What to Expect When You Need to Get a Dental Implant

If the thought of getting a cavity taken care of fills you with dread, then you might find yourself running for the hills when your dentist suggests a dental implant. But in actuality, these procedures—though more involved than a standard cavity filling—are relatively painless and almost always successful. In fact, data suggests their overall success rate is a whopping 95 percent.

Just what is a dental implant, exactly? It involves replacing a tooth and its root with an artificial root and tooth that look and function much like a real tooth. Implants are often used to replace missing or severely damaged teeth. For many people, dental implants offer an appealing alternative to dentures or bridges.

While everyone’s treatment plan varies a bit, what follows is a general overview of the general process involved in getting a dental implant. Of course, individual experiences are tailored to individual patients, so if yours ends up a bit different, that's because your dental professional has decided it's best.

A quick notice! To emphasize the sentence above, everyone's mouth and experiences with dental procedures will be different!

We hope you enjoy this blog, but please remember, it should NOT take the place of advice and consultation from a qualified dental professional (like the team at Rifkin Dental!). Please don't use content on the internet to self-diagnose — see your dental professional for regular check-ups and if you suspect you might have a chronic or acute dental issue.

The whole process starts with a comprehensive exam.

Your dentist will take X-rays to evaluate the condition of your jawbone and gums. This will enable them to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Then, they may take an impression of your mouth in order to create a model of your teeth, gums, and other oral tissues. These impressions will be sent to a lab, which will be responsible for creating an artificial tooth (or “crown”) later on in the process.

The dentist will remove the damaged tooth.

Once your dentist has created your treatment plan, they’ll remove the damaged tooth. (If the tooth is already missing, you’ll skip this step.) This generally involves injecting local anesthesia to numb the surrounding area. It should be a quick and painless procedure.

Next, your dentist will either encourage you to wait a few weeks for the removal site to heal or they’ll go ahead and place the jawbone implant post right after removing the tooth. More on that in the next section.

Your dentist will place the jawbone implant post.

In order to make sure your dental implant stays in place for years to come, your dentist will need to secure a post in your jawbone. This post will serve as an artificial “root” for the dental implant.

This might sound invasive, but the good news is you’ll be numbed up the whole time. Most people say the process feels similar to having a cavity drilled—you might experience a vibrating sensation, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.

If your jawbone is in bad shape, your dentist may need to perform a bone graft. This process — which is relatively routine — that can be performed at the same time as the implant post insertion.

A healing stage comes next.

After the implant post has been inserted, you’ll wait several weeks (or even months) for the jawbone to heal and fuse with the post. It’s important that the post be completely stable before the crown is inserted, which is why your dentist won’t rush the healing process.

During this time, you’ll go about your normal life. You may need to eat soft foods for the first few weeks, but otherwise you should be able to proceed as normal. You’ll have a gap where the removed tooth used to be, or your dentist can fit you with a temporary denture if you’re concerned about appearances.

Your dentist will place the implant abutment.

Once your jawbone has healed and the implant post is secure, your dentist will place the abutment as part of a minor outpatient procedure. The abutment will connect the implant post (which is below the gum line) to the artificial tooth. In some cases, your dentist may place the abutment at the same time as the implant post.

You’ll spend some more time healing.

If the abutment is placed separately from the implant post, you’ll take a few more weeks to heal again. The process of placing the abutment involves separating the gum tissue, which is why some healing time is required.

Your dentist will take more impressions.

Once the abutment is in place and your gums have fully healed, your dentist will make another round of impressions. These molds of your teeth and jawbone will be used to make your artificial tooth.

Finally, the dentist will place the crown.

The last step in the process involves placing the artificial tooth. The crown will be attached to the abutment either by cement (making it “fixed” or permanent) or by screwing it onto the abutment (which makes it removable). You’ll work with your dentist to determine which option is right for you.

While the process of obtaining a dental implant can take several months or even a full year, each step is relatively painless. Follow your dentist’s after-care instructions at every stage in the process, and be sure to care for your implant once it’s inserted by brushing and flossing every day and seeing your dentist for follow-up checkups as advised. By working closely with your dentist and doing your part to care for your dental health, you’ll increase the odds of a successful implant