The Dental Implants Procedure

What To Expect

Getting one or several dental implants is a major life decision, and while it represents a considerable upgrade over a dental bridge or partial dentures, it’s also a considerable investment in terms of time and money.

As a patient, it’s always best to be fully informed about what your treatment will involve. This guide will educate you on how to navigate the experience of getting dental implants, and what to expect at each stage of the procedure: before, during, and after.

Before The Procedure

Before the Procedure

Practitioner Selection

While your current dentist may offer dental implants, that doesn’t mean you should automatically have the procedure performed by them. Finding the right dental office to place your dental implants is just as important as the type of dental implant and crown materials.

Like with any major decision, you should do plenty of research online before you even contact any dental offices. Your findings should help you create a shortlist of offices who you’ll then contact for an initial consultation.

In general, you should look for dental offices with:

Doctors who have extensive implant experience

Not all experience is equal. Make sure that one or more practitioners at the office has lengthy experience with implant dentistry.

A history of caring and diligent service

Read through the dental office’s reviews - are there lots of positive remarks about the practice? Conversely, are there relevant complaints that frequently appear?

Modern digital scanning equipment

Not all dental offices will take the time to showcase the equipment they use, but you can still look out for mentions of digital dentistry.

Well-maintained facilities

A dentist’s office (and website) can tell you a bit about their level of care and attention to detail.

A convenient location

Getting dental implants will involve multiple visits, so you should take into account the location of the dental office and your mobility needs.

Consultation

Once you’ve narrowed down a list of dental offices to contact, you can begin booking consultations. During the consultation, the dentist you speak with will answer any questions you have about the dental implants procedure, find out more about your dental history, and perform some quick initial examinations; generally, it takes around 45-60 minutes.

If there are other considerations that are important to you, like insurance coverage or the availability of financing plans, this is the time to ask about them as well. You don’t necessarily want to anchor yourself to the dental office with the lowest price - but there’s also no harm in looking around either.

Generally, these initial conversations are free, although some clinics which position themselves as “high-end” may charge you a consultation fee. That doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality, however, so don’t pay more unless you’re confident that consulting with that dental office will be worthwhile.

Some observations to think about...

Once you’ve visited all the dental offices on your shortlist, take time to reflect on the experience with each of them.
Were they pushy or rushed?
Was the focus on educating me or trying to sell the procedure?
Did they speak to me on my level?
Or just use lots of dental jargon without explaining anything?
Was the office able to meet my needs?
In terms of financial flexibility and treatment scheduling?

Assessment

Once you’ve decided on a dental office, the next step will be booking an appointment so the dentist can perform an in-depth physical exam and take detailed digital and x-ray scans of your mouth, teeth, and jaws.

The information from these assessments will help the dental office in several ways: firstly, it’ll tell them whether you’ll need any advance treatments before you can get your dental implant(s); secondly, it’ll help them understand the safest and most secure way to place your implant(s); and thirdly, it’ll be used to create a personalized, well-fitting crown for each of your dental implants.

Pre-surgery 
Arrangements

As a moderate to major procedure, there are some arrangements you should make to ensure everything goes smoothly during and after your surgery. These include:
Finding transport to and from your surgery
Letting people know that you’ll be taking time off to recover
Planning a diet of soft foods for after your surgery
Picking up over-the-counter or prescription pain medication

Preparatory Treatments

Depending on the health of your mouth, you may need to complete other treatments before you can safely receive your dental implant(s). This is something that dentists will mention during the consultation phase as they examine your mouth and ask about your dental history.

The most common pre-treatments for dental implants are periodontal treatment and bone grafting.
Periodontal Treatment

If you have advanced gum disease (periodontal disease), the dentist - or a referred specialist - will need to work with you to get the disease under control and improve your gum health before you can begin the dental implants procedure.

The reason is because, left untreated, gum disease can cause serious complications during the procedure, including severe infections and outright implant failure.

Bone Grafting

The reasoning behind bone grafting is simple - if your jaw bone doesn’t have enough bone mass, the implant(s) won’t integrate securely.

To solve this problem, bone is typically taken from another part of your body - usually the hip, tibia, or back of the jaw - and used to strengthen the bone in and around the implant site.

Tooth Extraction

Depending on your procedure, you may need to have other teeth removed before your dental implants are placed. This is typically the case for full-mouth implant procedures and implant-supported dentures that provide the patient with a completely new smile.

During the Procedure

Patient Preparation

When you arrive for your surgery, your dentist will provide you with local anesthetic. Additionally, If your dentist offers it, you may also choose to receive what’s known as “conscious sedation” - which is a stronger type of sedation administered by gas or medication - to help you feel more relaxed and comfortable during your procedure.

Implant Placement

The total time will depend on the number of implants you’re receiving, with placement for a single implant taking between 30 and 60 minutes, and placement for multiple implants taking several hours.

The procedure for placing an implant includes:
Cutting open the gums to expose the bone
Drilling into the bone to create a cavity for the implant to be placed in
Placing the dental implant into the jaw bone
Closing the gums over or around the implant
Cleaning the implant site

Temporary Crown Placement

At the end of your implant surgery, your dentist can fit a temporary crown to each implant for cosmetic purposes; if you’ve heard or seen the phrase “teeth in a day”, this is what it refers to.

Your temporary crown, or crowns, shouldn’t be treated as fully functional teeth. You can use them to eat soft foods, but should generally avoid applying pressure on them, particularly during the first two weeks after your surgery.

Recovery & Healing

Depending on the number of dental implants you receive and your own body’s natural ability to heal, it may take anywhere from 3 months to 6 months for your dental implant(s) to fully integrate into your jaw bone through a process called “osseointegration”.
Week 1
You’ll feel the most discomfort directly after the procedure, including bleeding, swelling, and soreness. Many people choose to take over-the-counter pain medication to lessen their discomfort, and your dentist can prescribe stronger medication in advance if needed. 

