The Ins and Outs of the Dental Implant Procedure

When it comes to dental implants, you may be apprehensive about getting the treatment because of its lengthy and seemingly risky procedure. While implants can be used to restore the smile’s function and aesthetics, getting them is not a quick process. We want to introduce you to the procedure involved in getting dental implants– from the initial consultation to the final restoration. We’ll discuss what happens during the surgery, what postoperative instructions you can expect, and how long the entire process will take. By the end, you should understand what to expect if you’re considering dental implants.

What are dental implants?

tooth implantation model (1)

Dental implants are a popular treatment method for replacing missing or severely damaged teeth. A dental implant is a three-part device that serves as an artificial tooth with a secure root system. The device comprises a metal screw-like post, a dental prosthetic, and a connecting abutment. The metal post is the titanium screw that is inserted into the jawbone to form a secure foundation for the dental implant. The dental prosthetic is the part of the dental implant that sits above the gum line and serves as the tooth replacement. Finally, abutment is found between the implant and the dental prosthetic. It serves as the connecting middle piece of the dental implant to the dental prosthesis of choice- whether it’s a crown, a bridge or a denture.

Due to the numerous components of the dental implant, it typically takes a series of dental appointments over a long period of time to install the dental implant fully. Depending on the condition of one’s jaw bone and surrounding healthy teeth, the treatment may take longer due to additional preparatory procedures. This lengthy treatment period is usually one of the main concerns of patients seeking dental implants. However, each treatment and its corresponding recovery period contribute to the primary stability and longevity that dental implants are known for.

What happens during the dental implant procedure?

The dental implant procedure is known for its lengthy treatment period. The reason why the treatment takes longer than most is due to the various stages of the procedure. Typically, it will take several dental appointments over the course of a few months to fully install the entire implant. These are the different steps of the dental implant procedure.

Initial Consultation

The first step in the dental implant process is a consultation with your dentist. A thorough oral examination will be performed to determine whether you are a good candidate for dental implants. Aside from visual inspection of your mouth, imaging like X-rays and 3D imaging can help determine the bone density of your jaw. This will help your dentist prepare a personalized treatment plan. You will likely also be asked a series of health questions to get a clear medical history and minimize the risk of clinical complications.

Tooth Extraction

Should the damaged natural teeth still require extraction, they must first be removed before the dental implants can be placed. This simple procedure will take less than an hour to perform but leave you with a gap in your smile.

Dental Implant Placement

The dental implant is placed if there is no need for additional invasive procedures like bone augmentation or sinus grafting. The gum tissue above the implant site is cut open and pulled away during this procedure. This will reveal the underlying bone. The endosteal implant is implanted into the jaw bone. Over several months, osseointegration will occur, securing the foundation of the metal implant.

Abutment Installation

When there is evidence of osseointegration, the implant will have successfully fused with the surrounding connective tissue. You will have to undergo a second surgery to install the abutment. The gum tissue will be cut open again to expose the implant. The abutment is then fitted into place. Part of the abutment will be visible above the gum line initially but will be covered by the dental prosthetic once it is placed.

Dental Prosthetic Placement

Depending on how the patient tolerates the procedure, the dental prosthetic can be cemented into the abutment during the latter’s fitting. However, some patients will need to return for a final fitting of the permanent dental prosthetic. Once the prosthetic is cemented into place, you will be given a few days or weeks to test and feel for any discomfort in the bite alignment or any sudden issues with the implant. Once the soft tissue has healed and you have adjusted to your new fake teeth, you should be able to go out with a bright new smile.

Is getting dental implants painful?

The instalment of a dental implant is considered oral surgery. It requires the dental practitioner to cut open the gums and drill into the underlying jawbone. Due to the physical demands of the procedure, patients receiving their dental implants are often sedated for their comfort. Several factors need to be considered when selecting the type of anesthesia used on the patient throughout the different steps of dental implant treatment.

Anesthetics are commonly used during invasive dental treatments. They ensure that patients do not feel pain during the procedure. This gives the dentist or oral surgeon the freedom to work with different tools and perform incisions that may not be tolerated otherwise. Some common types of anesthesia also have components that minimize bleeding when cutting through soft tissue. It constricts the blood vessels to minimize blood flow to the localized area. The three most commonly used anesthesia for dental implant surgery are local, general, and conscious sedation. The type used will depend on the complexity of the surgery and patient comfort.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is used to numb the area for the installation of one or two dental implants. You will lose feeling when the anesthesia is delivered on the side of the mouth but stay awake during the procedure. This is recommended for minor procedures that require a short amount of time.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is the preferred anesthetic for major or complex oral surgeries. It is the strongest type of anesthesia available. It is used during bone grafting and the insertion of multiple dental implants. Under general anesthesia, you will remain unconscious throughout the procedure. Side effects like slurred speech and confusion can occur with this type of anesthesia. Hence, patients are encouraged to secure a safe mode of transport home before their procedure.

Conscious Sedation

Patients who suffer from dental anxiety greatly benefit from conscious sedation. Some oral surgeons can offer it to calm these patients and put them at ease. This type of sedation is typically administered as nitrous oxide and causes drowsiness. Although the patient is awake during the procedure, they are in a calm, dream-like state.

How long does dental implant treatment take?

People have different reasons for seeking out dental implants. Most want implants to replace lost teeth or as an alternative to dentures. The estimated duration of treatment will depend on the type of procedure. Factors like implant location and number need to be considered. Additionally, procedures like bone grafting contribute to the treatment duration.

