It happens more often than you would think: People lose teeth. Whether it is from an accident, decay, infection, or other reason, people often face a daunting decision about what to do. Dental implants are becoming increasingly popular for replacing (or as an alternative to) dentures, bridges, or crowns. First, it is helpful to understand dental implants and the procedure.
The process of getting dental implants has a few basic phases:
- First, you prepare for surgery.
- Next, your specialist does surgery to place the implant into your jawbone.
- After surgery, you may need time to recover.
- Finally, your doctor connects your artificial teeth.
The steps in each phase may vary based on the type of implant you get and other procedures you may have.
Here’s what you can expect:
Before You Get Dental Implants
The first thing you’ll do if you’re interested in getting implants is have a consultation with your doctor. They’ll ask about your medical history and give you an exam. They may take X-rays or 3D images. Then they’ll go over your treatment plan.
If you have a damaged tooth, your doctor will remove it before you get implants. This is a basic, common procedure. It may take a few weeks to heal before you’re ready for surgery. Your doctor will give you instructions to prevent problems like infection.
Having Dental Implant Surgery
Once you’ve healed, you’ll be ready to have dental implant surgery. It’s usually an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day.
Your oral surgeon will place your dental implant in your jawbone where your tooth is missing.
First, your doctor will make a cut in your gums to get to your jawbone. Next, they’ll drill a hole and fill it with a titanium implant where the root would be.
You probably won’t feel much pain. You may have some swelling, bruising, or minor bleeding. You can usually manage the discomfort with over-the-counter drugs.
Right after surgery, you may need to rest, and it’s best to avoid driving right away. But you may be able to go back to work the day after surgery.
With most types of implants, you need time to heal after surgery before you can have your replacement teeth put in.
After surgery, your implant and your jawbone start growing, or fusing, together. This is called osseointegration. When they combine, they form a strong foundation for your new teeth. This process may take a few months.
When your jaw and your implant are bonded together, your doctor will place an abutment, or small connector, on your implant. The abutment is the base for a new replacement tooth. It goes slightly above your gum line and attaches to the metal post of your implant.
It’s usually done at your doctor’s office. You may need local anesthesia.
Depending on the type of implant you have, your doctor may put in your abutments at the same time as your implants. This may leave your abutments visible above your gum line as you heal.
Getting Your Replacement Teeth
When your gums heal, your doctor will take impressions of your mouth and teeth. They’ll use these to create artificial teeth.
If you have a single dental implant, your doctor will make a dental crown. For multiple teeth, they may create custom-made implant-supported bridges or dentures. Your new replacement teeth will be based on the size, shape, color, and fit of your natural teeth.
Finally, your doctor will attach your new replacement teeth or crowns to your abutments.
Then, you can treat them like natural teeth. You can use the same routine care, including brushing and flossing and having regular checkups and cleanings.
Your doctor will want to see you for follow-up visits to see how your implants are doing.
You may have some discomfort at any time during the dental implant process.
Side effects may include:
- Swelling of your gums
- Swelling of your face
- Slight bruising
- Pain at the implant site
- Minor bleeding
How Long It Takes to Get Dental Implants
The amount of time it takes to get implants depends on many factors, like your personal needs, your medical history, your dental history, the condition of your jawbone, the implant technique, and the implant materials. Everyone’s different. The process can be as short as a few months for simple cases but sometimes can take over a year. Your doctor can tell you what to expect.