Overview of Implant Placement
The Surgical Procedure
Dental implant placement is a team effort between the surgeon and dentist (or prosthodontist). While the surgeon performs the actual implant surgery, initial tooth extractions, and bone grafting if necessary, the restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process.
For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed within your jaw bone. For the first three to four months following surgery, the implants are beneath the surface of the gums gradually bonding with the jaw bone. You should be able to wear temporary dentures and eat a soft diet during this time. For a missing front tooth, a temporary partial denture (“flipper”) or sometimes a temporary crown can be used so that you do not have a missing tooth when you smile or speak. If the dental implant is replacing a tooth in the back of the mouth, you have the option of just leaving the space open while the implant heals under the gums.
After the implants have bonded to the jaw bone, the second stage begins. The surgeon will uncover the implants and attach small posts (also called healing abutments) that protrude through the gums. After 2-3 weeks of gum healing, your general dentist or prosthodontist will make the final crown(s) or prosthesis. Most patients experience minimal disruption in their daily life.
Single Stage Implants:
Under certain situations, single stage implants may be placed. With single stage implants, the healing abutments are placed at the same time as the implants are placed so as to avoid a second stage surgery to place them. A minimum of 3 months of healing time is required before the crown or prosthesis can be made.
Immediate Implant after Tooth Extraction:
There are even situations where the implants can be placed at the same time as a tooth extraction – further minimizing the number of surgical procedures. Traditionally, after a tooth was extracted, a waiting period of three months was required for adequate bone healing before implant placement. In certain circumstances, the surgeon can place the implant during the same appointment as the tooth extraction, thereby eliminating the traditional 3 month waiting period. This is called immediate implant placement.