At least the first day or two should be completely dedicated to recovering - if you can take more time, that’s even better. You should consume only liquids and very soft foods, while continuing to brush carefully and gently rinsing with a saltwater solution to minimize the chance of infection. 
Week 3-12
During this period, your implants will continue to heal and your mouth will begin to feel “normal” again. Just like before, you should watch out for any new or persistent feelings of discomfort around your mouth, since those could be signs of a complication with your procedure.
Week 2
By the second week, most of the initial discomfort should be gone. If you’re still feeling a significant amount of pain, you should contact your dentist immediately - the pain could be a sign of infection.

If you’ve only had 1 or 2 implants placed, you may begin to gradually eat firmer foods near the end of the second week; if you’ve had more implants placed or undergone a more complex procedure, you should continue eating soft foods until the end of the sixth week.
Week 12+
Depending on the complexity of your procedure and your body’s ability to recover, your implant sites will have mostly or entirely healed at this point, and your dentist will begin talking to you about abutment placement or permanent crown placement, depending on the type of dental implants you’ve received.

Abutment Placement

Some dental implants have 2 parts (implant post and crown) while others have 3 (implant post, abutment, and crown). If you’re receiving 3-part implants, an additional procedure is required to place the implant abutment once your jaw has securely grown around the implant post.

To place an abutment, the dentist will gently cut open the gum area to expose the implant, attach the abutment, then reposition the gum area (but not over) the newly attached abutment. Each abutment placement takes roughly 30 minutes, and it’ll take roughly 2-4 weeks for your gums to heal from the procedure.

Permanent Crown Placement

After your dentist has verified the strength and stability of your dental implant, they’ll attach a permanent crown - the “tooth part” of a dental implant - to each of your dental implants.

There are different types of implant crowns - some can be removed for cleaning, repairs, and adjustment, but most are screwed onto the implant as permanent fixtures. Overall, you can expect your dentist to take about 15 minutes to place each crown.

Adjustment & Fitting

Once your permanent crown has been attached to the implant, you’ll need to take some time to get used to it. In many cases, patients initially feel like the implant is too big, then gradually readjust to the feeling of having a tooth.

If there are still concerns about the look and feel or your crown(s) after a couple of weeks, your dentist will be able to make adjustments until you feel that your smile looks and feels suitably natural.

After the Procedure

Implant Care

One of the attractive aspects of dental implants is how similar they are to natural teeth. Compared to other tooth replacement solutions like bridges and dentures, they’re relatively low-maintenance.

Still, “low-maintenance” isn’t the same thing as “no-maintenance”, so there are still some guidelines to keep in mind. Following these tips will allow you to keep your dental implant(s) for decades - or even a lifetime.

Routine Oral Healthcare
As you would with natural teeth, you should still floss, brush, and rinse with mouthwash when you have dental implants. Likewise, you should still continue to visit your dentist for regular checkups.

Gum inflammation and disease can compromise your dental implants, so maintaining excellent oral hygiene is just as - if not more - important than it is before receiving your dental implants.
Sleeping
Teeth clenching and teeth grinding are sometimes, but not always, treated before the placement of dental implants. If you have a history of grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep, you should invest in a high quality, fitted night guard to protect your new smile while you’re catching up on your beauty sleep.
Drinking
While there isn’t really anything you need to completely avoid, the rule of “all things in moderation” is a good one to follow here.

Drinking beverages like coffee, tea, wine, or soda frequently can stain dental crowns, so it’s best to only enjoy those drinks occasionally (while taking care to rinse and brush your teeth well after doing so).
Eating
Dental implants let you eat nearly anything...with one notable exception: very hard foods.

Foods that require a strong biting force to eat, like nuts or tough, uncut fruits, should be avoided or eaten sparingly. They’re delicious, but they also run the risk of cracking your dental crown, which will mean more treatment and a costly replacement.

Payment

When the time comes for you to pay for the procedure, you usually have three options:
Card or Cash Up Front
This is more common with smaller numbers of implants, but If you have the funds available, you can choose to pay for the entire cost of the procedure at once even if you’re getting a full mouth of implants.
Dental Insurance
Unless you have a particularly generous plan, most dental insurance coverage in Canada doesn’t include anything beyond the initial scans and examinations. Having said that, if you’re not sure what dental coverage you’re entitled to, you should always check with your provider.
Financing
Payment plans are growing in popularity as a way to pay for larger dental treatments. They allow you to spread out the cost of the treatment over time, which - for many people - takes the cost from “unaffordable” to “affordable”.

Typically, you can choose to get in-house financing directly from the dental office, or get a pre-approved loan from a bank or lender.

Long-term Considerations

If you maintain good oral hygiene and follow your dentist’s recommendations, your dental implant and crown can last for a long time - but not necessarily forever. With that in mind, there’s good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad: while a well-cared for implant can last for a lifetime, a dental crown generally needs to be replaced or repaired every 10-15 years.

The good news is that - at least in Canada and the United States - many dental insurance plans will cover crown replacement roughly every 5 years as long as it isn’t claimed for cosmetic purposes. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re shopping around for new insurance coverage or deciding how much coverage you need from an existing provider.

Wrap-Up

There’s a lot of planning and consideration involved when getting dental implants - but all the effort is worth
it for better oral health and the freedom to smile confidently. In return for months of healing and a little bit of discomfort, you’ll be getting decades with a comfortable, capable smile.

Talk to Our Doctors

If you have questions about getting dental implants, or if you’d like to book a consultation with us
 at Poco Comfort Dentistry, please feel free to get in touch with us at our dental office or online.
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