What Are the Steps of Implant Surgery?
The first step in the dental implant process begins well before you schedule a date for surgery. Your first step is to consult and plan with your periodontist. He or she will visually examine the site in your mouth where the implant will go. In addition to a visual inspection, they will also do x-rays, panoramic films, and, in some cases, CT scans to ensure they have a complete picture of your gum, mouth, and bone health. These intensive imaging studies also provide a clear understanding of how much bone remains in the area of the missing tooth and how healthy that bone is. If you do not have sufficient bone or the tissue is unhealthy, you may not be a suitable candidate for a dental implant, or a plan to regenerate lost bone must be made prior to implant placement. Once your periodontist determines an implant can be placed in the area of the missing tooth or teeth, an appointment for your surgical procedure(s) can be scheduled.
The First Steps of Implant Surgery
Depending on your specific dental needs, the first stage of surgery may not be the actual implant placement. For many, the first stage of oral surgery will consist of having one or more teeth extracted. It is not uncommon for the future dental implant site to have an existing, damaged tooth that needs to be removed. To adequately prepare your mouth for a future dental implant, the tooth or teeth will need to be extracted before any further work can be done. Also, in many cases, a bone graft may be necessary to help achieve a stable, healthy base for the implant to integrate with. Once any extractions and bone grafts are complete, the site will be allowed to heal for a period of two to six months.
In many cases, the implant procedure can take place at the same appointment as your extractions. This is known as “immediate implant” placement. Also, there are some places in the jaw where implant placement is more difficult due to an already limited amount of bone. For example, suppose implants need to be placed in the upper or lower jaw’s rear portions. In that case, the available amount of healthy bone may be limited due to how the jaw is formed or the location of the implant site in relation to the sinus cavities or nerves. In these cases, specific procedures are performed to elevate the sinus floor and graft more bone into the sinus cavity. This will make more healthy bone available to support a dental implant.
What Happens at My Implant Placement Appointment?
Once your bone has had adequate time to heal, and enough strong, healthy bone is available, your dental implant can be surgically placed. At the implant appointment, the implant (a titanium post) is placed in the jawbone using special tools. A “healing cap” is placed over the implant and the gum is sutured shut, allowing the opportunity for healing. During the healing phase, a temporary denture could be made to replace missing teeth if the patient desires for esthetic purposes. The length of time you will require to heal depends significantly on the quality of the bone present and the individual. On average, however, healing usually takes between two and six months. During this time, the titanium implant will become integrated with the bone and become more stable. It is essential to avoid placing any force or stress on the implant while it heals as it could become dislodged, or damage to the bone and surrounding tissue could occur. A series of follow-up appointments will occur during the healing period to monitor progress and ensure healing is on track.
Replacement Tooth or Crown: The Final Step of Implant Surgery
After the healing period has ended, the implant is tested to ensure it was successfully integrated into the surrounding bone. Once this has been confirmed, a prosthetic device is connected to the implant via a screw on the top. This component is called an abutment, and its job is to hold the replacement tooth or “crown.” Once the abutment is placed, the dentist will take an impression of the abutment and the surrounding teeth to have a custom fit crown made. The completed crown is then either cemented or secured with a screw to the abutment providing a replacement tooth that mimics the look and feel of your natural teeth.