What is the Dental Implant Procedure?
Dental implants, which are artificial teeth implanted into the mouth and jaw, are often used to restore the look, feel, and functionality of lost teeth and are as close as you can get to natural, healthy teeth. Patients considering dental implants may be curious about the procedure and the various types of implants available today.
Dental implants require several surgical procedures so a patient’s dentist or oral surgeon will perform an initial evaluation to determine the scope of the issue and identify any underlying medical conditions. Any medications the patient is taking will also be considered as they can influence the course of action needed. Using X-rays and teeth models will help the dentist ensure that the dental implants used will closely match your natural teeth in both function and appearance. During the initial consultation, the patient’s jawbone is also evaluated in relation to how many teeth you plan on replacing with the implants. Because this planning process can require consulting with multiple types of dental specialists, including a periodontist and maxillofacial surgeon, the process is not quick and will likely require several visits.
Once the consultation phase is completed, the dental implants are surgically implanted. If it has not already fallen out, implant surgery begins with removal of the damaged tooth (or teeth). The jawbone is then prepared for surgery and may include bone grafting if it is not thick enough or is too soft support the implant and handle the pressure of chewing. Bone grafting procedures involve transplanting a small bit of bone, typically from another area of the upper or lower jaw, into the jawbone to solidify the implant base. Should bone grafting be needed, additional healing time may be required during which the patient will be given a temporary denture.
After the jawbone is full healed, the dental implant is inserted into the gum line and allowed to heal. Through a process known as osseointegration, the bone grows into and unites with the implant making it part of the gumline. Because healing time is vital to ensuring that the implant is secure in place, the entire process can take three to nine months.
The surgeon will then place an abutment (the piece that screws into the implant) by reopening the gums so that the dental implant is exposed and attaching it to the dental implant. Installing the abutment is a minor procedure that can usually be done with a local anesthetic. Once the gum tissue is closed back around the abutment, an additional one to two weeks are needed for healing before the artificial tooth can be installed. The artificial tooth can be either fixed or removable depending on patient preference. Many patients find removable prosthesis to be preferable since they can be easily removed for cleaning, are more secure, and typically more affordable than their fixed counterparts.
After surgery, it is normal for patients to experience some discomfort or pain. Swelling of the face and gums, bruising, and minor bleeding are also common. Should any of these symptoms worsen several days after the surgery, patients should immediately contact their dentist or surgeon to rule out any larger issues.
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