What is involved in getting a dental implant?

There are generally three phases to getting an implant:

  • First, the dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone. There may be some swelling and/or tenderness after the surgery, so pain medication is usually prescribed. Your dentist may recommend a diet of soft foods, cold foods and warm soup during the healing process.
  • Next comes osseointegration. What makes an implant so strong is that the bone actually grows around it and holds it in place. Osseointegration means “combines with the bone” and takes time. Some patients might need to wait until the implant is completely integrated, up to several months, before replacement teeth can be attached to the implant. Other patients can have the implants and replacement teeth placed all in one visit.
  • Finally, it’s time for the placement of the artificial tooth/teeth. For a single tooth implant, your dentist will customize a new tooth for you, called a dental crown. The crown will be based on size, shape, color and fit and will be designed to blend in with your other teeth. Implant-supported bridges or dentures are also made to fit your mouth and your implants. Once completed, the man-made teeth are attached to the implant posts. (Note: The prosthesis usually takes some time to make. In the meantime, your dentist may give you a temporary crown, bridge or denture to help you eat and speak normally until the permanent replacement is ready.)
Deborah Davis
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Dental implant surgery is a procedure that replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function much like real ones. Dental implant surgery can offer a welcome alternative to ill-fitting dentures or bridgework. How dental implant surgery is performed depends on the type of implant and the condition of your jawbone. But all dental implant surgery occurs in stages and involves several procedures. The major benefit from implants is solid support for your new teeth -- a process that requires the bone to heal tightly around the implant. Because this healing requires time, the process can take many months.
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
An option for a missing a tooth is the single tooth implant or multiple implants. Implant work is a very exact science usually performed by an oral surgeon, periodontist or a prosthodontist.

First, the dental team assesses whether you're a good candidate for an implant by examining the quantity and quality of the bone and using x-rays or a dental CAT scan to determine the location and the type of restoration that can go over it. If the location is in your aesthetic zone (toward the front of your mouth) and you have a high smile line, it's important that the implant be positioned perfectly. Placing an implant is a time-consuming surgical procedure. After the original tooth is removed, the area requires a three to six month healing period before the implant restoration can go in.

During this healing time, the bone grows in and around the titanium implant creating a very strong support. However, if the bone or surrounding tissue doesn't grow in as well as hoped for, there are grafting procedures that can help with the re-growth.
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Three steps are usually involved in getting a dental implant. First, your dentist will surgically place the implant, made of the strong metal titanium, into the jaw where you have lost a tooth. The top of the implant will be a little above the top of the jaw bone. A screw is then inserted into the implant, and the gum is secured over the implant. You’ll leave this alone for three to six months, while the titanium implant actually fuses itself to your bone. You may be sore for a few days, so you’ll take painkillers if you need them and will eat soft foods for a few days. In the second step, your dentist will uncover the implant and attach a post to it. You’ll let this heal as well. In the third and final step, your dentist will make a crown that looks and feels like your other teeth, and attach it to your implant post. You now have a dental implant, which should last for decades.
When getting a dental implant, the dentist will use local anesthesia to numb the surgical area. In most cases, the procedure is well tolerated by the patient, and can be done while the patient is awake, or with light sedation. An incision is made into the gum to expose the underlying bone. The stent may be placed over the jaw to guide the implant placement. A series of drills in progressively widening diameters are used to create a hole in the bone. The implant is then placed into the hole so that the top of the implant is at or slightly above the crest (top) of the bone, where it meets the gum-line. A screw is then inserted into the implant to prevent the gum and other debris from entering the implant. The gum is then stitched up over the implant.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.