Dental implants are arguably the best option for addressing missing teeth. Once they’ve been placed, implants look and feel just like natural teeth, and they can last for decades without needing to be adjusted or replaced. Plus, unlike dentures, they never fall out or wobble. Those who are nervous about getting implants should know that the process is relatively simple and straightforward. Read on to find out what to expect during each step of the implantation process.
1. The Initial Consultation
The first step for consumers to take is to find a dentist that does implants and schedule a consultation. During this consultation, the dentist will perform a full evaluation of the patient’s mouth and jawbone to ensure he or she will be a good candidate for implants.
The state of the patient’s jawbone is the most important factor influencing whether the procedure can be performed successfully. Patients who have been missing teeth for decades may find that their jawbones have degenerated. In that case, they will need to have bone grafts or sinus lifts to alleviate the problem before the implants can be placed. Once the bone graft has integrated, patients will be able to move forward with the implantation process.
2. The Placement Procedure
Those who avoid getting dental implants often do so because they are afraid the implant placement will be painful. In fact, the jawbone has fewer nerves than other areas of the mouth, and dentists can usually numb the area completely using nothing more than a local anesthetic. Those who are especially anxious about having their implants placed may want to request oral or IV sedation to help them relax. Sedation is available at most modern dentists’ offices.
During the procedure, the dentist will cut open the gums to expose the bone. He or she can then drill a hole into the jawbone where the implant’s metal post will be placed. This post will serve as an artificial tooth root and will eventually support a permanent crown.
3. The Healing Process
It typically takes two to six months for patients to heal from the implant placement procedure completely. Their gums will heal much faster, but it takes some time for the implants to fuse with the patient’s jawbone. Most dentists will wait until after the metal post has fully integrated itself to place permanent crowns, but they’ll place temporary crowns on the day of the surgery so patients won’t have to worry about damaging the posts.
During the initial healing period, it’s best to avoid excessively crunchy or chewy foods. When in doubt, ask the dentist for a list of foods to eat and avoid after getting implants. Once their new implants have healed, patients can go back to eating whatever they want.
4. Long-Term Care
Caring for fully healed dental implants is easy. Just brush them twice daily like normal teeth, floss once a day, and make sure to keep regular appointments with dental hygienists. In some cases, patients’ crowns may break after years of use, but they can be replaced easily without having to replace the entire implant.
The Bottom Line
Getting dental implants can dramatically improve consumers’ lives, whether they’re missing one tooth or many. The process of placing the implants is usually straightforward, and most consumers are good candidates for implant surgery. Just make sure to find a dentist who specializes in implant placement to get the best results.