Dental implants can be used to replace missing teeth. The implant is added to the jawbone and substitutes for the roots of the missing tooth. The implant procedure can be done by a dentist, periodontist, prosthodontist, or oral surgeon. It takes several appointments and is done over a period of 3-6 months.
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Reasons for Procedure
You may have missing teeth due to injury, disease, or decay. Implants can be used to prevent problems associated with missing teeth, such as:
- Difficulty chewing
- Problems with appearance, especially if your face appears sunken due to missing teeth
- Problems with remaining teeth—teeth may become tipped, spaced out, or crowded
Dental implants may also be used to replace dentures or help retain existing dentures.
Potential problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your dentist will review potential problems, like:
- Infection at the implant site
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Injury or damage to nearby teeth
- Nerve damage
- Sinus problems if implants were placed in the upper jaw
- Implant is rejected by your body
Talk to your dentist about these risks before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Implants require several surgical procedures. Before getting implants, you will need to have a thorough dental exam, including having:
- Dental x-rays
- Models of your mouth
You and your dentist will make a treatment plan. Before treatment begins:
- Talk to your dentist if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements.
- You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Tell your dentist if you have any heart conditions or joint replacements. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection.
During the procedure, you may have local anesthesia, which only numbs a small area in your mouth. Or, you may have general anesthesia so you do not feel any pain during the procedure. Talk to your dentist to decide which option is best for you.
Description of Procedure
At your first visit, an implant will be placed. The gum will be cut open to expose your jaw bone. A hole will be drilled and the implant will be placed. The implant is made of titanium or another material. It is implanted deep into the jaw bone. Your gum will be closed over the implant. You will need to wait 3-6 months for the implant to fuse with your jaw bone.
At the next visit, the implant will be uncovered and an extension, called a post or abutment, will be inserted. The post will stick out past your gums. This is done so that there is something on which to attach the crown. For some types of implants, the implant and post will be inserted during the same visit. A mold will also be made of your upper and lower jaw. The mold will be used to create the crown in a dental lab. You may have a temporary crown placed over the post until it is time for the permanent crown to be attached.
The crown will be attached at a third visit after your gums have healed around the abutment post—usually 2-3 weeks.
How Long Will It Take?
The 3 visits will take place over 3-6 months. Each visit will take 30-60 minutes. However, the visit to place the implant may take a couple of hours.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You might have some pain while your gums heal around the implant. Your dentist may prescribe medication for the pain.
At the Care Center
You will be able to leave right after the procedure if you had local anesthesia. If you had general anesthesia, you will need someone to drive you home.
During your recovery:
- You will need to have regular follow-up visits to monitor your implant, teeth, and gums to make sure they are healthy.
- Avoid habits that can damage your teeth, such as chewing ice, biting your fingernails, and grinding your teeth.
- Practice good oral hygiene habits. Brush your teeth twice each day and floss once each day. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups.
- Be sure to follow your dentist's instructions.
Call Your Dentist
It is normal to have some swelling or discomfort right after the procedure. Call your dentist if the pain worsens.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry
Canadian Dental Association
ADA Division of Communications, Journal of the American Dental Association. For the dental patient. Dental implants. An option for replacing missing teeth. J Am Dent Assoc. 2005;136(2):255.
Dental implant options. American Academy of Implant Dentistry website. Available at: https://www.aaid-implant.org/dental-implant-options. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Dental implants. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website. Available at: https://myoms.org/procedures/dental-implant-surgery. March 27, 2018.
Dental implants. American Academy of Periodontology website. Available at: https://www.perio.org/consumer/dental-implants. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Dental implants. ICOI Dental Implants website. Available at: http://dentalimplants.com. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD Last Updated: 3/18/2013