Dental implants are artificial teeth that replace teeth you lose to tooth decay, age, or accidents. Unlike bridges, crowns, and other dental prostheses, dental implants replace the entire affected tooth with a fully synthetic prosthesis.
The surgical procedure used to install dental implants is efficient and usually painless, and your dental implant will last the rest of your life once the process is complete. Learn more about dental implants and what you can expect from dental implant surgery in this guide.
A dental implant consists of a metal post that’s connected to an artificial tooth. The metal post inserts into your jaw, and it replaces the root of the lost or decayed tooth. The artificial tooth that connects to the top of this post is molded to serve as an exact replacement for the tooth that is missing or no longer viable.
As a result, dental implants preserve the natural, healthy shape of your mouth. Failing to replace a lost tooth with a dental implant could cause surrounding teeth to shift positions, which can exacerbate existing dental problems and cause pain.
In most cases, only a local anesthetic is required to remove all pain from the dental implant surgery procedure. You may experience mild discomfort as the metal post is inserted into your jaw, but most patients report that dental implant surgery is less painful than other similar procedures.
Here are the steps of the dental implant surgery process from start to finish:
First, your dental team will need to take a look at your mouth to determine the best way to improve your dental health with implant surgery. Certain testing procedures, like X-rays and tooth models, may be necessary to plan the next steps forward. Furthermore, it is essential to evaluate the overall strength of your jawbone and ascertain whether any underlying medical conditions or medications may impact the procedure.
The first stage of dental implant surgery is preparing the tooth socket. Depending on the extent of the preparation required, it may be possible to install the abutment during the same day, which is the metal post onto which your new artificial tooth will be installed. In many cases, however, it’s necessary to attach a bone graft to your jaw to reinforce it prior to surgery.
Once your jawbone is strong enough and the abutment has been installed, it will be time to install your implant. Both fixed and removable implants are available, and removable implants are easier to maintain and repair if necessary.
A new dental implant can cost anywhere between $2,500 and $5,000 depending on the location of the tooth, the severity of the underlying problem, and a variety of other pertinent factors. In some cases, dental implant surgery may be covered by dental insurance, and many dental care practitioners offer payment plans to ease the economic burden of this high-end procedure.
Installing a single dental implant in an empty tooth socket usually takes less than an hour if the empty socket is prepared to accept the implant. There are two basic types of dental implant surgery, however, and each procedure may take a few hours spread over multiple days to complete.
If an existing tooth must first be removed before the dental implant can be installed, the procedure must be spread out over the course of weeks or months to allow the empty socket to heal. Tooth removal generally takes less than an hour, and installing a single dental implant usually takes around the same amount of time.
If the tooth that you plan to replace with a dental implant has already been removed, dental implant surgery generally only takes a single day. If your tooth socket has been empty for a while, however, preliminary procedures may be necessary.
If your jawbone must be strengthened with bone grafting, the dental implant surgery procedure must be spread out over a few weeks or months. Enough time must be given between the grafting procedure and the implant installation to ensure that the graft was a success.
After your dental implant surgery procedure is complete, your jaw will go through a process called osseointegration as it accepts the implant. Osseointegration can take anywhere from two weeks to one month to complete, and during this time, you may experience some discomfort as your jaw tissue wraps around and integrates your new implant.
If your tooth socket has been empty for a while, you may experience discomfort throughout the area of your jaw into which the implant was installed. The teeth surrounding the implant will need to shift to accommodate your implant, and this adaptation may take weeks or months to complete.
In most cases, it becomes easy to forget that you even underwent dental implant surgery within a day or two after the procedure is complete. Dental implants usually don’t require intensive recovery, but certain factors can make the osseointegration process easier or more difficult:
If you have other dental issues, healing may take longer. The better you take care of your teeth and gums, the faster you’ll recover from your dental implant surgery.
It usually takes longer to recover from surgery as you age. Give yourself ample time to recover if you decide to undergo dental implant surgery later in life.
It’s most common to only install one dental implant at a time. In some cases, however, it may be more pertinent to install multiple implants during the same procedure. The more implants that are installed, the longer it will take to recover, and special aftercare practices may be necessary.
After your surgery, you should follow a few basic care practices to get the most out of your new prosthetic tooth.
During the first few weeks after dental implant surgery, it’s best to avoid hard foods (such as peanut brittle), foods that splinter (such as tortilla chips), and any other foods that might irritate the sensitive area where you’ve just received a new tooth. Otherwise, there’s no need to alter your eating habits after your surgery unless directed by your doctor.
In some cases, you may experience minor bleeding from the surgery site, and some swelling in the face and jaw area is to be expected. You may even develop visible bruises around the surgery site, but prolonged pain is uncommon.
If you experience pain at the surgery site that lasts more than a few days, you should consult your dentist immediately. Over-the-counter pain medications should be sufficient to assist with your surgery pain, but your doctor may recommend additional measures.
Take it easy. You’ve just been through major surgery, and it will take some time to feel better. Do not use tobacco, and take care of your teeth by avoiding chewing on hard substances like candy or ice.
Be careful around the surgery site, but brush and floss at least once a day as usual. Most importantly, make sure to attend follow-up visits with your dental care provider to make sure your new implant provides the results you desire.