Dental implants are well-tolerated, and periodontology (the study of dental implants) has advanced greatly in recent decades. However, the process of getting a dental implant takes time. The process of getting a dental implant involves several stages, and because it is a lengthy process, patients must comply with their dentist’s instructions to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Having an idea of what to expect in advance can help prepare you for this process, which takes as long as 6 months. Although, the end result is worth the time investment. Once you decide to proceed with dental implants, a series of appointments will be made to remove any damaged tooth or teeth, prepare the jawbone for surgery, place the implant and abutment, and finally, replace the crown.
In general, you can expect the following 7 stages for the placement of a dental implant:
- Consultation: During your initial consultation, your dentist will explain your tooth replacement options for a missing or damaged tooth. Dental implants are often recommended over other tooth replacement options, such as dentures, because they are more comfortable when it comes to chewing, speaking, and oral hygiene. Dental implants are also preferred by most dentists over dentures because the screw continues to stimulate the jaw, which helps prevent bone loss in the area.
- Extraction of the damaged tooth (if necessary): If you have a damaged tooth, your dentist will need to remove it to make space in the jaw for the implant. This can be performed with local anesthesia, and you will be sent home with a prescription for painkillers and an antibiotic to prevent infection. Most patients find they need to stay home to recover for 1 or 2 days.
- Jawbone preparation with bone grafting: Often on the same day as your extraction, your dentist will place a bone graft in the space left by the missing tooth root, so he or she can later surgically embed the implant into your jaw. The jawbone must be strong to place an implant, and it ensures the surgery is successful. That's because chewing exerts powerful pressure on the jawbone. The bone graft is a synthetic material used as a bone-substitute. Once you've gotten a bone graft, it takes about 3 months to heal and become strong enough to support the future implant.
- Dental implant surgery: Placement of the dental implant (a titanium screw) is done by cutting open the gum, after numbing, and exposing the bone beneath. A hole is drilled into the bone where the metal post will be placed. This post serves as the replacement tooth root. Once the implant is successfully placed during the surgery, you will still have a gap where the tooth is missing because a crown will be placed later, after you heal from this part of the process.
- Bone growth and healing: Once the implant post has been placed in the jawbone, you must wait for osseointegration to begin. This is the process in which the jawbone grows into and unites with the implant’s surface. This process can take several months, and it cannot be rushed. The new bone growth provides a solid base for where the crown will be placed. If you are uncomfortable with having an open space in your mouth while you wait for osseointegration, a temporary partial denture can be made during the healing process.
- Abutment placement: Once osseointegration is done, you will need additional surgery to place what is called an abutment. This piece is where the crown will attach to the implant screw beneath the gumline. It is a minor procedure performed with local anesthesia. Your dentist will reopen the gum to expose the dental implant and attach the abutment to the dental implant before the gum tissue is closed around (not over) the abutment. The gums must heal for about 2 weeks before your tooth’s crown can be placed. Once your gums are healed, you’ll need to have impressions made of your mouth and the remaining teeth in order to make your crown.
- Crown placement: This is the final stage in getting a dental implant. The crown will be color-matched to the rest of your teeth, and it looks, feels, and acts just like a natural tooth. The crown is permanently screwed into the individual implant abutment. If you have multiple missing teeth you are replacing, sometimes one implant is all that is needed if the crowns are bridged together.
What Can I Expect After My Dental Implant Process Is Complete?
Once your crown is placed, you should continue to see your dentist regularly for checkups and to ensure your dental implant is functioning properly. Fortunately, 97% of dental implants are successful, particularly if your dentist is well-trained and you adhere to their instructions, such as not smoking and practicing excellent oral hygiene. Once you have the crown, you should be “in the clear” and able to eat and speak normally, and you likely won’t even be able to tell your implant is not a natural tooth.
For more information, check out our blog from last week: Are Dental Implants Safe?
Ready to discuss dental implants with one of our dentists? Contact us Austell Dental Associates today by dialing (770) 467-3888 or request an appointment online.