Maybe you’ve decided that getting bridges or dentures is not really the option for you. Dental implants are a great alternative to remedy the problem of missing teeth. It lasts a long time and is more stable than dentures or a dental bridge, almost functioning like a real tooth. If you’ve decided to undergo dental implant surgery, here’s what you need to know about the procedure.
Before any work is done, your dentist will take an x-ray of your mouth in order to assess your bite, the location of the missing teeth, and the location of where the implant will be placed in the jawbone. Your dentist may also make models of your teeth to better prepare for the surgery.
To ensure the most comfortable, pain-free procedure possible, you will receive either local anesthesia or oral sedation. You can discuss which you’re most comfortable using with your dentist.
If it’s determined that the jaw bone will need additional space to support the implant, a bone graft will be performed. This is not necessary for all patients. The procedure involves adding graft material to the location of the implant. Usually, this can be done in the same appointment as the implant surgery, but your dentist may recommend letting the graft heal before moving on to the next step.
Once the area is ready to receive the implant, your dentist will cut the gum to gain access to the bone. (You’ll be under sedation or anesthesia, so you won’t feel anything at this point.) The dental implant will be placed into the jaw through a hole that is drilled through the bone. Then the incision is closed. You will have to wait several months for the implant to fuse to the bone through a process called osseointegration. This process ensures that the implant is stable and can serve as a solid foundation for the crown. In the meantime, your dentist can place a temporary crown or denture.
When you next return to the dentist, the implant should be fully integrated into the jaw bone and ready to hold a permanent crown. An abutment connects the prosthetic tooth to the implant. Sometimes, a healing cap will need to be placed before the abutment to promote gum healing, extending the process by a couple weeks, but every patient is different.
After surgery, you may experience minor pain and bleeding, though these should not last long. Bruising and swelling of the face are rare. You will need to follow a soft-food diet for two to three weeks and may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, or pain relievers as they are needed.
Caring for implants is the same as for natural teeth: brush twice daily, floss regularly, visit the dentist every six months. You should also be careful to avoid eating hard candy, chewing ice, using tobacco, and consuming teeth-staining foods and drinks such as coffee and red wine.
With proper care, your implants should last for at least ten years, up to the rest of your life.