repairs. High-quality dental implants are placed once and then last a lifetime. Furthermore, the implant may be cheap, but the other necessary procedures will most likely have an inflated higher fee to make up for the cheaper implant fee.
Cheap Implants Can Make Matters Worse
Cheap dental implants are invariably made from the lowest-cost materials, which have an increased rate of failure. A cheap implant post may not fuse properly with your jawbones, which will result in loose implants that will need to be removed and replaced. This ultimately could result in damage to your gums and jawbones making corrective procedures very difficult or impossible.
Furthermore, cheap products installed by under-trained dentists may lead to other complications, including poorly placed and incorrectly angled implant posts. When posts aren’t correctly aligned, dental implant crowns will strike other teeth, requiring more visits to correct them. As well, dental implant crowns made from cheap low-quality materials can crack very easily and require replacement.
Another complication of the $399 dental implant swindle is that the whole procedure is not carried out by the same dentist who charges $399. That price only gets one implant placed. After a healing period of about 6 months, a client will often be referred to another dentist who will complete the process using cheap materials and subpar skills. The dentist who completes the procedure can charge anything they want and is not obligated to honor the prices of the original dentist.
In return, the dentist who charged you $399 for a single dental implant post may receive a kickback for referring you to the dentist’s office that finishes up the dental implant process. This is the whole point of $399 dental implants—the dentist’s office that charges $399 acts as a funnel for the network of dentists who finish up the dental implant process. Therefore, the consumer needs to be very careful to obtain all necessary information before starting treatment to understand what the total fee is to get the implant, abutment, and crown, and any other add on fees such as x rays, consults, follow up appointments, etc.
The $399 advertised cost is a lure to bring in lots of clients, who are then funneled to other dentists, allowing them to make money by performing many dental implant procedures in bulk. To keep making money at the cost of the clients, at each step of the process these dentists use poor quality materials and slip-shod techniques.
By involving more providers, these unscrupulous dentists can easily overcharge clients at each step of the process or deny responsibility if something were to go wrong.
Cheap dental implants don’t use the best high-quality materials or bad design, which leads to an increased risk of a type of gum infection called peri-implantitis. Peri-implantitis is a serious condition that can lead to implant failure. It’s caused by an infection of the gums around a dental implant. This infection can spread to the bone tissue of the jaw causing an implant to become loose or even fall out due to bone loss and lack of support. This can lead to damage to the jawbone, requiring corrective procedures later; once there is jawbone damage, it makes placing an implant in the future much more difficult.
The bad news does not stop there. Because peri-implantitis is an infectious disease, it can spread from the site of the failed dental implant to gums and bone tissue surrounding other teeth, causing tooth loss. A single “cheap” implant can actually cause you to lose teeth.
Although peri-implantitis is reversible and can be treated, treating peri-implantitis will be far more expensive than the cost of a substandard implant. It will also be inconvenient, time-consuming, and uncomfortable.
Dentists who perform these cheap implant surgeries often lack sufficient education and training in carrying out dental implant procedures and can place the implant post incorrectly. An incorrectly located cheap dental implant can cause nerve damage to surrounding teeth, impair blood flow, and even damage the nerves of the jawbone.
An incorrectly installed implant can also impair a person’s jaw alignment, leading to the implant striking other teeth during chewing or even affecting the temporomandibular jaw joint.
The first step in affording quality dental implants is shop for the best all-inclusive prices at reputable, high-quality dental implant centers. After choosing a dental implant center, check with your dental insurance provider to find out if you have dental insurance. In most circumstances by far, insurance companies treat dental implants as “cosmetic dentistry,” although there are a few very specific instances where this may not be the case, such as tooth loss from:
- An injury or accident
- Illnesses, diseases, or other medical conditions
- Treatments for medical conditions
If you have good credit, you may be able to take out a loan from your bank or credit union. You may also be able to take a loan from a retirement fund. At America’s First Dental Implant Centers, we work with financing partners so that even if your credit is poor, you may be able to get a dental loan that you can pay off over time
Credit cards can also be a good funding source for dental implants. Some credit cards offer 12 to 18-month interest-free periods for balances paid in full during the introductory period.
Dental loans typically come with payment plans.
If a dental implant is cheap enough to seem too good to be true, it probably is. The national average all-inclusive price for a single dental implant roughly $3,000-$6,000 per tooth.
The national average cost for a single dental implant ranges from $3,500 to $6,000. An 4-on-1 full arch single arch restoration uses 4 dental implants to hold an entire upper or lower arch of teeth and has a national average cost of $25,000 to $40,000.
At America’s First Dental Implants, 4-on-1 Full Arch dental implants cost $14,950 per arch. Our $14,950 price is all-inclusive and covers all consultations, imaging, extractions, placement of implants, temporary teeth, permanent teeth, and follow-up appointments. This is backed by our Lowest Price Guarantee and Lifetime Warranty. This does not apply to bone grafting, which is needed by a small proportion of patients who have severe bone loss in their jawbone.