Experts estimate that 178 million people are missing at least one tooth in the United States today. In addition to serving as an eyesore, these missing teeth could also lead to serious dental problems like bone loss. Fortunately, if you are missing a tooth there are options available when it comes to replacement. Dental implants are popular among today's dentists, and these prosthetic devices can be a great way to replace a missing tooth.

Here are three things you need to know if you are considering dental implants in the future.

1. Dental implants are better than bridges when it comes to replacing teeth.

Dental bridges, the other popular options for replacing missing teeth, come with some limitations. Since the bridge must be anchored to the tooth on each side of the gap left behind by a missing tooth, bridges can lead to increased decay.

The two anchor teeth must be filed down in order to prepare them to receive crowns as part of the bridge installation process. This filing leaves the teeth in a weakened state, and they are more susceptible to breakage and decay. By option to invest in a dental implant instead, you save the teeth surrounding your gap from excessive filing.

2. Timing matters when it comes to receiving a dental implant.

The installation of a dental implant happens in two stages. First, your dentist will install a post directly into your jawbone. This post serves as an anchor for the crown, which is generally installed after your gums have time to heal from the placement of your post. Because dental implants happen in two stages, you can save some money by timing your appointments correctly.

If you have a pretax flexible spending account through your employer, plan your first appointment near the end of the year. This will allow you to charge the post against one year's balance, and the crown against a second year to prevent overspending.

3. If you need a discount, visit a dental school.

Aspiring dentists hone their skills by practicing on real patients. Every procedure is supervised by an experienced instructor. Since dental students are not yet licensed, the fees they charge for their services are much less than those of practicing dentists.

If you want to save a bit of money on the cost of your dental implant, consider taking advantage of the services provided by a dental school in your area. Your procedure might take more time to complete, but the cost benefits make the extra time investment worthwhile.

Making the decision to replace your missing tooth with a dental implant can be difficult, but taking the time to realize the benefits these implants provide will help make the decision a bit easier for you in the future. Talk to places like Oral Surgery Center for more information.