The Dental Implant Procedure Process: From Start to Finish
Dental implant surgery isn’t a one-off procedure. There are multiple stages, most of which require healing before the next step. This means that the entire process can take anywhere from five months to a little over a year.
The best way to learn what to expect from your dental implant procedure is to consult with your dentist. However, generally speaking, here's what's entailed.
1. Schedule a Consultation with Your Dentist
Once you've decided on dental implants to replace your missing or damaged tooth (or teeth), you'll have an initial consultation with your dentist, prosthodontist, or oral surgeon. The first thing you’ll discuss is what type of dental implants you need. Choices include:
Endosteal implants: These implants are directly implanted into your jawbone. After the tissue around the implants has healed, you’ll need to schedule subsequent visits to connect a post to the implant, before finally attaching the artificial tooth to the post.
Subperiosteal implants: These implants are metal posts which are fitted onto your jawbone. During the healing process, the frame will fuse with the jawbone, after which artificial teeth will be attached to the posts.
The dentist will also take X-rays (or perhaps even use 3D imaging of your mouth and teeth), and create an impression to use in the placement of the implant. Additionally, they will determine if your jaw bone is strong enough to withstand the implant. If not, bone grafting options will be discussed.
2. Have the Damaged Tooth Removed
If you are a replacing a tooth that's cracked or damaged beyond repair, you'll need to have that tooth pulled. This is a procedure in itself and will at least require a local anesthetic and some time to heal.
3. Bone Grafting for Dental Implants
If your existing jaw bone is not strong enough or lacks the amount of bone needed to hold an implant, your dentist will take a tiny bit of bone from elsewhere and add it to your jaw in preparation for the implant. Sometimes synthetic bone-grafting material can be used instead. Once the bone graft is in place, it will take four months to a year to heal and be ready to accommodate the implant. And in some cases, if you need only minor bone grafting, the procedure can be done at the same time as the implant surgery.
4. Dental Implant Placement
Once you have healed from any necessary tooth removal and bone grafting, your dentist will put the implant in place by cutting into the gum and then drilling into your jaw bone. This titanium rod serves as the tooth root and is implanted beneath the gum line. (You won’t be able to feel it while it is healing.) Generally, it will take four to seven months for the implant to properly fuse (a process known as osseointegration) with the jawbone.
5. Healing Cap Placement
When the implant is securely fused with the jawbone, your dentist will place a healing cap at the end of the implant — flush with your gum. This acts as sort of a metal collar, guiding the gum tissue to heal around the cap in preparation for the attachment of the abutment and crown. This process typically takes 10 to 14 days to heal.
6. Abutment and Temporary Crown Placement
After the tissue around the cap heals, it is removed and replaced by the dental implant abutment. The abutment is screwed onto the implant and then a temporary crown is placed on top of it. This temporary crown will stay in place for about four to six weeks, allowing the gums to heal properly.
7. Permanent Crown Placement
While you're wearing the temporary crown, the permanent crown will be made. It may take two to three weeks to make a permanent crown. The crown can be either cemented or screwed to the abutment.
Crowns held in place by cement may look better because there is no screw hole in the crown to be seen. However, crowns held in place by a screw are easier for your dentist to remove if he or she needs to reach the implant or the tissue surrounding the implant.
While the entire dental implant procedure takes time, each of the steps is manageable. Generally speaking, only local anesthetic is necessary. After the procedure, it’s possible that you’ll experience some swelling and soreness around the jaw, but most likely, little discomfort.
Of course, each patient's circumstances are different, and each dentist's treatment style may vary slightly. Regardless, the more you know about what to expect, the easier it will be to plan for the procedure and have the most successful experience — with the fewest surprises.
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