What to Expect when Getting Dental Implants
If you’re considering getting dental implants, you may be wondering exactly what the treatment involves. You could also be anxious about whether the surgical procedure is painful and be unsure about measures you should take during recovery. You might even be pondering whether implants are the best tooth replacement solution in your specific case.
Getting dental implants is by no means a simple procedure but knowing what to expect can make all the difference by easing any concerns you have. Here, we’ll look at the main steps of getting dental implants.
Stage #1 – X-rays or 3D Scan
Firstly, X-rays or 3D CT (computed tomography) scans are needed to assess the condition of your gums and bone. A CT scan can reveal details about bone quality and quantity that cannot be seen in traditional X-rays. This enables the most effective placement of implants.
Stage #2 – Taking Impressions
Your dentist will then take an impression of your mouth to replicate your teeth, gums and surrounding tissues. You bite down on a metal or plastic impression tray and the liquid it contains will solidify into a rubbery substance. The impression is then sent to a lab for processing.
Taking an impression doesn’t take long but it can be unpleasant if you have a pronounced gag reflex. Share any concerns with your dentist, who will be able to advise you on techniques to avoid panic.
Stage #3 – The Implant Goes In
The implant procedure itself will take one to two hours. It begins with an injection into the gum to numb the area. If the implant site still has a tooth, it can be extracted at the same time as the implant insertion.
To place an implant – a small post typically made of titanium – your dentist will first drill a hole into your jaw bone. This will feel similar to having a filling. In some cases, an incision in the gum is needed to expose the bone. This will require stitches. Your dentist will then insert the implant into your jaw bone to act as an artificial root for your tooth replacement. A bone graft may be necessary in cases of insufficient quality bone.
As your jaw heals, the implant will fuse with the bone. This can take several weeks or even months and differs for each patient. When your dentist decides the implant is sufficiently stable, you will be ready to have an abutment fitted on top of it to act as a connector to the crown.
Stage #4 – Placing the Abutment
An abutment – made of titanium, gold or porcelain – is attached to the implant with a screw, which is tightened with a dental torque wrench to ensure it stays in place. Local anesthesia means you will just feel a slight pressure. The abutment is shaped like a natural tooth that has been prepared to receive a crown.
In some cases, a dentist can place the implant, abutment and a temporary bridge or crown during a single appointment.
Stage #5 – Fitting the Crown
It will take a few weeks for your gums to heal after the abutment has been attached. Then, your tooth crown – crafted in a dental lab from the impressions that were taken of your mouth – will be secured to the abutment. Now, you will have a fully-functional permanent replacement tooth (or teeth).
Is Dental Implant Treatment Painful?
You shouldn’t experience any pain when getting a dental implant, although you may feel the drill vibration and a little pressure. When the local anesthetic wears off – usually in a few hours – you may experience some discomfort but you should be able to go about your daily routine without a problem. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help.
Most dental procedures are painless. It’s usually a fear of the unknown that leads to anxiety. Being properly informed, having an implant dentist you trust, and knowing what to expect, can allay your fears.
An experienced implant specialist will tell you exactly what to expect when getting dental implants and what you should do during the recovery process.
Recovering after Dental Implant Treatment
The time it takes to fully recover from dental implant surgery varies depending on the treatment plan. Your dentist will tell you what to do during this time. This advice is likely to include:
- Eating soft foods for the first week or longer.
- Taking prescribed antibiotics and using an antiseptic mouthwash to lessen the risk of infection.
- Seeing your dentist regularly so they can monitor your recovery progress.
Once a patient has made a full recovery, implants and replacement teeth should work the same as natural teeth. However, like natural teeth, implants can accumulate plaque and tartar, so it's important to maintain proper oral hygiene and get regular professional cleanings.
Are Dental Implants Right for Me?
Now you know what to expect when getting dental implants, you may still be wondering whether this treatment is right for you.
Implants are regarded as the most innovative tooth replacement system and are unique in stimulating the growth of bone. Whether you’ve lost one or more teeth, implants can transform your life in terms of both functionality and aesthetics.
Besides restoring your smile, implants have major health benefits compared with other tooth replacement methods and can overcome many problems in the aftermath of tooth loss. One of the main advantages is that implants help to prevent weakening of facial structure by preserving bone. Implants also have a far greater biting force than dentures.
The WebMD health information provider says anyone healthy enough for a routine tooth extraction is a potential candidate for a dental implant.
According to the AAID (American Academy of Implant Dentistry), implants can benefit anyone in good health with a fully-developed jaw. The AAID reports that more than 35 million people in the U.S. have lost all their upper or lower teeth, or both, and the number of patients getting dental implants is rising fast.