• Dental Implants – What to Know Before You Go

    For patients who have lost one or more permanent teeth, dental implants can be a great alternative to fixed bridges or removable dentures. Implants are the most resilient replacement option, and it is nearly impossible to distinguish implants apart from natural teeth. Implants function like natural teeth, thus eliminating the disadvantages that accompany bridges or dentures. However, getting a dental implant is a surgical procedure, so patients should be properly informed before going in for surgical treatments.

    How is the Dental Implant ‘Fixed’ in Position?

    An oral and maxillofacial surgeon places the dental implant into the jaw. This artificial tooth is made of titanium, is about the size of a natural tooth root, and is gently seated into the jaw. The implant integrates into the bone and serves as the root of the new tooth. Dental implants need to be replaced, but in general are highly predictable and durable when placed properly

    Steps in Implant Treatment

    Getting a dental implant requires proper diagnosis and treatment planning. The first step in the process is a complete dental exam that may include dental X-Rays of a patient’s mouth. The surgeon may also make study models to facilitate accurate implant placement. The total number of implants necessary is determined along with an analysis of the health of the jawbone. This is important because stable bone structure is necessary to enable the integration of the implant into the bone. For patients with inadequate bone structure, bone grafting may be necessary.

    The process starts once the surgeon determines that the bone is optimal for implant placement. Implant surgery is an outpatient surgical procedure that is carried out in stages that vary in duration. The following are the typical steps of the dental implant procedure:

    • The damaged tooth is removed
    • The jawbone is readied (bone grafting done, if necessary) for implant placement
    • If necessary, the jawbone is allowed to heal
    • The implant is placed into the jawbone, sometimes at the same time as tooth removal
    • The surgeon advises a healing period of a few months
    • Post-healing, the abutment (a secondary device fixed to the implant that supports the dental crown) and final crown (the artificial tooth) are placed in position

    What to Expect During the Procedure?

    Some patients see swelling in the facial areas and gums after the initial procedures. Minor bleeding and soreness at the site of the surgery are also common at each stage of the procedure. Pain medication helps patients alleviate discomfort.

    Until the implant is in place, patients have a space where the missing tooth was. The surgeon may place a temporary denture to fill the space until the permanent implant is in place in order to make the space less noticeable. Generally, this denture can be removed at night or for cleaning.

    Stitches may be required at different stages of the procedure, and patients should consult the surgeon about proper care of the stitches.

    For a few days after each treatment stage, patients may need to restrict their diets to soft foods. This allows the surgical site to heal without being disturbed. A gradual increase in the texture of the diet will accompany surgical site healing.

    Patients should expect to have some form of anesthesia during the implant procedure. Local anesthesia, IV sedation or general anesthesia is fairly common depending on the preference of the patient as well as the surgeon’s assessment of the individual situation.