The Dental Implant Process – What to Expect

Teeth can tell a story. From the lifestyle choices you make and even to your family history; the appearance of your teeth can indicate your level of dental hygiene, your diet and internal health, if you play high impact sports and so much more.

And the truth is, the first thing people notice on a new face is a smile.

In fact, one of the most noticeable dental health issues is rotten or missing teeth. Dental implants have become a popular solution for this as they can help people regain their full smile and self confidence.

Sadly, many people avoid cosmetic changes to their teeth because of uncertainties around the dental implant process including the pain from the procedure. If you’re interested in how to make your smile whole again, read on to find out more.

 

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are a great solution for people who want to feel confident about their smiles with ease and convenience. Unlike removable dentures, dental implants are fitted to your jaw permanently. So it saves you the pain of having to remove them constantly. Really, who wants to look at their teeth floating in a cup at night?

Dental implants can act as a replacement for one or more teeth, and a complete denture (commonly known as “all on four”). You will experience the return of a beautiful smile as well as excellent functionality (such as easier eating and painless brushing). Not only this, but implants are uniquely custom fit to your mouth so you will have a smile which looks naturally yours.

Most people need dental implants due to either their age, injury or decay. The loss of teeth is a common side effect of ageing, making dental implants an attractive solution to having your ideal set of teeth 24/7. There’s also a chance of prematurely losing teeth from a sports injury or an accident, as well as decay from poor dental hygiene or smoking.

If you’d like an overview of how dental implants work including eligibility, cost and benefits read this article for more.

 

What to expect during the dental implant process

People can feel uncomfortable about what they don’t understand. Which is why it’s important to know what to expect from the dental implant process, so that you will be prepared and ready for what’s to come. Depending on how many implants you need, the entire process will take approximately 3 to 9 months as it is usually completed in several stages, with healing periods between procedures.

Here’s what to expect in 11 simple stages – but keep in mind this can vary depending on how many implants you need, your existing oral health, the type of implant and the condition of your jawbone.

 

1. Comprehensive examination

Appointment: Usually in appointment 1.

Before you undergo the dental implant procedure, your dentist will examine your mouth. This is for two reasons:

  • To confirm the treatment is appropriate for you

  • To understand the existing condition of your oral health.

This examination is similar to what you’d experience at your usual dental check up. You will lay down on the chair, and your dental health will be assessed for any tooth decay, cracking, gum disease, and damage or deterioration from previous dental work or trauma.

Healthy tissues are necessary for the dental implant process to work successfully which makes this step vital.

 

2. Cone Beam CT (CBCT)

Appointment: Usually in appointment 1.

Usually in the same appointment, your dentist will then either take you to their in-clinic x-ray room to take a 3D images of  your teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways and bone. Essentially these images will reveal your dental circumstances which lie beneath the surface. If you have experienced physical trauma, such as a car crash or a sports accident, a CBCT can provide a deep-dive insight into any underlying damage in your teeth and jaw and possible associated bone deficiency. It will also help to develop the design of your dental implants, to ensure a perfect fit. A CBCT is available in digital form immediately after taking it.

3. Consultation

Appointment: Usually in appointment 1.

Your dentist can now consult with you about your options. In this consult, your dentist will consider your medical history. If any dental health complications have been found, it may be recommended that you receive preparatory treatments prior to your dental implant procedure. This consultation may take place in the same appointment as the examination and CBCT or may be booked in after, depending on the clinic’s policy and procedure. 

A treatment plan will be prescribed which is tailored to your individual situation, including how many teeth you need to be replaced, the condition of your jaw and the type of anesthesia required.

 

4. Preliminary work begins

Appointment: Usually in appointment 2.

The dentist will start preliminary work on your mouth (if it is required). Some people may need a damaged tooth to be removed, an infection to be cleared or even bone grafting completed prior to their dental implant procedure. In some cases of a bone graft, it can take up to several months for the transplanted bone to become strong enough for a dental implant. And in circumstances where it’s minor, the bone graft can be completed during the dental implant surgery.

 

5. Dental implant placement

During this visit, the fixture which serves as the replacement for the root portion of a missing natural tooth or teeth will be installed. The area is numbed and the fixture is placed in the jaw bone. A healing cap is then inserted and a temporary tooth is provided for each gap during healing. 

This procedure will generally take 60-90 minutes.

Sometimes an implant must be “buried” for the gum to heal over it. You would then require an additional stage of uncovering the implant and placing a healing abutment (see step 8 below).

 

6. Bones bond & grow

The dental implants are normally given three months to bond with the bone. The jawbone will grow into and bond with the surface of the implant. It’s important to give your bones time to heal around this implant, as it will create a solid foundation for your new teeth.

 

7. Dental implants are tested

The dentist will confirm if the implant has bonded with the bone, the temporary tooth and/or healing cap is removed, abutment fitted and an intra-oral scan is taken of your mouth to make the final crown. This will be the visible part of your new tooth and is matched to your surrounding teeth.

 

8. The abutment is added

Additional surgery may be required to attach an abutment to the implant, if your implant was “buried”. An abutment is the piece which connects your crown to the dental implant and is a minor inchair surgery normally completed under local anesthesia.

In this procedure, your dentist will reopen your gums to reach the dental implant and will attach the abutment to it. The end result of this will leave your gum tissue closed around the abutment, but it will still be exposed. Your gums will need around two weeks to heal before the crown or bridge can be fitted; however in some cases the abutment can be added at the same time as the fitting.

Your dentist will discuss whether you need this option with you during the consultation.

9. Test the aesthetics

This additional appointment is your chance to ‘try in’ your new teeth to ensure that you are completely happy with your fit and shape. Your dentist will place the sample teeth into your mouth so you can get a real feel for what your future smile will look like.

 

10. The crown or bridge is fitted

In this step you will have your new crown or bridge fitted to ensure everything is working correctly –  it’s here your artificial tooth/ teeth are permanently attached to the dental implant. This will take approximately 30 minutes.

If you only have one or a couple of teeth that need to be replaced each crown may be added to its own dental implant. But if you need a complete denture, several teeth will usually be replaced by one implant.

 

11. Walk away with a smile

Congratulations! Your treatment is complete.

While the process may take several months, the results of a whole smile are worth it. Whether you replaced one tooth, multiple teeth or an all in four, you may experience some mild pain from the surgery. To learn more about this, check out the post-procedure information down below.

Other common questions

  • How painful is the dental implant procedure?

Surprisingly, the procedure itself is painless… thanks to local anaesthetic. It is only after the treatment that you may experience some irritation and pain.

 

  • How long do dental implants last?

In most cases your dental implants can last up to 10 years.

 

  • What are the negative effects of dental implants?

There are no true negative effects unless (unlikely) complications occur during or after the procedure. Research conducted found implants to be safe. 

 

What kind of story do you want? Let your teeth tell a positive story every time you flash a smile. With the help of dental implants, you’ll bring back your quality of life and self confidence, without the hassle of constant removals. If you’re ready for a beautiful, natural looking smile then it’s time to book in for a consult for dental implants. 


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