A Patient’s Guide to Dental Implants – Candidacy, Efficacy, Advantages & Aftercare

A Patient’s Guide to Dental Implants – Candidacy, Efficacy, Advantages & Aftercare

What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are one of the most effective tooth replacement procedures and with the help of a skilled and qualified dentist you can easily restore your smile with this safe surgical procedure. Dental implants are made up of titanium that is inserted into the jaw for replacing missing teeth roots. Through a process known as osseointegration, the bone surrounding the teeth grows and gets attached to the implants, thus securing them and making them a permanent part of your natural smile.      

Following osseointegration, the dental implants will be attached to artificial teeth (replacement cap/crown) to anchor them to the jawbone or they may be used to anchor dentures or a bridge to the jawbone if a single tooth or multiple teeth are missing.

Dental Implants

When are Dental Implants Needed?  

Dental implants are needed for different reasons like replacing a single tooth or multiple missing teeth, resolving bite issues and joint pain, and for restoring facial tissues for achieving a natural smile. Dental implants are also the best long-term solution for replacing teeth that are missing due to tooth decay, gum disease, an accident, or a root canal failure.

Advantages of Dental Implants

  • Dental implants look completely natural
  • They boost your confidence
  • Implants prevent further loss of bone tissue in the jaw
  • You don’t need to remove them like bridges or dentures
  • Implants offer improved comfort when chewing food

Are You a Candidate for Dental implants?  

In order to have a dental implant, you must be healthy enough to undergo a tooth extraction. You should also have healthy gums and enough bone tissue in your jaw to facilitate the insertion of the anchor. If you meet these qualifications, you can get your dental implants right away. However, even if you have lost bone, you can still get dental implants but before the procedure begins, the bone must be rebuilt.   

An Step-by-Step Overview of the Dental Implant Surgical Procedure  

The dental implant surgery is carried out in several steps that take place over a timeframe of three to nine months.  

Steps of the dental implant surgery

  • Dental Examination  

    The initial consultation includes a comprehensive dental examination to determine your oral health. You may also have to take dental X-rays (IOPA, OPG, CBCT) to ensure an accurate evaluation. The examination also includes a questionnaire of your dental history, allergies, health conditions and medications that could interfere with the treatment plan. Based on the assessment, the oral surgeon will formulate a tailored treatment plan to obtain optimal oral function and desired aesthetic result.

  • Treatment Planning

    Depending on your unique situation, a comprehensive treatment plan will be formulated detailing the complete sequence of treatment. This treatment plan will also take into account the condition of your jawbone and the surrounding structure to know which option is best for you. Your oral surgeon will also walk you through all the steps involved in the cosmetic dentistry procedure so you know what to expect from the treatment.  

  • Placement of Dental Implant  

    Implant placement is a major surgical procedure performed under sterile conditions with local anesthesia. If your oral surgeon observes that you lack a significant amount of bone, he will evaluate the possibility of bone grafting procedures for bone regeneration. The placement starts with a gum incision where the implant is to be placed. Sequential drilling is used to prepare the jawbone while ensuring zero damage to the surrounding nerves and subsequently the implant is placed.     

  • Fusing Period

    The implant can take from six weeks to six months to fully integrate with the bone. During this period, the oral surgeon may recommend wearing temporary dentures or bridgework. In certain cases, a small connector post may be attached to the dental implant or temporary teeth can be fixed.

  • Restorative Process

    Once the bone has fully fused, the dental implants can be brought into full function with definitive restorations that range from a single crown and a small bridge to a larger bridge and removable over denture. After 3-6 months, the second phase starts wherein the abutment (metal post) is attached to the dental implants. Finally, your replacement teeth are created and fitted in the third phase which may require a few trials and corrections to achieve the desired outcome. The complete process generally takes 5 to 8 months but may vary from patient to patient. A dental technician may work closely with your oral surgeon to construct an appropriate restoration for you.    

  • Maintenance and Follow-Up   

    After the completion of your dental implant procedure, the patient must maintain the new teeth with regular brushing and flossing. You are also required to follow the care and maintenance measures recommended by your dental hygienist. Regular follow-up visits are equally important to ensure the oral health of soft tissues and the integrity of the restoration.

How Safe are Dental Implants and How Long Do They Last?

Dental implants are considered a completely safe tooth replacement procedure for patients who are in good overall and oral health and meet the eligibility criteria prior to undergoing this cosmetic dentistry procedure. When the surgery is performed by a qualified and experienced oral surgeon, dental implants are extremely successful. They typically last for several years once they have successfully fused to the bone. Many patients have had dental implants for well over 40 years.     

Are Dental Implants Costly?

