Everything You Need To Know And Expect About Dental Implant Surgery

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Dr. Wooten

While gaining access to very good dental care is easy for most, millions of Americans still suffer from tooth loss. According to the doctors of WebMD, the most common causes of tooth loss are the following: tooth decay, periodontal disease, or injury.

Back then, the best way to address problems related to tooth loss was with the use of bridges and dentures. Now, a better method has been made through dental implant surgery. Here’s everything you need to know and expect should you opt for this procedure.


1. What are the Things You Need to Know about Dental Implants?

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Dental implants have been used by dentists to replace tooth roots. Essentially, dental implant surgery is a type of procedure that makes use of metal, screw-like posts to replace old, broken, or absent teeth with new artificial ones. These have been designed to look very realistic. These are also able to function the way real teeth should. According to WebMD, “Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth.”

If you don’t want to go for dentures or bridgework, then this would make a perfect choice. This is especially recommended for those who do not have natural tooth roots or those who don’t have the framework to accommodate construction dentures or bridgework. The Mayo Clinic explains how dental implant surgery is performed according to the type of implant and the condition of the person’s jawbone.


2. Who is Most Qualified for Dental Implants?

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People get dental implants to replace the roots of a tooth. These are placed surgically into the jawbone and fused to the bone. It’s done in such a way that they won’t slip, make a noise, or damage the bones or any already existing teeth the way that bridgework or dentures usually are able to. However, not everyone is qualified for this. There is a set of stipulations that needs to be followed. First of all, the patient must have a healthy oral tissue, doesn’t smoke tobacco, has one or more missing teeth, a jawbone that is fully matured, and adequate bone structure to make sure that the implants are placed securely or that they are able to accommodate a bone graft. More importantly, the patient should not suffer from conditions that may interfere or affect with the healing of the bone. They should also be unable or unwilling to wear dentures. Just note that the whole process requires commitment because it takes several months before it is complete.


3. What are the Risks Involved?

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The good news is that the success rate is often extremely high. Figures range from somewhere around 98 percent, according to WebMD. This rate also depends on the placement of the jaw implants. Like any other surgeries, risks are involved. The Mayo Clinic assures those who are considering this procedure that the risks are rare. When problems do occur, these are often minor and treatable. Some of the common risks reported are “an infection at the site of the implant, injury or damage to surrounding structures, such as other teeth or blood vessels, nerve damage.” This brings about pain, numbness, or tingling in the existing natural teeth, gums, lips, or chin. There may also be problems with the sinus “when dental implants placed in the upper jaw protrude into one of your sinus cavities,” says the Mayo Clinic.

4. What are the Advantages of Implants?

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Dental implant surgery comes with a variety of advantages. WebMD includes a list such as improved appearance. That’s because dental implants look and feel like they were real. Since they have been carefully designed to fuse to the bone, they are a permanent solution. Having teeth improves speech and enhances comfort. “With poor-fitting dentures, the teeth can slip within the mouth causing you to mumble or slur your words,” say experts. “Dental implants allow you to speak without worry that teeth might slip.” Because these are permanent, eating is also a lot easier because. Unlike dentures, they don’t slip while you chew. Having something permanent will also improve self-esteem. People with dentures are often self-conscious about their appearance, and this addresses that problem.

Moreover, implants have been designed to improve oral health. They don’t require constant visits to the dentist to tinker with the already existing teeth just to create the supporting bridge. “Because nearby teeth are not altered to support the implant, more of your own teeth are left intact, improving long term oral health,” writes WebMD. “Individuals implants also allow easier access between teeth, improving oral hygiene.”  It must be noted that implants are extremely durable. They can last a lifetime with proper care and with good dental hygiene.

Lastly, implants are made to be permanent. The best part is that you no longer have to worry about removing dentures or using adhesives to keep the teeth in place.


5. How It Begins

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Several procedures are required for dental implant surgery. This means that you can expect different specialists to work on you throughout the entire process. First, there will be doctor who specializes in the mouth, jaw, and face. He is called a maxillofacial surgeon, or “a dentist specializing in treating structures that support the teeth, such as gums and bones (periodontist), a dentist who designs and fits artificial teeth (prosthodontist), or occasionally an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.”

Then, you will be asked to complete a dental exam where x-rays and 3D images of your mouth and jaw will be taken. This allows them to create a model of your teeth and jaw. When all that has been done, they will review your medical history. They will take note of your medications or medical conditions. Included here are over-the-counter drugs and supplements. If you suffer from a heart condition or orthopedic implants, you may be prescribed with antibiotics prior to the surgery to prevent infection, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Then, they will create and model a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to you. Included here is what type of work you need done. They take into account “factors such as how many teeth you need replaced and the condition of your jawbone and remaining teeth.”


6. Is the Process Painful?

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According to those who already had the procedure done, the pain you will experience will be quite minimal. WebMD said that you will be given a local anesthesia, which helps alleviate the pain and discomfort. In reality, this is far less painful than a tooth extraction.

The after is where you may experience some mild discomfort, which can easily be addressed with over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or Motrin.


7. How Long Does the Procedure Take?

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The procedure comes in a variety of stages. This is done in a way to allow time for healing between steps. In order to have the dental implants done, the following steps must be taken, “damaged tooth removal, jawbone preparation (grafting), when needed, dental implant placement, bone growth and healing, abutment placement.” Lastly, there is the artificial tooth placement. With the stages and requirements, the entire process lasts several months from start to finish, says the Mayo Clinic.

