Making the decision to get a single-tooth dental implant is usually a simple one. With a bridge acting as the only other option available, most dental patients find themselves weighing the pros and cons and ultimately deciding on an implant. Despite the choice, many patients are intimidated by the overall process. Fortunately, receiving a dental implant is not as scary as many perceive it to be.
What Is a Single-Tooth Dental Implant?
Acting as long-term treatments for tooth loss, single-tooth dental implants are permanent fixtures rooted in the jawbone. Using a titanium rod, an oral surgeon anchors the rod into the jaw using the hole created by the patient’s missing tooth. A small device is then attached to the top of the titanium rod that acts as a “saddle” for a custom-made fixture that mimics the appearance of the rest of the patient’s teeth; this fixture is called a crown. Crowns look and feel natural and do not affect a patient’s ability to speak or eat.
What to Expect: Pre-Op
After you and your dentist or oral surgeon discuss your options, the length of time required (which is based on numerous factors including the number of teeth needing to be implanted, if tooth extraction needs to occur, and your overall dental health), and have set a date for the implant to take place, your dentist will likely give you a few pre-operative instructions. Common instructions include rinsing your mouth out with an anti-bacterial mouthwash, a round of antibiotics, securing a ride to and from the appointment if you plan on having IV sedation or taking an oral sedative, and making sure that you have eaten a hearty breakfast the day of surgery unless you are opting for IV sedation (in which case, no food should be consumed after midnight the night leading up to surgery).
What to Expect: The Day of Surgery
Dental implant procedures are usually carried out in a two-phase process lasting anywhere from six to nine months. If bone grafting is needed, the process can last up to one year or longer. The surgery does not require hospitalization and can be done in the dental office. If sedation is preferred, an oral surgeon can perform the procedure. After your mouth has been numbed, an incision will be made in the gums in order to expose the underlying bone in the area where the implant will be placed. Your dentist or oral surgeon will then use a special drill that creates a space for the implant to be inserted. The implant is then screwed into the slot. After the implant has been placed, your dentist will add an additional piece to the top of the implant to act as a protective barrier. The gums are stitched back over the implant and the implant is left to attach to the bone; a process that takes a few months.
What to Expect: The Second Phase
The second phase is not nearly as in-depth as the first phase. The second phase begins by your dentist making an incision in your gums and re-exposing the implant. There is no pain associated with the re-exposure as you are thoroughly numbed before the procedure begins. An impression is then taken of a small device placed on the implant; this is what the lab will use to fit your crown. Then, various appointments will occur that usually involve your dentist taking impressions of your teeth in order to create a crown that produces the same look and feel as your surrounding teeth. The number of appointments depend on various factors and will likely be discussed with you prior to the first phase. The final step in the implant process is placing the newly created crown.
What to Expect: Post-Op
After the initial procedure, it is important to keep up with all post-operative instructions to avoid infection and the boy’s rejection of the implant. Bruising and gum swelling are normal complications and any discomfort can usually be treated with an over-the-counter painkiller like Ibuprofen. Most patients are fine to return to work the day following the procedure. As is the case with natural teeth, implanted teeth need to be checked and maintained regularly through a regular brushing and flossing routine in addition to routine check-ups with a dentist.