The cost of dental implants depends on the work involved. For example, dental implants that will be used for fixing bridgework are more expensive than those used for replacing missing teeth. However, implants are more cost-effective over time as they do not need special care or replacement.

Is the Surgical Procedure Painful?

No. The procedure is not painful because a local anesthesia is administered prior to the procedure.

What to Expect Post Dental Implant Surgery?  

Whether your dental implants were placed in one stage or the entire procedure required multiple dental visits, you may experience some discomfort due to the swelling of your gums, pain at the implant site, minor bleeding and bruising of your skin.

If the pain, swelling or discomfort gets worse after the dental implant surgery, immediately contact your oral surgeon as you may need medications.

After every stage of the surgical procedure, you should only eat soft foods to facilitate faster recovery of the surgical site. While most dental implant surgeries are successful, sometimes the bone fails to fuse completely due to which the implant needs to be removed. After the bone is cleaned, the procedure is performed again in two to three months.  

Dietary Dos and Don’ts After Getting Dental Implants

Diet

Recovering from a dental implant surgery is a process that requires you to take a few precautions especially when it comes to your diet and hygiene. This enables the dental implants to fuse with the bone tissue and ensures proper support and stability for implants. Generally, a soft diet is recommended for five to seven days to ensure that the bone tissue and gums heal properly and quickly.

Even then, your soft food diet should factor in the needs of your body like energy and nutrients. You can speak to your dentist for advice on a variety of foods that you can eat. If you are not sure about where to start, here are some food choices/dietary recommendations as well as restrictions you can follow after a dental implant surgery.

  • Fruits and Vegetables
    It is advisable to go for fruits that are deemed softer like peaches, bananas, melons, nectarines as well as all berries. You will do well to consider cutting the fruit into pieces as opposed to taking a bite. On the other hand, your vegetables should be properly cooked so that they are not too crunchy for your new implants. Good alternatives for the vegetables include carrots, broccoli and squash. Soups and sauces are also a safe and easy option to try out.

  • Starches and Grains

    A majority of cooked grains will help you avoid hard foods while giving you more nutrients. For instance, you can have oatmeal for breakfast and consider noodles, rice, soft bread, grits or mashed potatoes for dinner.

  • Beverages

    You want to stay hydrated after your dental implant surgery; hence, nothing will work best for you than water. Be sure to avoid alcoholic drinks during your recovery period.

  • Protein

    Poultry and red meat may be tough on your dental implants during the first few days of your surgical procedure. Therefore, consume them carefully and sparingly. Other safe options for proteins include fish, seafood, beans and eggs, among others. You can also consider red meat only when it is tenderized.

  • Dairy
    Dairy is also considered a good source of protein when recovering from a dental implant surgery. This includes dairy products like yogurt, milk as well as cheese. Although quinoa and couscous are considered wheat and grain, they have a high amount of protein.
  • Dietary Restrictions

    When it comes to dietary restrictions, consider staying off food that is chewy, crunchy and hard during your recovery. This is because they may cause discomfort, delay healing and result in implant failure. Some of the foods that you must refrain from eating include the following.

  • Chewy Foods

    This refers to any food that must be chewed for a couple of rounds before swallowing. Eating such foods will result in the implants pulling away from the gums. They include hard fruit, cookies, salads, rolls and gummies, among others.

  • Hard Foods

    They include snack foods like candies, dried fruit and pretzels. Raw crunchy vegetables and nuts also pose a threat to the dental implants.

  • Very Cold or Hot Foods

    Introduction of extreme temperatures can lead to pain or even open a wound. Therefore, consider allowing your hot meals to turn luke-warm before eating. For cold drinks, avoid the temptation of using a straw soon after the surgery as it may brush against the dental implants causing irritation.

In summary, the recovery period for surgical procedure should be supported by eating the right foods that will not interfere with the process of integration into the gums or even give rise to wounds or gum disease. Thus, you must choose your meals wisely.

How to Maintain Your Dental Implants?  

Dental implants can develop problems in the absence of consistent oral care. The earliest sign of an underlying problem is bleeding which eventually progresses to bone loss. This is why the importance of oral care cannot be understated. Restored dental implants should be free from plaque and for this your oral hygiene aids should include a soft toothbrush, a low-abrasive toothpaste and dental floss for thorough cleaning around the abutments. You can also include an antimicrobial mouth rinse and disclosing tablets that stain the area where plaque has accumulated. Your dental implants must be examined annually with an x-ray for the first 3 years following the surgical procedure so you can keep them for life.

For more information on caring for your tooth implant, make an appointment with the best dentist in Goodyear AZ at Joshua Hong DDS.