If you are struggling with a broken, decaying, or missing tooth, your dentist may recommend having a dental implant procedure done.
This is a multi-step process that can take several months to complete due to the complexity of the stages involved.
There are pre-surgical appointments, multiple surgical stages, and extensive recovery periods between steps. Let’s take a look at what the process looks like from start to finish.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth (prosthesis) that replaces your natural tooth. It works by implanting a small post into your jawbone, to which a crown or bridge is attached to.
The 7 Steps in the Dental Implant Process
1. Dental Implant Selection & Consultation
The consultation can be with your dentist, a prosthodontist, or an oral surgeon depending on what services your dental office provides and how complex your case is. You will discuss one of two options for your dental implants.
- Endosteal: This dental implant is put directly into your jawbone. Once the tissue around the implant has healed, a post will be connected to the implant and then an artificial tooth to the post (via crown or bridge).
- Subperiosteal: This dental implant simply has metal posts that are fitted onto your jawbone. The frame of the post will fuse with the jawbone during the healing process. Once fully healed, an artificial tooth will be attached to the post.
Once you and your dentist decide on which implant is best suited for your situation, dental x-rays or 3D imaging will be used to create an impression of the area where the implant will go.
Your jawbone will also be assessed to see if it is strong enough to withstand the implant. If it is not, bone grafting will be discussed with you.
2. Tooth Removal
If you are looking to replace a decayed tooth or a severely damaged one, the next step will be to pull it. This is its own procedure and often requires the use of local anesthetic and some downtime for healing.
3. Bone Grafting (elective)
If your jawbone is not strong enough to fuse with or hold the implant in place, bone grafting is an option. This is where your dentist takes a small bit of bone from elsewhere in the body and adds it to the jawbone.
There are synthetic options that can be used instead, which can be discussed during your consultation. If the bone graft is minor, the implant placement may be done on the same day, but if it is not, you will need several months to heal before having the implant done.
4. Dental Implant Procedure
After tooth removal and bone grafting is done, an implant is placed into your jawbone. This is done by cutting into the gum and drilling the titanium rod into the jawbone.
The rod acts as the “root” of your artificial tooth. It will take anywhere from 4-8 months to fuse and heal properly. General anesthesia is used during this part of the procedure so that you do not feel any pain.
5. Metal Collar or Healing Cap Procedure
Once the implant has fused and healed within your jawbone, a healing cap will be placed at the end of the implant. This will be “flush” with your gum line and acts as a guide for the gum tissue to heal around the cap. The healing time needed for this is anywhere between 10-30 days.
6. Dental Implant Abutment & Temporary Crown Procedure
Once the tissue around the cap is healed, it is removed and replaced with a dental abutment. This is screwed onto the implant and a temporary crown is placed on top. This stays in place for 4-6 weeks.
7. Final Crown Placement
While you are healing from the dental implant abutment and temporary crown, a permanent crown will be created for you. The permanent crown can either be screwed onto the abutment or cemented on.
A crown held in place with the screw method is easier to remove if your dentist needs to get at the implant, but the cemented option may look better.
While the whole process of a dental implant can take upwards of a year to complete, it is well worth it if you are looking to restore a smile or avoid complications from missing teeth.
If you’d like to come for a dental visit and/or have any questions, feel free to get in touch today.