The Surgical Procedure

The procedure to place a dental implant takes 20 to 40 minutes for one implant and one to two hours for multiple implants. The number of appointments and time required vary from patient to patient. The surgeon will bring great precision and attention to the details of each patient case.

Prior to surgery, patients may receive antibiotics. For greater comfort, intravenous sedation or nitrous oxide (laughing gas) may be given. These options are discussed with each patient at their consultation appointment. A local anesthetic will be administered to numb the area where the implant will be placed.

Once the patient is comfortable, the surgeon will make a small incision in the gum tissue to reveal the bone, create space using special instruments, and gently insert the titanium implant. The top of this implant is often visible through the gum. Sometimes it is better in the early stages of healing to have the implant covered by the gum tissue.

A depiction of the upper jaw with all normal teeth
1. Normal
An example of the upper jaw missing a tooth with the jaw bone unhealed
2. Tooth Loss
A representation of a healed upper jaw bone after losing a tooth
3. Healed Bone
A digital representation of the initial dental implant placed in the jaw bone
4. Implant Placed
A representation of the healed jaw bone after placement of the dental implant
5. Healing
An example of a fully restored tooth using a dental implant
6. Implant Restored

The Healing Phase

Now the healing begins. The length of time varies from person to person, depending upon the quality and quantity of bone. In some cases, implants may be restored immediately after they are placed. The surgeon will advise each patient on follow-up care and timing. After the initial phase of healing, the surgeon places an abutment (support post) or a healing cap onto the implant during a brief follow-up visit. This allows gum tissue to mature and provides access to the implant.

Occasionally, impressions are made at the time the implant is placed. This enables the crown to be ready when the implants have healed. How long the mouth needs to heal is determined by a variety of factors. Follow-up care, usually one to four appointments may be needed to ensure that the patient’s mouth is healing well and to determine when the restorative phase of  treatment is ready.

It may be beneficial to perform a soft tissue graft to obtain stronger, more easily cleaned, and natural appearing gum tissue in the area around the implant. This process involves moving a small amount of gum tissue from one part of the mouth to the area around the implant. Most often, it is a brief and relatively comfortable procedure.

Whether it’s one tooth or all of the patient’s teeth that are being replaced, the patient’s dentist will complete the restoration by fitting the replacement tooth (crown) to the dental implant.

When Are Dental Implants Placed?

Dental Implants Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of dental implants, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to dental implants are discussed.

Dental Implants Presentation

Implants are often placed several months after extraction. At times, an implant may be placed immediately after extraction of a tooth. This may involve a little more risk, but it simplifies the process. When infection or other problems with the bone are present, immediate implant placement is not the best treatment.

If a person’s tooth has been missing for some time, the adjacent support bone is likely to grow thinner and shrink. This occurs because the root of the natural tooth has to be present to stimulate the bone. As much as one third of the jaw’s thickness can be lost in the year following tooth extraction. If  enough bone is missing, having additional bone grafted into the area may be benificial. This ensures the implant will be adequately supported when it is placed in the jaw.

How Many Implants Do I Need?

Most frequently, one implant per missing tooth is placed. Because many of the larger teeth in the back of the jaws have two or three roots, the most common approach is to replace missing back teeth with larger implants.