Dental implant surgery is a procedure that replaces tooth roots with metal, screw-like posts and replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function much like real ones. Dental implant surgery can offer a welcome alternative to dentures or bridgework that doesn’t fit well.
How dental implant surgery is performed depends on the type of implant and the condition of your jawbone. But all dental implant surgery occurs in stages and may involve several procedures. The major benefit of implants is solid support for your new teeth — a process that requires the bone to heal tightly around the implant.
Why it’s done
Dental implants are surgically placed in your jawbone, where they serve as the roots of missing teeth. Because the titanium in the implants fuses with your jawbone, the implants won’t slip, make noise or cause bone damage the way fixed bridgework or dentures might. And the materials can’t decay like your own teeth that support regular bridgework can.
In general, dental implants may be right for you if you:
- Have one or more missing teeth
- Have adequate bone to secure the implants or are able to have a bone graft
- Have healthy oral tissues
- Don’t have health conditions that will affect bone healing
- Are unable or unwilling to wear dentures
- Want to improve your speech
- Wear dentures that move around in the mouth
How you prepare
Because dental implants require one or more surgical procedures, you need a thorough evaluation to prepare for the process, including a:
- Comprehensive dental exam. You may have dental X-rays taken and models made of your teeth and mouth.
- Treatment plan. Tailored to your situation, this plan takes into account factors such as how many teeth you need replaced and the condition of your jawbone. A review of medical conditions and any medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
Dental implant surgery is usually an outpatient surgery performed in stages:
- Your damaged tooth is removed.
- Your jawbone is prepared for surgery, a process that may involve bone grafting.
- After your jawbone heals, your dentist places the dental implant metal post in your jawbone.
- You go through a healing period of 4-6 months. Extraction with immediate implant placement is possible.
- Your dentist places the abutment — an extension of the implant metal post — followed by your new artificial tooth (crown).
The entire process takes 4-6 months if the tooth has been missing for at least 6 months or 8-12 months if the tooth needs to be extracted.
When bone grafting is required
If your jawbone isn’t thick enough or is too soft, you may need bone grafting before you can have dental implant surgery. That’s because the powerful chewing action of your mouth exerts great pressure on your bone. Most cases need only minor bone grafting, which can be done at the same time as the implant surgery. The condition of your jawbone determines how you proceed.
Placing the dental implant
During surgery to place the dental implant, your dentist makes a cut to open your gum and expose the bone. Holes are drilled into the bone where the dental implant metal post will be placed. Since the post will serve as the tooth root, it’s implanted deep into the bone.
At this point, you’ll still have a gap where your tooth is missing. For an additional fee ($250-$500), a type of partial, temporary denture can be placed for appearance. You can remove this denture for cleaning and while you sleep.
Waiting for bone growth
Once the metal implant post is placed in your jawbone, osseointegration (oss-ee-oh-in-tuh-GRAY-shun) begins. During this process, the jawbone grows into and unites with the surface of the dental implant. This process, which can take up to six months, helps provide a solid base for your new tooth — just as roots do for your natural teeth.
Placing the Abutment and Crown
When osseointegration is complete, you may need additional surgery to place the abutment — the piece where the crown will eventually attach. This minor surgery is typically done with local anesthesia in an outpatient setting.
To place the abutment:
- The abutment is attached to the dental implant and the crown is cemented to the abutment.
Like any surgery, dental implant surgery poses some health risks. Problems are rare, though, and when they do occur they’re usually minor and easily treated. Risks include:
- Infection at the implant site
- Injury or damage to surrounding structures, such as other teeth or blood vessels
- Nerve damage, which can cause pain, numbness or tingling in your natural teeth, gums, lips or chin
- Sinus problems, when dental implants placed in the upper jaw protrude into one of your sinus cavities
- Extraction of tooth and bone graft to strengthen the jaw
- Placement of (1)implant into jaw
- (1)Abutment screwed into implant
- (1) Crown cemented to abutment
*Bundled Fee for patients without insurance or implant coverage, fee is due at scheduled appointment. Ask about our Care Credit Financing options.
If you have dental insurance, every plan is unique with set fees, coverage and exclusions. Most insurance plans cover 50% of each phase of treatment. Discuss coverage with your insurance company by contacting an agent directly.
After an exam to determine treatment needed a pre-authorization will be submitted to determine the total cost individualized to your insurance plan.