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Dental implants may be thought of as replacement tooth roots. Although they are available in many shapes and sizes, depending on the specific problem to be solved, by far the most common type in use today is the “root-form” implant. Dental implants are among the most significant advancements in the history of dentistry for their versatility at replacing one tooth, several teeth—even all of the teeth.

The implant is usually made of titanium and is surgically placed by a dentist or dental specialist such as an oral surgeon. These screw-like parts are placed into the jaw bone and are meant to imitate the root of the tooth.

Implants are a viable treatment option for many patients, regardless of how many teeth are missing. One of the important factors the dentist must consider is the amount of bone that you have available, and the sooner an implant is placed following the loss of your tooth or teeth the less this should be a negative factor.

Advantages of Implants

  • They preserve the tooth-bearing (alveolar) bone.
  • They avoid cutting healthy teeth to support fixed bridgework.
  • They prevent drifting of adjacent teeth, preserving the patient’s normal bite.
  • They restore normal chewing function.
  • They can provide excellent cosmetic results.
  • They are not susceptible to tooth decay (caries).

How Much Time is Required for an Implant Placement?

There are several factors that will determine the length of time needed for an implant procedure.

  • Your dental health
  • The number of teeth involved
  • Which teeth are replaced
  • If there will be a tooth extracted prior to implant placement

These factors will also determine the total number of visits to the dentist throughout the treatment period. For instance, a single tooth implant surgery can typically take 1-2 hours from start to finish. This includes time for anesthesia as well as dressing the patient for a sterile surgical environment.

Is the Treatment Painful?

Just as with any surgery, there can be some discomfort. Local anesthesia and/or I.V. for oral sedation are used to eliminate any discomfort at the time of the procedure.

Most patients report that they were much more comfortable following the procedure than they had anticipated. Your dentist will prescribe medications to ease any discomfort that may occur.

Will I Be Given Any Special Instructions to Prepare for Surgery?

Your dentist may provide you with some pre-operative instructions to follow.
These may include:

  • Having you rinse with a special antibacterial mouthwash, such as chlorhexidine.
  • Asking you to eat a good breakfast on the day of surgery, unless you are planning on having the procedure done under oral or I.V. sedation. In that case, you would not be eating anything after midnight the night before surgery.
  • Having someone available to bring you to the appointment and drive you home if you elected to take an oral sedative or have I.V. sedation.

How Will I Feel After the Treatment?

It is normal to have some small bruises and swelling in the gum and soft tissues. Usually, the discomfort, if any, is treated with an ordinary painkiller, such as ibuprofen, hydrocodone, or codeine. You should expect to be able to work the next day.

What Happens on the Day of the Surgery?

Restoring your mouth with a dental implant is accomplished in two phases and the whole process can take 6 to 9 months. The surgical phase is done in the dental office with local anesthesia but can also be done with oral or I.V. sedation.
The First Phase

  • For the surgical placement of the implant, your mouth will be thoroughly numbed with local anesthesia.
  • An incision is made in your gums where the implant will go to expose the bone underneath.
  • A specialized (but quiet) drill will then be used to create a space for the implant in the bone.
  • The implant itself is then screwed in place with either a hand tool or the same implant drill used to create the initial space.
  • After the implant is snugly in place, a second component will be screwed into the implant itself and will remain in place during the healing process.
  • The gums are closed over the implant and a stitch or two may be placed.
  • Over the course of the next few months, the implant becomes securely attached to the bone.

The Second Phase

  • The second phase starts with the re-exposure of the implant. Another small incision is made in your gums to expose the implant unless there was a separate component placed on the implant that sits above the gums
  • A small extension is placed on the implant for any impression taken. This component is what the lab will use to fit your new crown.
  • Your dentist will then start a series of appointments to make your new implant crown. Though some of the steps might be different in your case, they usually include making impressions of your teeth. From these impressions, they will make precise working models of your mouth, which are carefully mounted for proper alignment. Your crown is fabricated on these models.
  • The last step is the final placement of your new crown. In some cases, depending on which tooth is being restored, the dentist may want to try in the new crown before it is completely finished to check the shape and fit of it in your mouth.

How Will I Care for My Implants?

Your new implant tooth must be cared for and checked regularly, just like your natural teeth. Brush and floss the implant tooth as recommended by your dentist or dental hygienist. See your dentist every six months, or more frequently if so advised.

What Are the Potential Complications?

  • Infection around the surrounding bone and gums
  • Your body’s rejection of the dental implant
  • Bone loss around the dental implant
  • Your dental implant may fail to adhere to the bone