You’ve decided that it’s time to get dental implants. Maybe you are missing a few teeth, or a tooth is cracked or chipped and eating has become uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve just had root canal therapy, and your family dentist has told you that the tooth couldn’t be saved. You don’t want dentures or bridges. You do know that an implant will improve your smile as well as your ability to eat, and it may even improve your ability to speak. Here’s what to expect if you’re opting for a dental implant:
First, you’ll have a consultation with your dentist. They need to know whether or not you have a pre-existing condition that can interfere with your bone healing, if you have enough bone in your jaw to support an implant and if you can commit to the process. If you don’t have enough bone in your jaw, your dentist will make recommendations on what the next best steps and options are for you.
After the dentist has decided that you are a good candidate for a dental implant, they’ll do a thorough dental exam and make casts of your mouth and your teeth.
When you arrive at the dentist’s office, you are given painkillers. When you’re numb, what’s left of your tooth is taken out. If you need a bone graft for your jaw, it will be emplaced then. This takes a few weeks to heal.
When the bone graft is healed, you return to the dentist’s office, and they will place a post in your jawbone where your tooth was. This implant is most often made of titanium, because it is extremely strong, does not corrode and is very biocompatible. The gum is then closed up over the post.
The dentist will give you instructions on how to take care of your oral hygiene while the implant heals. They may put a temporary, removable crown on top of the post. It usually takes a few months for the titanium post to fuse with your jawbone.
When the bone and post are fused, you come back to the dentist’s office again and have an abutment placed on the post if it wasn’t done before. This requires a local anesthesia because the dentist has to cut open your gum to reveal the post. The abutment is placed on it, and the gum is sutured around it but not over it. Then, you’ll need to let your gums heal again for about two weeks.
Choosing the Crown
When your gum heals, the dentist makes more casts of your mouth and your teeth. These will be used to create the crown you want. Crowns can be fixed or removable and can be made of several materials. Porcelain is the most popular because it’s translucent and can be made to match your natural teeth exactly. Metal, including gold, is much stronger than porcelain but of course does not look like a natural tooth. It is a good option for your molars.
After the Surgeries
There will be some normal discomforts after the surgeries, including some minor bleeding, pain at the surgical wound and swollen gums. That area of your face may even be swollen. However, the dentist will prescribe pain killers and antibiotics, and you can soothe the area with an ice pack, and resolve to eat a soft food diet while the wound heals.
In the end, most dental implants work and can last a decade or more.