If you are suffering from tooth loss or tooth decay then chances are you’ve heard a lot about dental implants from your dental practitioner. You may have finally decided that new dental implants are exactly what your mouth needs but what is the procedure for this form of cosmetic dentistry and what can you expect from your implants dentist? This article outlines 10 steps which you should expect to go through when undertaking your dental implant procedure.
Consult your dental practitioner about what the best option is for you. A good practitioner will refer you to a periodontist or prosthodontist who will be correctly suited and have the correct level of skill and expertise to deal with the fitting and maintenance of your new dental implants. Please beware of anyone who calls themselves an implantologist or dental implant specialist. There is no specific medical qualification for the fitting of dental implants.
No dental specialist will ever perform an implant procedure without first assessing the surrounding tooth and jaw area. It is crucial for any specialist to first assess your teeth and gums and deal with any tooth decay or gum disease prior to performing any cosmetic dental procedure.
When fitting new dental implants your specialist will usually perform several x-rays and in some cases a CT scan to check the quality of the bone surrounding the missing tooth for any abnormalities prior to proceeding with the dental treatment.
In some cases there is insufficient bone material to accommodate the implant – this is determined from the scans and x-rays conducted as part of the preliminary procedures. In such cases, a bone graft is required. Bone taken from your own body has a faster healing time when compared to alternatives. Bone can be grafted from the chin, the back of the lower jaw, the hip, and the tibia. This is a process known as onlay grafting. It is most common for a combination of artificial bone and natural bone to be used. Over time the grafted bone will fuse to the existing bone creating a better environment for the dental implant to be placed into.
Most dental implant procedures are performed under local anesthetic. If patients are extremely anxious IV sedation can be used.
Once the preliminary procedures are completed, the gum where the implant is to be placed is cut and lifted and a hole is drilled in the jawbone at the exact location of the intended dental implant.
Following this, the titanium dental implant or screw is tightly fitted into the pre-drilled hole and the gum is stitched back over the implant. These sutures will typically be removed after 7-14 days.
The implant is left to heal and integrate with the surrounding bone a process known as osseointegration. This healing process takes three to six months.
After the healing period, the gum is again lifted and a dental abutment is screwed down into the implant. The top part of the abutment known as the post will be attached to a temporary crown.
Four to six weeks later, when the surrounding gum tissue has matured, the final permanent restoration can be fitted.