Important Steps When Receiving Dental Implants
Dental implants can be a permanent solution for patients embarrassed by missing teeth or dated dentures, and surgery doesn’t have to be scary if you know what to expect. Here are a few things you should keep in mind before, during and after your implant procedure:
- Medical History – Tell your dentist about any allergies, medical conditions and any medications you take, including prescription or over-the-counter drugs and supplements. If you have certain heart conditions – such as artificial heart valves — or orthopedic implants, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before surgery to help prevent infection. Also let your doctor know if you are a smoker since smoking appears to decrease blood flow to healing gums and bone and may prevent successful bonding between your implant and jawbone.
- Anesthesia – Depending on which option is best for you, your dental surgeon may administer local anesthesia, general anesthesia or even sedate you during the procedure. Based on the type of procedure and anesthesia, your dentist will give you specific instructions about eating and drinking before surgery and what sort of care or assistance you might need after surgery.
- Length of Initial Surgery – The length of the implant procedure will depend on whether you need a bone graft to support the implants and the number of implants you actually need. In most cases, placing a single implant takes less than an hour.
- Second Stage – After the implants have bonded with the jawbone, you are ready for the second step. After giving you anesthesia, your dentist will make a small cut in the gum to expose the implant. They then will remove a protective screw from the implant and replace it with a metal healing cap that sits above your gums. This holds the space where your crown, bridge, or dentures will sit and ensures the gum heals correctly around the implant.
- In the First Few Weeks – Some patients could experience swelling, bruising, pain at the implant site or minor bleeding. If swelling, discomfort or any other problem gets worse, you should call your oral surgeon. After each stage of surgery, you may need to take pain medications and antibiotics and eat soft foods while the surgical site heals over a few weeks. Your dentist might also need to remove stitches about 10 days after surgery.
- Continued Care –You may want to use specially designed brushes to help keep implants, artificial teeth and gum tissue clean. Don’t chew hard items, such as ice or hard candy, which can damage your crowns or natural teeth. Avoid tobacco, caffeine and other substances that can stain your teeth. And remember, crowns, bridges and dentures need care just like natural teeth, so schedule regular dental checkups to maintain your implants and overall oral health.
Although dental implants can seem daunting at first, they look, feel and function much more like natural teeth than traditional tooth replacements, including ill-fitting dentures. And, with proper care, they can be a smile solution that lasts a lifetime.