Dental implants function as miniature threaded posts to replace missing teeth roots. While most implants are constructed from titanium, there are also ceramic options available. Both materials are deemed safe and biocompatible, ensuring harmony with the tissues inside your mouth.
An oral surgeon inserts the dental implant into your jaw through a surgical procedure. After the implant has healed, your dentist can affix a crown on top. Depending on your oral health objectives, your dentist has the flexibility to restore your implants with crowns, bridges, or dentures.
Reasons for undergoing the procedure
Individuals experiencing one or more missing teeth can find advantages in dental implants. The need for a dental implant may arise in cases of tooth loss attributed to various factors, including:
- Gum disease.
- Tooth root fracture.
- Congenitally missing teeth (being born without certain teeth).
- Facial injury.
- Cavities (tooth decay).
- Bruxism (clenching or grinding of teeth).
Similar to any surgical procedure, the placement of dental implants comes with potential complications. These may include:
- Sinus damage.
- Nerve damage.
- Improper implant placement.
- Rare allergic reactions to titanium.
When performed by a skilled and experienced surgeon, the likelihood of complications is minimal. If you are considering dental implants, it is crucial to choose a trustworthy provider.
Before the procedure
Preparation for a dental implant procedure involves several important steps:
- Medication and supplement list:
- Provide your dentist with an up-to-date list of medications and supplements you are currently taking.
- Inform your dentist if you are using blood thinners (anticoagulants). Your dentist, in consultation with your primary care provider, will determine if any medications need to be temporarily discontinued before the implant procedure.
- Primary care checkup:
- Ensure you have recently undergone a checkup with your primary care provider.
- Obtain recent blood work to identify any underlying conditions that might impact the success of the dental implant.
- Discussion on sedation:
- Have a conversation with your dentist about available sedation options for the dental implant surgery.
- Most surgeons offer sedative medications to help you relax during the procedure.
- Arrangements for transportation:
- If you opt for sedation during the procedure, make arrangements for a reliable friend or family member to drive you home afterward.
- Post-surgery, it’s essential to have someone available to ensure your safe transportation and provide support.
Taking these steps before your dental implant procedure will contribute to a smoother and more successful experience.
During the procedure
When your surgeon performs dental implant surgery, they will:
- Administration of anesthesia: Your surgeon will begin by administering local anesthesia to numb your gums. If you have chosen sedation, they will also provide the necessary medications for your comfort.
- Incision creation: Once you are adequately numbed, the surgeon will make a precise incision in your gums at the designated implant site. This incision exposes the underlying bone, allowing for the placement of the dental implant.
- Jaw preparation: Utilizing specialized instruments, your surgeon will carefully create an opening in your jawbone. This opening will be widened to the optimal diameter required for the placement of the dental implant.
- Dental implant placement: The dental implant is then meticulously positioned into the prepared opening in your jawbone by the surgeon.
- Incision closure: After the implant is securely in place, the surgeon will reposition your gums and close the incision using stitches.
- Restoration placement: In some cases, the surgeon may be able to place both the dental implant and the final restoration, such as a crown or bridge, during the same visit. However, more commonly, a few months of healing are required before the final restoration can be safely placed by your dentist. During the healing phase, a temporary (usually removable) restoration may be provided for your convenience.
After the procedure
Following your surgery, your surgeon will provide you with detailed postoperative instructions, including a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection. To minimize soreness and discomfort, consider the following guidelines:
- Medication adherence:
- Take all prescribed medications exactly as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Activity limitation:
- Avoid engaging in exercise or heavy lifting for a minimum of 72 hours to prevent increased pain and swelling, as an elevated heart rate may exacerbate these symptoms.
- Dietary adjustments:
- If implants were placed on both sides, chew on the unaffected side of your mouth initially.
- Consume soft foods for the first few days, gradually incorporating other foods based on your comfort level.
- Oral hygiene:
- Maintain a regular oral care routine by brushing and flossing every day to promote overall oral health.
- Implant site cleaning:
- Follow the specific cleaning instructions provided by your surgeon for the implant site to ensure proper healing.
By adhering to these recommendations, you can help reduce the risk of complications and promote a smoother recovery process.
Recovery times following dental implant procedures can vary, but for most patients, returning to regular activities takes three days or less. However, the jawbone may continue to fuse with the implant over the course of several months, a crucial process known as osseointegration, which ensures the long-term durability and performance of the dental implant.
After placing dental implants, your surgeon will schedule periodic check-ups to monitor your progress. It’s essential to wait until the implant has fully integrated with your jaw before placing a restoration to ensure safety, as premature placement could lead to implant failure.
As of now, dental implants are the most resilient option for replacing missing teeth. With proper maintenance and care, they can have an extended lifespan. Eventually, though, the crown on your dental implant may need to be replaced. While the exact timeframe can vary, most dentures last at least seven years, while crowns and bridges typically last around fifteen years.