No one likes the thought of losing their teeth, but sadly for some of us this is a reality. You can lose a tooth through decay, damage, trauma or just old age, leaving you with gaps in your lovely natural smile. This doesn’t only look bad, but it can also cause damage to the teeth around it. So instead of leaving it as a gap, you can get it filled in with an artificial tooth, also known as an implant. Having an implant can help restore your smile and protect the teeth around it. And while it can take some time to do, it’s worth it in the long run. Your average dental implant takes between 3-6 months from start to finish with 4-5 visits to the dentist during that time. To help you understand your implant journey, we’ve put together this little guide on how dental implants are made and fitted by our resident implant expert, Dr Martin Whelan.
Appointment 1 – Consultation
|Dr Martin Whelan|
Before you have any work done you will first need to see your dentist in order to decide if an implant is right for you. At Appledore, dentist Dr Martin Whelan will perform a thorough examination of your damaged tooth or gap, as well the teeth around it, and a full jaw exam to assess if there is any further damage. They’ll then review your medical history, take X-Rays and make impressions of your teeth and gums so that the implants can be made. In some cases, where they see potential problems they may also do a CT scan of your mouth to assess how much jawbone is available to hold the implants in place. It will also show them where your sinuses and nerves are so that they can avoid them during the surgery. If this scan shows that your jawbone is eroded or damaged enough to cause problems, then the dentist will discuss ways that they can build up the bone. This process is called bone grafting, which involves adding processed bone or synthetic materials onto your jawbone to build a strong surface, If you need bone grafting it could take between 4 to 12 months before your jawbone is ready to receive the implant.
Appointment 2 - Implant Placement
The placement of the actual dental implant can be done very quickly if no extra procedures are needed to get started. However, if your dentist has decided you need bone grafting before the procedure, it can be delayed by 5 to 12 months. The placement of the implant is fairly simple. Your dentist will use a personalised guide over the gap to show them where the implant will need to be placed before drilling a small hole into the jawbone. From there they will use a sequence of slightly bigger drills, gradually widening the hole for the implant to sit in comfortably. The physical implant is then placed gently in the hole and screwed in place. This is then left to heal for a few months. During this time the bone will fuse with the implant material, creating a solid base for the upper crown to be fitted to. You won’t be able to see any difference in your teeth just yet, as the implant sits below your gum line. So for now, you’ll just have a gap.
Appointment 3 - The Healing Collar/Temporary Crown
Once the implants have successfully fused with the bones in your jaw and healed, you’re ready for your second surgery. This involves making a small incision in your gums around the implant to expose it slightly. A healing collar or a temporary crown is then placed on the head of the implant. There isn’t much difference between the two, it’s usually the dentist’s choice. This procedure is done to encourage the gum tissue to heal correctly around the collar and hold the gum away from the implant itself, which allows for easy placement of the final crown later on. A healing collar or temporary crown will be left in place for around 10-14 days, while a temporary crown will need to be in place for 4-6 weeks to be effective.
Appointment 4 – Placement Of Permanent Crown
This is the final stage of the dental implant process, and it’s usually done around 5-11 months after your initial consultation and fitting. As soon as your collar or temporary crown is fitted, your dentist will start working on the permanent crown for you. This part of the process takes between 2-3 weeks, which gives you plenty of time for your mouth to fully heal. The final crown can be fitted to your implant in 2 ways, depending on your preferences. It can be cemented onto the implant base, or it can be screwed in. Your dentist will have discussed both of these options with you beforehand, so you know what to expect. In general, cemented crowns will often look better in the long term because there is no screw hole in the crown that could be visible after wear, but a screw crown can be easier for your dentist to remove in case there are problems later down the line. Once your permanent crown is in place you’ll need to care for your implant the same way you care for your natural teeth – brush and floss regularly, and make sure you don’t eat anything too crunchy that could cause it to crack.
Appointment 5 – Check Up
Around 6 months after your permanent crown is fitted you will need to see your dentist for a check-up. During this visit your dentist will do a routine exam of all your teeth and the implant, and ask how you are finding your crown. If you are experiencing any discomfort or your crown is wobbling, cracking or loose, your dentist will be able to fix this here. However, these complications are very rare, and 99% of implant check-ups are uneventful, routine check-ups.
Overall your dental implant procedure should be painless, and you will only need anaesthetic for appointments 2 and 3. If there are no complications you will be enjoying your complete smile in no time. For more information about dental implants or to book in your consultation with Dr Martin Whelan, just get in touch with us at the Appledore Clinic today.
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