How to get Dental Implants step by step?
Dental implants are widely considered the best teeth replacement options available. And for a good reason. Once you get implants, they replace the root structures of your missing teeth, providing a permanent and lifelong anchor for the dental restoration, i.e., the crown, bridge, or denture. As such, dental implants look, feel, and function like actual teeth, and over time, become indistinguishable from natural teeth. However, patients are often scared of dental implant surgery — admittedly, the entire dental implant process can be long, strenuous, and involve numerous appointments.
Until recently, the dental implant process followed a cookie-cutter outline because of the lack of diverse options. You could only get titanium implants, often using dental crowns for restoration. As such, the entire process was predictable. However, the innovation of ceramic crowns, multiple restoration options, and multiple workflows has made the process increasingly unpredictable. These days, the only way to know the specific details of your dental implant process is through a consultation.
This article provides a step-by-step overview of the dental implant process from consultation to restoration. We mention all the potential steps involved in the process, but you should note that your specific journey might differ from this outline. Some of the steps might be combined, you might not need some of these steps, and the sequence might be changed according to your specific needs, goals, and concerns. But you can use this as a rough estimate of the potential dental implant process.
Step 1: Consultation & Tests
Your dental implant process starts with a detailed consultation with your prosthodontist or dentist. The dentist specializing in implants will carefully examine your oral health, run tests, determine if you’re a viable candidate, and curate a personalized dental implant treatment plan. The prosthodontist will also discuss all your options regarding the implants and restoration. Until recently, you only had one option — titanium implants. But you can now choose between titanium and zirconia (ceramic) implants. You can also choose between multiple restoration options — crowns, bridges, and dentures. You should find a prosthodontist that offers all possible options and curates the treatment according to your specific desires.
Do you need to take antibiotics before the surgery due to a weakened immune system?
Do you have any allergies that affect dental implant surgery or anesthesia usage?
Do you need to discontinue any of your existing medications temporarily?
Do your jaws need to be prepared with preliminary procedures, such as bone augmentation?
Can you get the implant and abutment in a single session, or do you need multiple sessions?
Are you a viable candidate for a single-stage dental implant process?
Which dental implant restoration is ideal for your specific needs — crowns, bridges, or dentures?
Step 2: Preliminary Procedures
You can only get dental implants if you have sufficient jawbone to support the implants. If your oral anatomy isn’t optimized for the surgery, you’ll need a preliminary procedure to prepare your jawbone. Depending on your specific situation, the dentist might recommend bone grafting or sinus augmentation to prepare the jawbone in the targeted region.
If you have receding or insufficient jawbone, you may need bone grafts to restore the jawbone. The bone graft material can be harvested from another part of your body or a tissue bank. During the bone grafting surgery, the material is placed under the gum flap to encourage your body to produce new bone tissues. It takes several months for your body to produce enough bone tissues to support the implant. As such, the implant surgery will be delayed by several months until you’re prepared.
If you’re missing one of the teeth in your upper jaw, you might need a sinus augmentation (also called sinus lift) to prepare the thin tissues separating the sinus from the mouth. During the sinus augmentation procedure, the surgeon lifts the sinus membrane to insert the bone tissues harvested from other parts of the body. The tissues are planted along the roof of the upper jaw. It takes several months to generate enough bone tissues to support the implant, delaying the implant surgery by a few months.
Step 3: Implant Surgery
The dental implant surgery is performed under local anesthesia with sedation or under general anesthesia, depending on the surgeon’s recommendations. The surgeon makes a small incision on the gum tissues where the implant will be placed. The incision allows access to the socket of the missing tooth. The surgeon prepares the implant bed by drilling into the bone via the incision. Once the implant bed is prepared, the surgeon places the titanium or ceramic post into the jawbone.
At this stage, once the
implantation is complete, the surgical process might differ slightly. In
the traditional workflow, the incision will be closed with sutures,
starting the healing process. However, in advanced workflows with
ceramic implants, the surgeon might place the abutment over the implant
immediately instead of doing it after the healing process. The advanced
workflow is far more efficient, but it’s not always possible — your oral
surgeon should highlight the specific process ahead of time.
Step 4: Healing & Recovery
After the titanium or ceramic implant is placed within the jawbone, the osseointegration process begins. Osseointegration is a process wherein your jawbone grows around the implant, lodging it firmly in place. Optimal osseointegration is necessary to ensure the implant’s success; it makes the implant a firmly-rooted part of your body. The osseointegration process takes 3 to 6 months, though it can take even longer, depending on your body’s healing rate. The dentist will place a temporary prosthetic on the implant for the sake of appearance, and you can go about your usual activities with some precautions.
Step 5: Abutment Placement
In the traditional surgical setup, you’ll need another surgical procedure for abutment placement after the osseointegration. The abutment is the component that connects the implant to the prosthetic crown. The abutment surgery is an outpatient procedure wherein the oral surgeon reopens the gum, attaches the abutment, and sutures the gum tissues around the abutment. After the abutment placement, you have to wait another two weeks for the gums to heal. However, this step is only necessary if you follow the traditional surgery; with advanced surgeries, the abutment can be placed during the primary implant surgery itself, cutting out this step entirely.
Step 6: Dental Restoration
Once your gums and bone tissues have healed completely, the dentist can attach the dental restoration. Your dental restoration options include dental crowns, bridges, and dentures, depending on the number of missing teeth. Dental crowns are suitable for single tooth replacements, bridges are suitable for multiple missing teeth in a single row, and implant-supported dentures are suitable for edentulous (missing all teeth) patients. Your oral surgeon will discuss all your dental restoration options during the consultation.
During the dental restoration, the dentist will screw or cement the chosen prosthetic on the implant abutment. The prosthetic is prepared according to your specific requirements and dental anatomy to ensure complete naturalness. It blends perfectly with your surrounding teeth — both in terms of color and shape. Once attached, the dental crown or prosthetic can’t be removed at will. Most dental prosthetics last for 10 to 15 years, following which you’ll need to replace the prosthetic — the implant itself lasts a lifetime.
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