Implants are the next best thing to natural teeth.
Although losing a tooth is never ideal, modern dentistry can provide you with the next best thing: a dental implant. Implants are embedded directly into your jawbone, preventing bone loss and providing the stability of a natural tooth, which allows you to eat and speak just as you would with your normal teeth. Their versatility enables them to restore your confidence in your smile, whether you’re missing a single tooth or multiple teeth. Despite the benefits of implants, they do sound intimidating and many people are nervous about the process involved in getting one. Below, we have outlined the entire process to help you understand what it will involve.
Planning Your Procedure
When you and Dr. Alhadef decide to consider a dental implant as a tooth replacement option, Dr. Alhadef will take x-rays of your mouth and examine it thoroughly. This will help him plan the procedure and determine what kind of bone loss, if any, your jaw is suffering from. If there’s significant bone loss, he may need to perform a bone graft and wait several months for the bone to heal before he can place the implants. Since implants do involve surgery, you will also need to discuss your medical history and make sure that you’re healthy enough to undergo the procedure; if you have conditions that leave you immuno-compromised or prone to infections, you may need your doctor’s clearance before getting an implant.
Preparing for Your Surgery
Dr. Alhadef may give you instructions to follow before your procedure. For example, he may ask you to begin using a special antibacterial mouthwash or taking an antibiotic a few days before the procedure. These instructions are likely to differ based on your individual needs, such as your medical history; following them will reduce your chances of complications and help you heal faster.
Placing the Implant
Implants are usually placed under localized anesthesia so that you’re able to follow instructions and answer questions as necessary throughout the procedure; however, Dr. Alhadef will make sure that your mouth is thoroughly numbed before he begins. You won’t experience any pain throughout the entire procedure, though you’ll likely feel some pressure. During this procedure, Dr. Alhadef will make an incision in your gums to expose your jawbone, make a space for the dental implant with a specialized drill, and screw the titanium rod of the implant securely into place. When he’s done, he’ll sew your gums closed over the implant.
Taking Time to Heal
Once the localized anesthetic wears off, you’ll feel sore—but it’ll probably hurt a lot less than you’re expecting. In fact, many patients agree that tooth extractions hurt more than getting an implant does. You can manage your pain and swelling by taking over-the-counter medications and by temporarily placing ice packs on the affected side of your face. Be careful—overusing ice packs might feel good in the short term, but it’ll make things worse in the long run. Instead, try keeping the ice pack on for 20 minutes and then keeping it off for at least another 20 minutes before reapplying it.
You should also stick to a diet of soft foods for a few weeks after your surgery. When you begin eating regular foods again, try to avoid chewing hard food on the affected side of your mouth, as this can put stress on your healing jaw. You’ll need to heal for about six to 12 weeks before you can undergo your next procedure. Although it may seem like a delay at first, this part of the process is incredibly important because it gives your jawbone time to grow around the implant, holding it even more firmly in place.
Attaching the Abutment
During the second procedure, Dr. Alhadef will numb your mouth before making another incision in your gums to expose the top of the implant. He will then attach the abutment, which is the piece of metal that your prosthetic tooth will attach to, onto the metal rod of the implant. Dr. Alhadef will finally close your gums around the abutment so that the metal sticks up above your gum line a little; your gums will heal around the metal. Once this is complete, Dr. Alhadef will take molds of your teeth, which will be used to make the crown that will be placed on top of your implant.
In some cases, you may be able to skip the third procedure altogether using single-day crowns—these crowns are milled in our office in under an hour, allowing them to be placed on top of your abutment right away. Generally, however, Dr. Alhadef only uses single-day crowns in specific circumstances. If you’re a good fit for single-day crowns, however, they can help you revitalize your smile a few weeks faster and with one less trip to our office.
In general, though, you’ll receive your crown in about two weeks, once your gums have healed and your crown has arrived from an outside lab. During this second healing period, you should once again stick to soft foods and use ice and over-the-counter pain medications to ease your discomfort.
Completing Your New Smile
The third procedure simply involves Dr. Alhadef placing your new tooth prosthesis. Dr. Alhadef may remove the prosthesis several times to make a few minor adjustments, checking your bite and asking you how comfortable it is along the way. Once it feels comfortable to you and Dr. Alhadef is sure the crown fits perfectly, he’ll give you specific instructions about how to care for your new smile, such as practicing great oral hygiene and visiting him for an evaluation every six months.
While getting a dental implant is a long, sometimes confusing process, it’s certainly worth it. In addition to feeling and looking just like the natural tooth you lost, implants protect your oral health on a deeper level than any other tooth replacement option—and they last twice as long. Although the crown should be replaced every 15 years or so, practicing good oral hygiene will allow your implant to improve the appearance and function of your teeth for an entire lifetime. If you’re interested in learning whether or not an implant is right for you, feel free to call our office at any time to schedule a consultation with Dr. Alhadef.