Dental Implants – The process

Though dental care has improved significantly over the years, there are still millions of people who suffer tooth loss.  The loss of teeth can be mostly traced to tooth decay, gum disease/gingivitis, and injury.  In the past, tooth loss treatment options were limited primarily to bridges and dentures, but today missing teeth may be replaced via dental implant surgery. Many thanks to David Cashel, an experienced dental implants practitioner from Glasgow for providing us with the following excellent information.

What Are Dental Implants

A dental implant is essentially an artificial tooth root that’s purpose is to hold a replacement tooth or bridge.  The implants serve as a strong foundation for either fixed or removable replacement teeth that match the patient’s natural teeth.  It’s a great alternative to dentures or in cases were bridgework doesn’t fit perfectly.  Ideally, dental implant candidates should have good general and oral health.  They should have healthy gums, free from periodontal disease, and their jaw must have adequate bone to support the implant.


There are two types of dental implants: endosteal and subperiosteal.  Endosteal implants are placed in the bone and are the most common type of implant, typically used as an alternative for patients with bridges or removable dentures.  They come in a variety of forms including screws, cylinders, or blades which are surgically placed into the jawbone, but all perform the same function of holding one or more prosthetic teeth.  Subperiosteal implants are placed on the bone so that the metal framework’s posts come out through the gum to hold the prothesis.  This type of implant is preferred for patients who can’t wear regular dentures and have minimal bone height.

The Dental Implant Process

The surgical procedure for dental implants is dependent on the type of implant that will be used and the patient’s jawbone condition.  Regardless, all dental implant surgeries are done in a series of stages and multiple procedures.  One of the biggest benefits of implants is the solid support for new teeth, however, this requires an extended healing period of several months.

Typically dental implants are done through outpatient surgery in stages.  If a damaged tooth is present it is first removed, the jawbone must then be prepared for surgery, sometimes using a bone graft.  After adequate healing time, the oral surgeon can place the implant into your jawbone which then must heal before completing the last phase of placing the abutment (extension of implant post) and the artificial tooth (crown).  The entire dental implant process from start to finish will usually be three to nine months, sometimes longer, with most of the time dedicated to the healing of the bone around the implant.

When Bone Grafting is Necessary

For patients whose jawbone isn’t thick enough or is too soft, a bone graft is required before surgery and will extend the process as much as nine months.  This is to ensure a solid base for the implant and prevent the pressure from mouth chewing action from pulverizing the new implant.  Bone grafting for implants is done by transplanting bone from another part of your body into your jawbone.

Placement of Dental Implants

The oral surgeon makes a cut to open gums and expose the bone where the implant will be put.  Holes are then drilled into the bone where the implant post will be deeply buried in the bone, imitating a tooth root.  Though you still have a gap from the missing tooth, it is possible at this stage to place a removable temporary denture.  From here osseointegration, the process of healing and bone growth that integrates the artificial implant with your natural jawbone, begins and may take up to half a year.

The Abutment and New Artificial Teeth

After osseointegration is completed, the oral surgeon places the abutment, the attachment piece for the crown, in a minor procedure.  The abutment is often placed in the same procedure as the actual implant, but because it protrudes from the gumline some people choose to have it placed afterwards for appearances.  Healing time is usually one to two weeks before the final tooth placement.

When gums have fully healed, several impressions are made of the patient’s mouth and remaining teeth to create a realistic-looking artificial tooth (the crown).  There are two main types, a removable implant that functions similarly to the conventional denture and a fixed implant prosthesis that is either permanently screwed of cemented to the abutment.  The latter are the more expensive option.

Post-Surgery Expectations

Similar to other dental surgeries, the healing process immediately following surgery may include typical discomforts such as swelling of gums and face, bruising on skin and gums, pain, and minor bleeding.  If symptoms worsen, it’s important to consult your surgeon.  Post-surgery diet usually involves liquids and soft foods for as long as 10 t0 14 days.  Oral surgeons will typically use self-dissolving stitches, but if not, stitches are usually removed about 10 days after surgery.