Very Well Health expounds on this and says that the exact length will vary. This depends on each patient and their specific dental health, number of teeth involved, which teeth are replaced, and if a tooth needs extraction before the procedure. All the factors involved determine how many doctor visits you will need and how long each of these visits will be. “For instance, a single tooth implant surgery can typically take one to two hours from start to finish. This includes time for anesthesia as well as dressing the patient for a sterile surgical environment,” experts say.


8. Possible Bone Grafting Needed

Golden State Dentistry

Bone grafting may be needed. But this doesn’t happen in all cases. It’s dependent on the structure of the jawbone. Should it be required for you, it’s because of the fact that you may need some extra bone for a more solid foundation, stated Colgate. The Mayo Clinic also says that it could also be because your jawbone may be too soft. Chewing adds pressure and is quite a powerful action. If the foundation isn’t all too strong, then the implantation process will eventually fail, and this is what you want to avoid at all cost.

Bone grafting is “a procedure in which a small bit of bone is transplanted to help solidify the implant base within the jawbone. This bone transplant typically comes from another area in the upper or lower jawbone away from the dental implant area, but it could also potentially come from another part of the body,” writes Colgate. A bone graft can also be made out of synthetic material like a bone-substitute “that can provide support structures for new bone growth,” says the Mayo Clinic.

The grafting often requires several months to give the transplanted bone time to grow strong enough to support an implant. With minor grafting, on another hand, this can be done at the same time as the implant surgery.


9. First Step is to Place the Implant


This is first step to consider if grafting isn’t required. This is when the surgeon cuts a hole in the gums and exposes the bone to fuse the implant on. “Holes are drilled into the bone where the dental implant metal post will be placed,” writes the Mayo Clinic. “Since the post will serve as the tooth root, it’s implanted deep into the bone.”

Once this has been completed, you will notice a gap in your teeth where the original tooth was. If you don’t like going around with a missing tooth, the dentist is able to put a partial temporary denture. This can be easily removed for cleaning and while you’re asleep.


10. Second Step is Waiting for Bone Growth

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The metal implant post must be installed into the jawline. Then, you wait for bone growth to take place. This is what is often referred to as osseointegration. “During this process, the jawbone grows into and unites with the surface of the dental implant,” writes the Mayo Clinic. Unlike the other steps in the whole procedure, this process may need several months. While it does it take a lot of time, it “helps provide a solid base for your new artificial tooth — just as roots do for your natural teeth.”


11. Third Step is to Place the Abutment

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Placing the abutment comes next. This is when the crown will be attached. The Mayo Clinic considers this as a minor surgery and is usually performed with just a local anesthesia. This is much like an outpatient setting. “The abutment can be attached to the implant during the initial implantation phase, but many people don’t care for the visibility of the post and thus elect for a second procedure to install it later,” explains Colgate. If you choose to do this, it helps eliminate the extra surgical step.

For this, the Mayo Clinic elaborates on the three steps you need to go through. First, the oral surgeon opens your gums and exposes the dental implant. Second, the abutment is attached and the gum tissue around it will be surgically closed. Lastly, you need to wait about two weeks for healing in order to get ready for the artificial tooth attachment.


12. Fourth Step is to Choose the Artificial Teeth

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Once the gums have been pronounced healed, you’ll need impressions made. This is what allows you to get your smile back. “These impressions are used to make the crown — your realistic-looking artificial tooth,” explains the Mayo Clinic. “The crown can’t be placed until your jawbone is strong enough to support use of the new tooth.”

You can go for artificial teeth that are either removable or that are fixed. The former are considered very similar to dentures, and you can choose the partial or the full type. “It contains artificial teeth surrounded by pink plastic gum. It’s mounted on a metal frame that’s attached to the impact abutment, and it snaps securely into place.” This has allowances for repair and cleaning. The latter means that the tooth or teeth will be permanently screwed into the implant abutment. Unlike the first choose, you won’t be able to remove the tooth for cleaning or repair. For most cases, the “crown is attached to its own dental implant.” These implants are extremely durable, and you can replace several teeth with one implant just as long as they are bridged together, according to the Mayo Clinic.


13. What Happens After the Procedure?


The implant surgery can require either one session or over several different procedures. You can expect to experience some mild discomfort that comes with surgery. This means that there will be some swelling in gums and face, bruising on the side of your skin, pain at the site of the implant, and even some minor bleeding, says the Mayo Clinic.

For this, prescribed medication will help you cope with the pain. If these don’t abate and you notice that the swelling or discomfort gets worse, you need to contact your oral surgeon immediately. Otherwise, soft foods will be prescribed while you wait for the wound to heal. As for the matter of stitching, these stitches often dissolve on their own. If the surgeon resorts to the ones that don’t self-dissolve, you need to see the surgeon again to remove these.


14. The Results After

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Dental implant surgeries have a high success rate. As mentioned previously, it’s around 98 percent successful. However, for the remaining 2 percent, there are some complications, oftentimes minor. Most common on the list has to do with the bone not fusing properly to the metal implant. This oftentimes happens to smokers because cigarettes are considered destructive. If the bone doesn’t fuse properly, the implant will be removed immediately so that the bone is cleaned. They may ask you to try to go for the procedure once again.

To help ensure that the results are positive, the Mayo Clinic advises patients practice good oral hygiene at all times. Always keep the implants clean with the use of specially designed brushes (or what they call the interdental brush). These are made to slide between the teeth and get into all the tight spaces efficiently. You’re also encouraged to visit the dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleaning. Lastly, avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, chewing on hard candy and ice, or even drinking coffee, which often stains teeth.