Planning on getting implants for the replacement of missing teeth, or just researching the topic? This article will help by briefly outlining the typical dental implant procedure for you.
Who Can Place Implants?
Any dentist is qualified, in theory, to carry out this treatment. But in reality only those who have undertaken specific training in the field will carry out the procedure.
The first port of call if considering this option is your own dentist. Discuss the treatment options with him/her. Your own dentist may have trained in this field themselves, or may refer you on to a specialist (oral surgeon, periodontist or prosthodontist). Specialist treatment is often necessary in particularly complex cases.
“What’s the first step?”
Well before any work is started, the dentist will carry out a thorough assessment of your mouth and plan your treatment. S/he will discuss with you any related risks of the procedure and the alternatives that are available (see our page on dental bridges vs implants). The assessment stage will include things like:
- Your suitability for this treatment
- The amount of available bone to hold the metal “screw(s)” in place (using X-Rays and other scans)
- Whether or not there is any other oral disease (such as decay or gum disease) that needs treated first.
You will be given a full treatment plan and cost estimate at this stage also.
“Before I start, how long might the treatment take?”
The exact time frame, of course, depends on your own treatment needs. However implants can involve work that takes 6 months or more to complete. As discussed later, the metal screws usually need to be left for several months after being placed, to allow them to fuse to the bone, before the final restoration is placed. Your dentist will provide an estimated timeline before the treatment.
What are the dental implant procedure steps?
This video helps explain the procedure:
The technique generally involves several steps. Note that the length of time taken for the surgery (and follow-up treatment) will depend on the complexity of your own case. For example, single tooth implants are more straightforward than getting several.
Stage 1. Placing the Implant
The surgical procedure to insert the titanium prostheses comes first, with the following being a standard routine:
- The area is anesthetized with local anesthesia. Sometimes IV sedation is required, in particular if the surgery will be very long or if you are anxious about dental work.
- The gum is cut and folded back to reveal the bone. Now at this stage, if there is insufficient bone, a graft may be placed. Read more on the bone graft procedure here.
- A hole is precisely drilled into the bone, this hole will be the exact size required to hold your implant.
- The implant is fitted into this hole and a tight fit is ensured.
- The gum is then replaced back over (to cover the metal) and sutured into place.
2. The Healing Phase
The implant is now left to settle into the jawbone, via the process of ‘osseointegration’. This term basically means the bone accepts the metal surface as one of its own and fuses to the it at a cellular level. The strength of this bond is the underlying reason for the great success rates.
Your dentist will give you precise instructions to follow to ensure proper healing post surgery and recovery at the surgical site. During this stage you will have in place a temporary bridge or denture (e.g. a flipper).
3. The ‘Restoration’ is fitted to the implant
The implant will hold either a crown, bridge or denture, depending on your own needs. So 6 months (on average) after the metal has been placed, the final restoration will be fitted in place. This stage involves:
- Anesthetic similar to stage 1
- The gum is again folded back to reveal the underlying implant
- An attachment is placed into the center of the ‘screw’. This attachment will then extrude out and hold the restoration (crown, bridge or denture) in place
- Impressions of the attachments are taken first and the final treatment fitted at another appointment.
Crowns and bridges are fitted ‘permanently’ (i.e. they can’t be taken in or out) whereas dentures are fitted in via clips, but can be (needs to be!) taken out for cleaning.
A note on ‘immediate’ implants.
These are basically those that are fitted with the restoration at the same time. In other words, there is no delay of months between fitting the implant and placing the crown, bridge or dentures.
Immediate implants are fine in some circumstances, and may be an option for you. Your dentist will let you know if so.
Do Dental Implants Hurt?
The surgical procedure itself will not hurt. Your dentist will ensure that you remain pain-free throughout. As noted above, some people may benefit from sedation to help with the procedure. You will feel a degree of pressure at some times during the initial fitting stage.
There will be a degree of discomfort after the initial fitting stage. This will be due to the minor operation that you have just had! Your dentist will underline the steps needed to ensure pain-relief and fast healing of the implants.
After the initial healing there should be no pain, and if there is this may indicate problems with the treatment.
Now that you are aware of the dental implant procedure, you may wish to return to the main information page on implants.