The initial placement of a single tooth implant can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. If several implants need to be placed, the treatment time and recovery period will naturally take longer. If your consultation reveals issues like periodontal disease or active infection, these need to be treated prior to the start of the implant treatment. Recovery from preparatory procedures like bone grafting will also add several months to the total treatment time.

In total, getting actual implants can take between three months to almost a year. Healing time typically differs between regular patients. The rates of bone healing are greatly affected by the age and health condition of the patient. It is important to maintain proper nutrition and hygiene during the healing process.

Can you get a temporary tooth while recovering between procedures?

It can take some time for your soft tissues to heal and recuperate between dental procedures. If your actual implant site is located at the front of the mouth or highly visible, you may be concerned with your appearance. Your dentist may attach the false teeth when the metal implants are first placed. However, if there is significant damage to the adjacent tissue, you may have to wait for several months to allow the site to heal.

To avoid empty spaces in your smile, you can be fitted with a temporary crown. For patients who already wear a full set of removable dentures, these can be modified to be compatible with your implants. You will be able to wear them as you undergo treatment.

Can your dental implants be done in one day?

There is currently an option available for same-day dental implants. This type of implant consists of a prefabricated prosthetic tooth that is fitted onto the implant on the same day as the titanium rod is embedded into the jawbone. However, only a select few would be viable candidates for this treatment option. Patients with insufficient jaw bone density would not be ideal for this procedure.

If a dental implant is performed within 48 hours after the tooth is lost or removed, the gums will not have the opportunity to grow down into the socket. This will give the dental surgeon the opportunity to place the dental implant post on the same site where the natural tooth was previously located. Prior to the procedure, the implant site is thoroughly inspected to ensure that it is infection-free and contains the necessary bone quality to support dental implants.

Some dental practitioners may also recommend “immediate implant and early loading. For this treatment option, an implant is placed into healing or newly healed tooth extraction site. It is then immediately fitted with a new tooth at the same appointment. The temporary tooth is placed in such a way that it does not directly touch the adjacent teeth to allow for healing. After approximately three months, the final implant crown is permanently installed.

What are the possible risks of getting dental implants?

Similar to any other type of procedure, dental implant surgery will have risks and can result in clinical complications. It is important that you understand these risks and your role in preventing them. Although these complications rarely occur, they can interfere with your treatment. These are some of the possible risks and complications that your dentist will discuss with you prior to the treatment.

Nerve damage.

If the dental implant positioning is not properly planned out, an implant may be embedded too close to a nerve, causing damage. Warning signs of nerve damage include numbness or tingling sensation in the tongue, gums, or lips. Removal of the dental implant may remedy the symptoms, but the nerve damage may also be permanent.

Infection.

Just with any surgical procedure, infection is a possible clinical complication. Infection occurs when bacteria are introduced to an open wound. It would be identified by inflammation at the site of the implant and a fever. To avoid infection, it is important to follow any postoperative implant home care instructions your dentist gives you and to maintain good oral hygiene. Should any signs of infection present, immediately inform your dentist.

Loose implant.

Dental implants can come loose due to a variety of reasons. The jawbone may not be strong enough to support the implant. This can be due to bone or the natural aging process. Gum disease and smoking can also contribute to the inability of the dental implant to integrate properly with the jawbone. Ultimately, this can result in dental implant failure.

What is dental implant failure?

young female patient visiting dentist office

The success rates of implants are fairly high. However, there are rare instances when implant failure occurs due to unforeseen technical complications. When this occurs, the dental implant must be removed and replaced. The most common causes of implant failure include infection and loss of bone. An infection of the gum surrounding the implant is called peri-implantitis. It usually results from poor dental hygiene following a dental implant procedure.

On the other hand, failure can happen when the implant doesn’t integrate with the jawbone. It has been noted that certain habits and medical conditions can contribute to the likelihood of implant failure. The dental implant and its supporting structures may be damaged by gum disease and persistent teeth grinding (bruxism).

Additionally, without a stable foundation, a dental implant will be unable to anchor to the jaw bone successfully. Bone degeneration brought about by osteoporosis or radiation therapy can also cause dental implant failure. Like many other dental treatments, the likelihood of success for dental implants is also significantly lowered by tobacco smoking. Although dental implants are meant to be long-term solutions, these factors can greatly lower their lifespan.

How long do dental implants last?

Patients looking for tooth replacement options soon discover that a dental implant is the most costly option available. While they do have a higher initial cost, the benefits of dental implants can more than makeup for it. One of its greatest assets is its longevity. Dental implants are designed to be a permanent solution to missing or damaged real teeth. On average, they can last between 20 and 30 years with proper care and maintenance.

Once integrated with the surrounding bone, the titanium implant post provides a strong artificial root that rivals the security provided by natural tooth roots. With proper oral hygiene, these will last a lifetime. On the other hand, the dental prosthetic attached to the abutment may need to be replaced as it undergoes daily wear with use. The dental crown may be replaced when it has been worn down or damaged.

Final Thoughts

The dental implant treatment procedure is composed of several different procedures spread across several months. Between each procedure, there is a need for the soft tissue to heal and recuperate. There is a fairly high success rate for dental implants. However, there are some instances when clinical complications can arise that result in the failure of the implant and the need for replacement. Thankfully, these instances are rare, and steps can be taken to avoid them.

After the implant site has healed, a titanium dental implant can last almost a lifetime. The length of the treatment period is rewarded with long-term implant survival. If you are interested in getting dental implants, our friendly team at our dental clinic, Peel Dental Studio, will be more than happy to walk you through the process. Call (08) 9535 4900 today to schedule an appointment with one of our talented dentists.

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Peel Dental Studio

https://peeldentalstudio.com.au

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.