Dental implant surgery
Dental implant surgery
Dental implant surgery — See what to expect before, during and after this process.
If you have gaps in your smile where your permanent teeth used to reside, you may find that more is missing from your life than just teeth. You may also miss out on good nutrition and even social engagements.
It doesn't have to be that way, though. Dental implants along with artificial teeth are often a good option to fill the gaps left by tooth loss. Many people find that dental implants are more comfortable, efficient and secure than are dentures or bridgework.
Here's a look at the dental implant surgery procedure.
Is dental implant surgery for you?
Dental implants aren't the same thing as artificial replacement teeth. Dental implants are actually the threaded metal cylinders that serve as the roots of missing teeth. The implant, sometimes called a post or cylinder, is surgically implanted in the jawbone beneath the gum tissue. An abutment, or extension, is attached on top of the metal cylinder. Finally, a realistic-looking artificial tooth (crown) is attached to the abutment, creating a three-piece device that completes your smile. You may have one tooth replaced with dental implant surgery or many.
Most healthy adults with missing teeth are able to have dental implants. Your dentist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon or periodontist can help you decide if dental implants are a good option for you.
In general, dental implants may be right for you if you:
Your financial situation also might be a factor in determining whether dental implants are a good option. Dental implants are expensive and often aren't covered by insurance. Costs can vary widely, so you might want to consider shopping around.
Single dental implant
A dental implant is a threaded metal cylinder that replaces the root of a missing tooth. An artificial tooth (crown) is placed on an abutment on the dental implant, giving you the look of a real tooth.
How do you prepare for dental implant surgery?
Because dental implants require one or more surgical procedures, you must have a thorough evaluation in preparation for the process.
To start, you have a comprehensive dental exam. This may include taking dental X-rays and making models of your mouth. In addition, be sure to talk to your doctor about any medical conditions you have and any medications you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications or supplements.
If you have certain heart conditions or vascular or orthopedic implants, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before surgery to help prevent infection.
A treatment plan is tailored to your particular situation. This plan takes into account such factors as how many teeth must be replaced and the condition of your jawbone. This planning process may involve a variety of dental specialists, including:
How is dental implant surgery done?
Placement of dental implants and artificial teeth involves surgical procedures usually done in several stages. The entire process takes three to nine months, or sometimes even longer. That may sound daunting, but a lot of that time is spent on healing and waiting for the growth of new bone in your jaw.
What can you expect during dental implant surgery?
Specifically how dental implant surgery is performed depends on the type of implant used and the condition of your jawbone. In general, the dental implant cylinder is first implanted in your jawbone, and then you must sit through a period of healing for several months. After that, the abutment is placed, followed by a shorter healing period. Finally, you get your new artificial tooth, sometimes also called an implant prosthesis or crown. Some people may require bone grafting before the initial dental implant surgery, which lengthens the whole process.
When bone grafting is required
With bone grafting, a piece of bone is removed from another part of your body, such as your hip, and transplanted to your jawbone. The transplanted bone will grow, but it may take six to nine months to grow enough new bone to support a dental implant. In some cases, you may need only minor bone grafting that can be done at the same time as the implant surgery. The condition of your jawbone determines how you can proceed.
Placing the dental implant
You get some form of anesthesia for pain control during surgery. Anesthesia options include local anesthesia, sedation or general anesthesia. Talk to your dental specialist about which option is best for you. Your dental care team gives you specific instructions about eating and drinking before surgery, depending on what type of anesthesia you have. For instance, if you're having general anesthesia, plan to have someone take you home after surgery and expect to rest for the remainder of the day.
During the surgery, your gum is cut open to expose the bone. Holes are then drilled into the bone where the dental implant cylinder will be placed. Since the cylinder will serve as the tooth root, it's implanted deep into the bone. Once the dental implant is securely in place, your gums are stitched closed over the cylinder. The cylinder sits below the surface of your gum, so it's not visible when you open your mouth.
At this point, however, you still have a gap where your tooth is missing. Usually, a type of partial, temporary denture can be placed to look more aesthetically pleasing. This denture is removable for cleaning and to sleep.
Waiting for bone growth
Placing the abutment
In rare cases, the abutment is attached to the dental implant cylinder at the same time that the cylinder is implanted. That means you won't need an extra surgical step. However, because the abutment juts past the gumline, it's visible when you open your mouth — and it may be that way for six months or so. Some people don't like that appearance and prefer to have the abutment placed in a separate procedure.
Choosing your new artificial teeth
You and your dental specialist can choose from two main types of artificial teeth. They are:
What happens after dental implant surgery?
Whether you have dental implant surgery in one stage or multiple stages, you may experience some of the typical discomforts associated with any type of dental surgery. These may include:
Very rarely, stiffness of your jaw muscles may occur, or an inability to fully open your mouth. When these do occur, they're usually a result of passing a surgical needle through jaw muscle.
If swelling, discomfort or any other problem gets worse in the days after surgery, contact your implant surgeon. He or she may prescribe pain medications or antibiotics.
After each stage of surgery, you may need to eat soft foods for five to seven days. Typically, stitches that dissolve on their own are used. If your stitches aren't self-dissolving, your doctor removes them in about 10 days.
Making your dental implant surgery a success
Most dental implants are successful. Still, you can help your dental work — and remaining natural teeth — last longer if you:
When dental implant surgery doesn't work
In some cases, dental implants don't work. Usually that happens when the bone fails to fuse sufficiently to the metal implant cylinder. In this case, the implant is removed, the bone is cleaned up, and you can try the procedure again in a month or two.
In addition, the implant may become loose. If this happens, the implant can be removed and replaced with a new one.
What are the risks and downsides of dental implant surgery?
Like any surgery, dental implant surgery poses some health risks. Problems are rare, though, and when they do occur they're usually minor and easily treated. Risks include:
Last Updated: 01/26/2007
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