Dental implant procedure: everything you need to know

Dental implant procedures stand as a significant advancement in modern dentistry, providing a durable and permanent solution for missing teeth. This detailed guide explores the intricacies of dental implants, from the preliminary assessments to the care required after the surgery, ensuring you're well-informed about every aspect of the process for better decision-making regarding your oral health.

What is a dental implant procedure?

A dental implant procedure involves multiple steps:

1. Inserting a post into the jawbone, which serves as a foundation for supporting dental prostheses such as crowns, bridges, and dentures, or acting as an orthodontic anchor. 

2. The post over several months integrates with the bone through a process known as osseointegration. 

3. Once the integration is achieved, a custom-made crown is attached, providing the appearance, feel, and functionality of a natural tooth. 

The success of this procedure hinges on the precise execution of each step, ensuring the implant's longevity and performance.

Main steps of dental implant surgery

Like any surgical procedure, dental implant surgery comes with a set of risks, although complications are rare and usually minor if they do occur. Potential risks include infection at the implant site, damage to surrounding teeth or blood vessels, nerve damage which can result in pain, numbness, or tingling in natural teeth, gums, lips, or chin, and sinus problems if implants are placed in the upper jaw protrude into one of your sinus cavities.

Proper planning and execution of the procedure by a skilled dental professional significantly minimize these risks. Post-operative care and meticulous oral hygiene can further reduce the likelihood of complications, ensuring a successful outcome.

Initial evaluation

The first step in the dental implant process is a thorough evaluation of your oral health. This includes dental X-rays or possibly a CT scan to assess the quality and density of your jawbone, ensuring it can support an implant. This stage is crucial for planning the procedure with precision. 

Additionally, your dental and medical histories will be reviewed, including any medications you're taking, to identify any conditions that might influence the success of the implant and be taken into consideration when a dentist is putting together your treatment plan.

Bone grafting (for some patients)

Bone grafting may be necessary if the jawbone lacks the required thickness or density. This procedure involves using bone from another body part or a special grafting material to create a solid base for the implant. This step is vital for the implant's success, ensuring it is securely anchored and can support the dental prosthesis.

Placing the abutment

After the implant has integrated with the bone, an abutment is placed on the implant post. This component acts as the attachment point for your new tooth. Depending on the situation, the abutment may be placed during the implant surgery or in a separate procedure once healing has occurred, preparing for the final step of attaching the artificial tooth to the new artificial tooth root.

Choosing your new artificial teeth

The final step involves selecting your new artificial tooth or teeth, which can be either removable or fixed. These are designed to match your natural teeth' colour, shape, and size, ensuring they blend seamlessly with your smile. 

The decision between removable and fixed prostheses depends on various factors, including personal preference, oral health, and the number of teeth replaced.

Dental implant aftercare

The success of a dental implant extends beyond the surgery, with post-operative care playing a crucial role. This includes adhering to oral hygiene instructions from your dentist, avoiding certain foods during the healing phase, and attending follow-up appointments to monitor the implant's integration with the jawbone. Proper care ensures the longevity of the dental implant and maintains the overall health of your mouth.

What is the purpose of a dental implant procedure?

The primary aim of a dental implant procedure is to replace missing teeth, thereby restoring functionality and aesthetics to a patient's smile. It´s a long-term treatment option for replacement teeth, often used for candidates following a tooth extraction who would prefer a replacement tooth solution to last a long time. 

Beyond just filling gaps, dental implants offer a stable and durable solution that closely mimics natural teeth in both appearance and function. They help preserve jawbone health by preventing bone loss that typically follows tooth loss, ensuring the structural integrity of the face and jaw. 

Implants also provide a fixed base for dental prostheses, improving the patient's ability to chew and speak compared to traditional dentures. This procedure can significantly enhance quality of life and boost self-confidence by offering a permanent solution to tooth loss.

How long does a dental implant procedure take?

In the United Kingdom, the duration of a dental implant procedure typically varies depending on several factors such as the number of implants needed, the patient's oral health condition, previous dental care history and any additional procedures required. 

On average, a single dental implant procedure may take around 1 to 2 hours. This includes the initial consultation, imaging (such as X-rays or CT scans), the surgical placement of the implant into the jawbone, and possibly attaching an abutment.

However, it's essential to note that the entire process can span several months, primarily due to the healing time needed for the implant to fuse with the jawbone (osseointegration). 

Following the initial surgery, there's typically a waiting period of 3 to 6 months for osseointegration to occur to the bone in your jaw before the final restoration, such as a crown or bridge, can be placed on the implant. Overall, while the surgical procedure itself may be relatively quick, the entire dental implant process requires patience and careful monitoring to ensure optimal outcomes.

How to prepare for dental implant treatments

Preparation for a dental implant procedure involves several key steps to ensure the treatment's success and comfort. Initially, a detailed dental exam, including X-rays and 3D imaging, may be conducted to assess your oral health, establish if you are a candidate for dental implants and plan the implant placement. 

Discussing your medical history with your dentist is crucial, including any medications you're taking, as certain conditions may affect the surgery's outcome. Quitting smoking is highly recommended, as smoking can hinder healing and impact the success of the implant. 

Additionally, arranging for someone to drive you home post-surgery and preparing for a recovery period by stocking up on soft foods and planning for some downtime are important aspects of your preparation.

Who is eligible for dental implants?

Eligibility for dental implants primarily depends on the health of the patient's jawbone and overall oral health condition. Ideal candidates are those with sufficient bone density to support the implant, healthy gums, and no significant health conditions that might impair bone healing. 

However, advancements in dental technology, such as bone grafting, have made it possible for patients who were previously considered ineligible due to insufficient bone to now qualify for implants. It's recommended that potential implant candidates undergo a thorough evaluation by a dental professional who can assess their suitability for the procedure.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Recovery Time After Getting a Dental Implant?

The recovery time for a dental implant varies but typically involves a 1 to 2 week period for soft tissue healing after the procedure. The complete integration of the implant with the jawbone, essential for the procedure's success, may take 3 to 6 months or more, depending on individual health and dental specifics. 

During this time, patients can usually continue their daily activities, following specific dietary and oral hygiene guidelines to promote healing and implant integration.

What happens if my dental implant fails?

When seeking full dental implants at an affordable cost, individuals can expect a thorough consultation that assesses their dental health and discusses their financial options. While affordability is a priority, reputable clinics ensure that lowering costs does not compromise the quality of care, materials, or the procedure's success. 

Patients are guaranteed detailed information on the treatment plan, the materials used, and the financing options available to make the procedure more accessible.