Dental implants can be used to replace missing teeth. The implant is added to the jawbone and substitutes for the roots of the missing tooth. The implant procedure can be done by a dentist, periodontist, prosthodontist, or oral surgeon. It takes several appointments and is done over a period of 3-6 months.
Reasons for Procedure
You may have missing teeth due to injury, disease, or decay . Implants can be used to prevent problems associated with missing teeth, such as:
- Difficulty chewing
- Problems with appearance, especially if your face appears sunken due to missing teeth
- Problems with remaining teeth—teeth may become tipped or crowded
Dental implants may also be used to replace dentures or help retain existing dentures.
Potential problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your dentist will review potential problems, like:
- Infection at the implant site
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia—light-headedness, low blood pressure, and wheezing
- Injury or damage to nearby teeth
- Nerve damage
- Sinus problems if implants were placed in the upper jaw
- Implant is rejected by your body
Talk to your dentist about these risks before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Implants require several surgical procedures. Before getting implants, you will need to have a thorough dental exam, including:
- Having dental x-rays done
- Having models of your mouth made
You and your dentist will make a treatment plan. Before treatment begins:
- Talk to your dentist if you take any medicines, herbs, or supplements.
You may need to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood-thinning drugs
- Anti-platelet drugs
- Tell your dentist if you have any heart conditions or joint replacements. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection.
During the procedure, you may have local anesthesia, which only numbs a small area in your mouth. Or, you may have general anesthesia so you do not feel any pain during the procedure. Talk to your dentist to decide which option is best for you.
Description of Procedure
At your first visit, an implant will be placed. The dentist will cut open the gum to expose your jaw bone. A hole will be drilled and the implant will be placed. The implant is made of titanium or another material. It is implanted deep into the jaw bone. The dentist will close your gum over the implant. You will need to wait 3-6 months for the implant to fuse with your jaw bone.
At the next visit, your dentist will uncover the implant and insert an extension, called a post or abutment. The post will stick out past your gums. This is done so that there is something on which to attach the crown. For some types of implants, the implant and post will be inserted during the same visit. Your dentist will also make a mold of your upper and lower jaw. The mold will be used to create the crown in a dental lab. You may have a temporary crown placed over the post until it is time for the permanent crown to be attached.
The crown will be attached at a third visit after your gums have healed around the abutment post—usually 2-3 weeks.
How Long Will It Take?
The three visits will take place over 3-6 months. Each visit will take 30-60 minutes. However, the visit to place the implant may take a couple of hours.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You might have some pain while your gums heal around the implant. Your dentist may prescribe medicine for the pain.
You will be able to leave right after the procedure if you had local anesthesia. If you had general anesthesia, you will need someone to drive you home.
When you return home, take these steps:
- You will need to eat soft foods for a few days after the implant is placed. Your dentist will tell you which foods are safe to eat.
- You will need to have regular follow-up visits to monitor your implant, teeth, and gums to make sure they are healthy.
- Avoid habits that can damage your teeth, such as chewing ice, biting your fingernails, and grinding your teeth.
- Practice good oral hygiene habits. Brush your teeth twice each day and floss once each day. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups.
- Be sure to follow your dentist's instructions.
Call Your Dentist
It is normal to have some swelling or discomfort right after the procedure. Call your dentist if the pain worsens.
If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.