A dental implant surgery replaces tooth roots with metal, screw-like posts and replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function like real ones.
While dental implants are by no means a simple procedure, knowing what to expect will help you tremendously.
6 Main Steps of a Dental Implant
To be a good candidate for dental implants, the dental patient must have sufficient bone in the jaw to support the metal posts and implants. At Dr. Shin’s Smile Well Dental Office in North Vancouver, we use 3D x-rays for dental implant treatment. The 3D x-rays (often called cone beam CT scans) are used to determine bone and gum condition and to identify any potential warnings.
A dental impression is an imprint of the teeth and mouth from which shaped items can be formed. Dental impressions produce a close replica of your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues from which to work with.
In order to make a dental impression, a thick liquid material, such as alginate or polyvinylsiloxane, is dispensed into an impression tray that is shaped like a U in order to properly fit into a mouth. The liquid material will set after a minute or two and become a solid rubber mass—this is the dental impression. You will then open your mouth and the tray will be removed and sent to a lab for processing.
3. Tooth Extraction
If the tooth in question still exists, it will need to be extracted. This can be done at the same time as the implant insertion. Your dentist will explain what type of anesthesia will be used but, generally speaking, a local injection of lidocaine (also known as novocaine), will assure a pain-free extraction. Generally, the procedure doesn’t take long unless the tooth is fractured. Your dentist would have to apply pressure and carefully wiggle the tooth out to avoid fragmentation.
For a minimum of 24 hours after the extraction, you should refrain from the following activities:
- Drinking through a straw
- Spitting excessively
- Consuming alcohol
- Blowing your nose.
Doing so can cause a dry socket and unnecessary pain.
4. Implant (Stage 1)
During stage 1 of the implant procedure, your dentist will put a dental implant into your jawbone beneath the gum tissue. In some cases, your dentist may have to make an incision in your gum to expose the bone, which requires suturing (stitches). The dentist will insert the implant deep into your jawbone, serving as an artificial root for your new tooth.
Depending on the condition of your jawbone, a bone graft may be necessary. Usually this can be done with artificial bone materials and is a minor part of the implant process.
Expect to be at this appointment for one to two hours. You’ll be fine to drive home and go about your daily routine following the procedure. However, you will most likely be restricted to a soft-food diet for up to a week.
5. Abutment Placement (Stage 2)
Once your jawbone heals, it will fuse with the dental implant. Once the implant is stable enough, your dentist will attach an abutment on top of the implant to serve as a connector to the crown.
The abutment is tightened with a dental wrench so that it remains in place during chewing. Don’t worry – with local anesthesia you will feel just a little pressure!
In some instances, the abutment can be placed at the same time as the implant. However, because the abutment extends beyond the gum line, it will be visible, so discuss this option with your dentist beforehand.
6. Permanent Crown
The last step is attaching a permanent crown (or replacement tooth) to the abutment. It may take several appointments to properly fit the replacement tooth to the abutment.
Does a Dental Implant Hurt?
With the help of local anesthesia, you shouldn’t feel any pain at all during the dental implant procedure. However, you will definitely feel vibrations from the drill, maybe some slight pressure, and lots of poking around.
After the anesthesia wears off, most people describe feeling soreness or discomfort rather than pain. You can expect to go about your daily routine after the procedure without a problem.
The truth is, most dental procedures are painless. However, the anticipation and fear of the unknown throws many patients off. When you have done proper research, have a dentist you trust, and know what to expect, dental work can be a pleasant experience.