If you are missing a tooth or multiple teeth, and have decided that dentures or bridgework just aren’t for you, dental implant surgery is a great, long-lasting alternative that can dramatically improve your smile and increase the quality of your daily life. Think about how much you speak and chew every day — wouldn’t it be nice to have a durable solution that functions as well as a real tooth?

Many people are afraid of dental implant surgery because they think it is a complex, painful operation; however, the opposite is true – it is a relatively straightforward procedure with many benefits. Dental implants are the closest thing you can get to real teeth — they do not move around or cause bone damage in a way that a dental bridge or dentures might.

If you have been considering dental implant surgery to replace lost or damaged teeth, this guide will help you better understand what to expect throughout the entire process and determine if this procedure is right for you:

Pre-Surgery

Dental implant surgery candidates typically have damaged or missing teeth due to injury or previous periodontal disease, but otherwise exhibit good oral health. When you visit your dentist for dental implant surgery, he or she will first take an X-ray of your mouth to assess your bite, the location of the missing teeth and the location in the jawbone where the implant will need to be placed. Your dentist may also make models of your teeth to further inform the operation.

Surgery

In most cases that involve dental surgery, patients’ first and overarching concern is the level of pain they may experience. The good news is that there are several options you can discuss with your dentist to ensure a comfortable, pain-free procedure, including local anesthesia and oral sedation.

If you are replacing damaged teeth, your dentist will first need to extract the damaged teeth. Next, your jaw may need a bone graft to ensure there is adequate space for the implant, although this is not necessary for every patient. It might sound scary, but a bone graft is a routine procedure that involves adding graft material to the missing tooth location as an anchor for your dental implant. Typically, this can be done during the same visit as the implant surgery, but if your jawbone needs more support, your dentist may recommend letting the graft heal before proceeding to the next step.

To place the implant, your dentist will cut the gum to expose the bone. Keep in mind — you will be under anesthesia or sedation and will not feel a thing! Your dentist will then drill a hole into the bone where the metal implant will be placed, and your incision will be closed. The metal implant will serve as a “root” for your artificial tooth. After it is put into place, you will need to wait several months for the jawbone to fuse to the dental implant – a process called osseointegration. Osseointegration gives the implant a solid foundation for an artificial tooth (crown). In the meantime, your dentist can give you a temporary denture for appearance.

After osseointegration has occurred, your dentist will administer local anesthesia to attach an abutment, which is a structure that connects your prosthetic tooth to the implant. Sometimes, a patient will need a healing cap on the implant for a couple of weeks to promote gum healing before the abutment is placed, but every patient is different. Your dentist will then place a temporary crown that will remain for four to six weeks while a permanent crown is made from a model of your teeth.

Post-Surgery and Care for Implants

Post-surgery, you may experience minor pain and bleeding for a short time. Bruising and swelling of the gums and face is rare, and our patients typically report that these symptoms are quite tolerable. Often, patients report that the worst part of recovery is the suture tickling their tongue! You will, however, need to follow a soft food diet for 2 to 3 weeks. Your dentist may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics or pain relievers should any of these symptoms arise.

Care for implants is the same as for regular teeth — just brush at least twice daily and floss regularly. Avoid eating hard candy, chewing ice and using tobacco (which you should be doing anyway!). Keep in mind that certain foods and drinks (looking at you, coffee and red wine) will stain your new teeth. With proper care, your dental implants should last at least 10 years, up to the rest of your life! Be sure to continue to see your dentist regularly to prevent any issues and confirm your implants are in tip-top shape.

If you are considering dental implant surgery, it is of upmost importance that you consult with a dentist who is expertly-trained and specializes in this procedure to ensure safe, optimal results with minimal discomfort. At StoneCreek, our team will help you determine if this is the right solution for your dental concern, and help guide you on your journey toward a smile you can wear proudly. Call us today at 205-979-6005 to schedule your consultation!