Getting dental implants is more than just sticking some fake teeth in your mouth like you would a mouthguard. No, this is equivalent to any other type of minor surgery.
If you’re not familiar with the dental world (which most people aren’t), you may not completely understand what a dental implant procedure is.
Basically, the point of dental implant surgery is to replace missing or damaged teeth and roots with artificial teeth and roots. Implants can be more comfortable alternative to the traditional full-mouth dentures.
Who Are Good Candidates For Dental Implant Surgery?
The best type of candidate for an implant surgery is someone who has the following attributes:
- Missing one or more teeth
- Damaged tooth
- Good oral hygiene
- Sufficient bone in the jaw to support implants
- Overall decent physical health
These are things you can discuss with your dentist to see if implant surgery is the right option for you.
What You Can Expect
This isn’t a surgery where you go into the operating room with missing teeth and come out with new pearly whites. This the type of surgery that requires outpatient care and is performed in several stages.
If the damaged or injured tooth is still in your mouth, the dentist will have to remove it. This will require anesthesia and is essentially its own procedure.
Next, you may need a bone graft, meaning the surgeon removes a small amount of bone from elsewhere in your body (typically from your chin or hip) and surgically embeds it into your jawbone. This is only necessary if your jaw does not have sufficient bone to support implants.
After your jawbone takes time to heal (if you’ve had a bone graft), the dentist will place the metal dental implant in your jaw. It’s actually screwed into the bone to provide the most possible strength. Then after this, you will go through another healing phase — called osseointegration — that could last several months
After you’ve fully healed, the surgeon will attach the abutment to the implant. Then after the soft tissue heals from that, the dentist will make a mold of your teeth and jawbone. At a later time, they will finally place the artificial tooth (i.e. the dental crown) on top of the abutment.
This whole process can take several months, most of it due to the mouth needing time to heal.
Dental Implant Procedure Stages And Timeline
But exactly how long does a dental implant procedure take in all its stages? Let’s break it down step-by-step.
The very first thing you will need to do is meet with your dental implant dentist for an initial consultation. During this appointment, they will do a comprehensive dental exam, take an X-ray of your mouth, and then take impressions of your teeth.
After this, your dentist will talk with you about the recommended treatment plan, going over the steps of the procedure, the timeframe for everything, and what to do during recovery. You may also discuss whether or not you need a bone graft.
During this consultation, you’ll schedule the first stage of the procedure.
Bone Grafting And Teeth Removal
If you’ve had a bone graft, it can take 4-12 months before your jaw is ready for the first implant. This time allows your bone to heal properly.
Next, you’ll be ready for getting the implant, which is the metal screw that goes into your bone and acts as the anchor for the whole prosthesis. This procedure can take 1-2 hours and you’ll be asleep the whole time thanks to anesthesia.
After you’ve had the implant placed in your jawbone, the healing process can take up to five months for the lower jaw and up to seven months for the upper jaw. After getting the implant for your mouth to be healed and ready for the next stage.
Placing The Healing Collar And/Or Temporary Crown
After the implants have fused with your jawbone, you’re ready for the next stage, which is getting a healing collar and possibly a temporary crown.
The dentist will place the healing collar (also called a healing cap) on the head of the implant — this helps guide the gum tissue in the proper way to heal. It’s a round piece of metal that keeps the gums away from the implant. This collar will stay on for 10-14 days.
After this time, in which your tissue should have healed, the dentist will remove it and move onto the next step.
Placing The Abutment
Next comes the abutment, which is the part that screws into the implant and will support the crown. Once the abutment is placed, your dentist will take another impression of the abutment for each replacement tooth.
Then you’ll get a temporary crown while your tissues continue to heal and form around the artificial tooth as with your natural teeth. You will wear the temporary crown for four to six weeks. During this time, your the permanent crown will be made.
Placing The Permanent Crown
Now for the final stage of the procedures — placing the crown. Crowns, which are the tooth-looking part, can either be screwed into the abutment or cemented in place. The latter option typically looks better and more natural as there is no screw hole, which can be visible at certain angles.
As far as crowns go, there are two main types you and your dentist can choose.
Removable artificial teeth are white with pink plastic material to simulate a natural tooth and the surround gum tissue. It’s typically mounted on a metal frame, which snaps into the abutment. This means you can remove it for daily cleaning.
With a fixed crown, the artificial tooth either screws into the abutment or is cemented on, and this is permanent. You will not be able to remove a fixed crown for cleaning. Most of the time, this type of crown is much stronger and stable than a removable crown.
Dental Implant Post-Op Instructions
No matter what type of prosthesis you choose or how many stages your dentist takes to place the implant, you will probably experience swelling, pain, minimal bleeding, and possibly some bruising. If any of these concern you or seem to be lasting longer than normal, contact your dentist to schedule a checkup.
Basically, you should care for your implant the same way you would care for your natural teeth. You should be brushing 2-3 times a day, flossing daily, and rinsing with non-alcoholic mouthwash. Also, it’s important to have a regular checkup with your dentist every six months.
The dentist may take more X-rays during your follow-up visits. They will be looking at how the implant, abutment, and crown are fitting together and if there are any issues with their alignment.
If you’re getting a replacement tooth on the lower jaw, there is a chance a nerve that runs under the lower jaw can be injured during the drilling or placement of the implant. It may cause numbness or tingling, however this may just be temporary until the nerve heals. But there is the chance that the nerve won’t heal.
If getting implants in the upper jaw, there’s a chance that the drilling may break through to the sinuses above the upper teeth, which may lead to an infection. To keep this from happening, the dentist will take X-rays before the surgery to so they know where any nearby nerves or sinuses are located.
How Will The Implant Perform?
Single-tooth implants typically look very realistic, though it may not look exactly like your natural teeth. It’s possible it will be angled or colored slightly differently than your other teeth.
However, you expect your implant to last as long as 25 years.
Can You Drink Alcohol After Dental Implant Surgery?
This is a question that dental implant patients often ask. It’s obvious that smoking is not good for your implant (or your oral hygiene in general), but drinking alcohol is not as obvious.
For the same reason you should avoid mouthwash with alcohol in it, you should avoid any type of alcoholic beverage. The alcohol can restrict blood flow, which is not good for healing, and it can even increase your chance of infection.
You may want to check with your doctor on the specific instructions, but typically, dentist allow their implant patients to drink alcohol no sooner than 72 hours after the final stage.
If your dentist decides you’re a good candidate for dental implants, you should plan for the process to take several months. Although it’s inconvenient, remember that these implants will last years and years.
You can bring back your confidence and your beautiful smile.