Dental implant surgery: What to expect

August 25, 2021

Dental implants are one of the most common tooth replacement procedures in Calgary. A tooth implant can mimic the look, feel, and function of a natural tooth, lasting a lifetime when cared for properly. Because dental implants are a permanent dental restoration procedure, the process can be quite lengthy and take up to six months or more to complete. Here’s everything you can expect from your very first appointment at your NW Calgary dental clinic all the way to the after-care of your new implants.

The initial consultation

First and foremost, it’s important to know that not everyone is a candidate for dental implants. During your consultation, your dentist will ask you a series of questions, check the health of your existing teeth and gums, and refer you to one or more of the following specialists:

  • An oral surgeon and/or periodontist for a full examination of your mouth, jawbone, and other structural support. These first steps are simply to determine whether you are a good candidate for dental implants.
  • A prosthodontist, a dentist who specializes in teeth restoration and replacement.
  • An ear, nose, and throat specialist for another examination of the structural support surrounding your jaw and mouth.

Generally, what these specialists are looking for are good bone structure and healthy gums. If the jaw bone is too thin or soft or if there is a presence of gum disease, you may not be considered a candidate for dental implants because these two factors can cause the surgery to fail. Additionally, patients with diabetes may need more tests done and those with an autoimmune disease that compromises their ability to heal may be denied.

The pre-surgery process

Once you’ve been given the ok to proceed with dental implant surgery, it’s time for the pre-op procedures. In some cases where the patient’s bone is not thick enough, they may need to undergo bone grafting which is a surgery that involves transplanting bone tissue. This tissue can either be synthetic or come from elsewhere in your body. Bone grafting may take days or months to complete, depending on whether it is your own tissue or synthetic material being used. Remember, this is not always the case for all surgeries - it all depends on the patient’s unique situation.

During the pre-surgery process, you’ll speak with your dentist about booking a day for the surgery and taking the necessary time off of work. Your dentist will talk to you about sedation and having a friend or family member drop you off at the surgery and take you home. You may also be prescribed antibiotics or anti-bacterial mouth wash to keep you healthy in the weeks leading to the surgery. During this time, don’t be afraid to ask all of the questions you need to and discuss any concerns. Some nervousness is normal, and your dentist will work with you to assure you and relieve some of that anxiety. Remember - you are in the hands of experienced specialists. Tooth implant surgery in Calgary is safe and effective.

Deciding on the type of sedation

A local anesthetic is applied during surgery, but you have the option to receive either oral or IV sedation if you choose to. Patients choose to be sedated because they either have a low pain threshold, they have a strong gag reflex that will make it difficult for the surgeon to complete the surgery, sensitivity, or the amount of work needed is extensive.

If you choose to be sedated, you may need to avoid food after midnight before the day of the surgery. If you decide to go with local anesthetics, we recommend eating a big breakfast as you won’t be able to consume any food for a few hours.

On the day of the surgery

Dental implant surgery happens in three phases:

  • Placement of the implant
  • Attaching the abutment
  • Fitting the crown

Your dental clinic in NW Calgary can complete the placement of the implant unless it’s decided otherwise that you need to specifically see an oral surgeon. During the surgery, you will either be sedated or numbed with local anesthesia. Once the sedation or anesthetics kick in, your dentist will make an incision in your gum to expose the bone. Using a quiet drill, they will create space in the bone for the implant screw and then the implant goes into place. Depending on the size of the incision, you may need a stitch or two to close it.

Dental implant recovery

Once the first surgery phase is done, you’ll wait a few months for your gums to heal and the implant to fuse with your jawbone. The recovery time varies depending on how many implants you need or whether you require a bone graft. Normal recovery symptoms include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Localized pain

You can take over-the-counter ibuprofen or Tylenol to relieve the pain and apply a cold compress for the swelling. You’ll be given post-surgery care instructions, including what type of food to eat and brushing carefully. Most patients report that the second day is typically the worst with the symptoms declining after the third day. Some patients go back to work the day after their surgery, but we recommend taking time off to rest and take it easy to help with healing.

Attachment of the abutment and crown fitting

Once the dental implants are healed, the second phase of the procedure happens. You will once again be sedated or provided with local anesthesia. Then, your dentist or oral surgeon will create another incision to re-expose the implant and place the abutment on the implant. They will then take the impression needed to fit the crown.

While you heal from the second surgery, your dentist will create the crown which can take several appointments, depending on a case-by-case basis. The crown is designed to match your surrounding teeth to create as natural of a look as possible. It typically takes about 4-6 weeks for gums to heal around the abutment in which you’ll be given instructions on how to clean around the abutments to prevent infections and promote healing. Once healed, the final step takes place - the crown fitting. Your dentist will make sure that everything fits as it should which may require a trial fitting before the final fit.

Follow-up appointments

After the crown fitting, you can expect to see your dentist for follow-up appointments:

  • One to two weeks after the placement to check for any signs of infection and remove any sutures
  • Six weeks after placement, your dentist will examine your gums to ensure that they are healing well.
  • Three months after placement, your dentist will examine your jawbone to make sure there is no bone loss around the implant and any signs of periodontitis or inflammation.

Wrapping up

Although the process is a lengthy and significant undertaking, dental implants can completely transform your smile. They’re a permanent solution that can give you a strong set of teeth for a lifetime.

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