Dental implants have long been considered one of the most successful treatment options for replacing missing teeth. The dental implant procedure replaces missing tooth roots with metal inserts, and replaces missing teeth with artificially constructed teeth that look just like real ones.
How long will the dental implant procedure take?
The entire dental implant process may take months – although most of that time is devoted to healing and waiting for the implant to fuse to your jawbone. The actual dental implant surgeries themselves won’t take very long. You’ll need to make quite a few visits to the dentist throughout the process, however.
Before the procedure
Before the dental implant procedure actually begins, there will be a number of steps you’ll have to follow.
To begin the procedure, you’ll need to:
- Undergo a comprehensive dental exam
- Have x-rays and/or 3D images taken of your teeth and jaw
- Review your medical history, and tell your dentist about any medical conditions you have or medications you are taking
- Along with your dentist, create a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual situation
Right before the procedure, you may have to undertake some or all of the following steps:
- Rise with anti-bacterial mouthwash
- Take prescribed antibiotics as a preventative measure if you have certain heart conditions or orthopaedic implants
- Eat a good breakfast on the day of the procedure, as eating may be a little difficult afterwards
- However, if you’re having the procedure done under IV sedation, don’t eat anything
- Organise someone to take you to and from the dentist
During the procedure
The actual procedure for getting the dental implant inserted is as follows:
The first phase of surgery
The implant procedure involves two separate surgeries. The first one will place the implant in your gum, which will then take between three to nine months to fuse to your jawbone.
- First, you’ll be given a local anaesthetic to thoroughly numb your mouth
- An incision is cut into your gum at the implant site, to expose the bone underneath
- A space for the metal implant is drilled into the bone
- The metal implant is then screwed into place in the jawbone
- After the implant is in place, a second component is screwed into the implant itself, and will remain there while the healing process takes place
- The gums are closed over the implant and stitched if necessary
You may experience some localised pain and swelling in your gums and soft tissues after the surgery. This is entirely normal and can be easily dealt with using over-the-counter pain medications. You should be able to carry out your normal routine the following day without too many problems.
Waiting for bone growth
Once the metal implant post has been surgically inserted into your jawbone, the osseointegration process begins. This basically means that your jawbone grows around the dental implant and unites with it. It’s a lengthy process, usually taking months to fully complete. Once this process has taken place, the metal implant can function just like a normal tooth root and provide a solid base of support for your new artificial tooth.
The second phase of surgery
The second surgical procedure will fit a permanent restoration (such as a crown or bridge) on top of your implant.
- The implant is re-exposed through another small incision in your gums.
- A small extension is then placed on top of the implant, allowing for an impression to be taken. The dental lab will use this component to fit your new restoration – usually a crown.
- Impressions of your teeth will be taken to create precise models of your mouth. This enables the dental lab to create your crown based on these models.
- Some dentists may want to do a ‘test-run’ of the crown with a temporary restoration, before placing the permanent restoration in your mouth.
- Once you’re happy with the shape and fit, the new crown is firmly placed onto the implant.
After the procedure
Once the procedure is finalised, you should be able to treat your dental implant just like a natural tooth. Being made of strong and durable materials, your dental implant will function just like a normal tooth.
You’ll need to be diligent in giving your teeth (including the implant) thorough care and maintenance, however. This means you can’t skimp on good dental health practices such as regular flossing, twice-daily brushing and mouthwash. You’ll also need to schedule regular check-ups with your dentist, to help maintain the integrity of the implant.
This will ensure that any issues are identified early and fixed before they become a serious problem. These practices will ensure that you’re looking after your investment and making sure it lasts as long as possible. With good oral hygiene, dental implants can last a lifetime.
You shouldn’t experience any side effects apart from a little swelling and bruising, which shouldn’t last long. Dental implants are made from chemically inert materials (such as titanium and ceramic) which won’t react with the surrounding bone or tissue.
And you should be able to eat normally fairly soon after the procedure too – just wait a few days to let your mouth adjust. It’s safe to eat literally any type of food with a dental implant. They can deal with any food your regular teeth can.