Dental Implant Procedure: Everything You Need to Know

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A dental implant procedure is performed by inserting artificial tooth roots. These implants bond with your jawbone, allowing the dentist or oral surgeon to place replacement teeth called crowns. Dental implants can be an option if you have one or more missing permanent teeth. They’re made to look, feel, and function like your natural teeth.

This article discusses what a dental implant procedure is and how to prepare for it. It also covers what to expect during the procedure and recovery.

Patient receiving dental implant surgery.
Jessica Olah / Verywell 

What Is a Dental Implant Procedure?

A dental implant procedure is an outpatient surgery. The implant is made of titanium and other materials that fuse with your jawbone and imitate the root of a tooth. This artificial root allows the dentist to secure your replacement teeth so they feel stable and blend in with your surrounding teeth.

Getting dental implants requires several appointments. This includes a consultation, an appointment to place the implant, and another to attach the new teeth.

Contraindications

Growing children may not be able to get a dental implant until their jaw growth and development is complete. People with chronic diseases such as diabetes or leukemia may not be good candidates for dental implants either. That's because those conditions can interfere with healing after surgery.

If you smoke, your dentist may not recommend surgery since smoking can slow healing. Talk with your dentist about your medical history and lifestyle habits to ensure that you’re a good candidate for the procedure.

Recap

In a dental implant procedure, the oral surgeon places an implant to secure replacement teeth. Children, people with chronic diseases, and those who smoke may not be good candidates for the procedure.

Purpose of a Dental Implant

A dental implant can replace one or more permanent teeth lost to an injury, gum disease, tooth decay, or infection. When you talk with your dentist at the initial consultation, they may discuss other options for replacing the teeth as well. These may include dentures and bridges.

They’ll discuss with you whether you have enough space and bone in the area of the missing tooth for the procedure.

If your tooth has been missing for a while, you may have bone loss. This requires a bone graft before you are able to proceed with dental implant surgery.

How to Prepare

Before the procedure, you’ll see your dentist for an initial consultation. Your dentist will give you a comprehensive examination. They’ll take X-rays and discuss with you the options to develop a plan for the implant surgery.

Once you’ve developed a plan and they’ve established that you’re in good health, they’ll schedule the surgery appointment. If your dentist recommends IV sedation for the procedure, you’ll need to arrange for someone to bring you home that day.

Location

A dental implant procedure is typically done at a dental office. It's performed by a team of professionals trained in oral surgery and restorative dentistry.

Food and Drink

If you are having local anesthesia, you can eat a light meal a couple of hours before the procedure. If you're having IV sedation, you'll be advised not to eat anything after midnight the night before the surgery. This helps ensure your stomach is empty.

Medications

Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to take for a few days before surgery to prevent early implant failures. They may also have you rinse with a special anti-bacterial mouthwash, such as chlorhexidine.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Smoking may lower the success of dental implants because it can slow healing. If you smoke, talk with your dentist about whether you should get dental implants.

Recap

Your dentist will give you an exam before scheduling the surgery appointment, including X-rays. If you're having IV sedation, stop eating after midnight the night before the surgery. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to take before the surgery.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Your dentist will advise you on the best method to place the dental implants. In certain cases, it is possible to have the implant placed and the tooth (crown) inserted on the same day. However, it is common for the implant procedure to happen in multiple appointments that are usually several months apart.

In the first phase, the surgical placement of the implant, you'll be given local anesthesia to numb your mouth, or you'll receive IV sedation. That way you won’t feel any pain or discomfort.

The dentist makes a cut in your gums to place the implant into the jawbone in the location of your missing tooth. Once it's placed, the dentist closes the gums over the implant so that it remains covered.

You’ll recover at home and will probably come back for the second phase of the procedure in a few months. That gives enough time for the bone to grow around the implant, making it strong enough to stay in place. This process is called osseointegration, meaning the titanium combines with the bone.

Each patient heals differently, so it can take up to six months before the replacement teeth can be placed. In some cases, a patient can have everything placed in one appointment.

The dentist will examine you to make sure that the implant is secure. Then, they'll place a connecting piece called an abutment over the post portion of the implant. This is the part that will hold the new tooth.

When your gums heal, the dentist will make impressions of your teeth. They'll create a custom replacement tooth, also called a crown. The crown is then attached to the abutment.

Recovery

If your dentist uses IV sedation, you’ll feel a little groggy for several hours. Be sure you arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.

After the implants are placed, you may experience some bruising, swelling, minor bleeding, and pain. You may be advised to eat soft foods, cold foods, and warm soup while you're healing. To help with any pain, your dentist will probably suggest over-the-counter medications, including Advil (ibuprofen).

Long-term Care

Dental implants typically require the same dental hygiene as your regular teeth. To keep them healthy, brush your teeth twice a day, floss, and see your dentist for regular follow-up appointments. Dental implants don’t get tooth decay, but they can be impacted by periodontal disease, so it’s important to practice good dental care.

Recap

After surgery, you may have some swelling, bruising, minor bleeding, and pain. Your dentist may suggest eating soft foods and using over-the-counter pain medication. For long-term care, brush and floss your teeth regularly, including your dental implants.

Summary

In a dental implant procedure, the oral surgeon places artificial tooth roots in your jaw. These implants fuse with your jawbone to hold replacement teeth.

You'll need a few appointments to get dental implants. The first is a consultation with the surgeon. Then you'll have the procedure to place the implant. In a few months, you'll have an appointment to have the replacement teeth placed. This gives enough time for your bone to grow around the implant so it stays in place.

During the procedure, you may have local anesthesia or IV sedation. If you're having IV sedation, make sure you have someone to drive you home after the procedure. Your dentist will also give you instructions on when to stop eating before the procedure.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re interested in getting a dental implant, talk to your dentist. The time involved for the procedure can vary depending on the structure of your mouth and your health. Your dentist can advise you if you’re a good candidate and help determine a plan of care that’s right for you.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lora Dodge
She was certified by the Dental Assisting National Board in 2001. Her career in dentistry first began in orthodontics and continued to expand into general dentistry, pediatrics, and oral surgery.