3-D model of lower teeth with a dental implant replacing a molar tooth

You don’t have to live with the discomfort and self-consciousness of missing teeth. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots for replacing missing teeth. Dental implants look and feel so natural that many people forget they have them. This article will discuss what to expect with dental implants—from your consultation to recovery and maintaining your implants.

1. Dental Implants Consultation

A dental implants consultation is an appointment to meet with an implant dentist and determine whether dental implants will resolve your concerns.

Conversation with the doctor

The implant dentist will do the following:

  • Listen to your concerns and goals for your oral health
  • Ask questions to determine your unique needs and how your oral health affects your quality of life
  • Review your medical and dental histories
  • Review previous x-rays or impressions of your mouth
  • Answer your questions

Oral evaluation

Your implant dentist will complete an oral evaluation that includes these steps:

  • Complete an oral exam of your teeth and gums
  • Take x-rays
  • Take a 3-D cone-beam CT scan to view your oral anatomy and measure your jawbone volume

Discuss a treatment plan

After reviewing the results of your oral examination, your implant dentist or oral surgeon will discuss a treatment plan and other details, including:

  • Your dental implant options or alternatives if you do not qualify for implants
  • The steps in the dental implants procedure or alternative treatment
  • The time frame for your treatment
  • Local anesthesia and sedation options to relax you before your procedure
  • Whether your need bone grafting to build up your jawbone
  • Whether you need a gum graft to replace receding or damaged gum tissue
  • What to expect during and after surgery
  • The number of appointments you will need
  • Your recovery
  • Aftercare instructions
  • Scheduling your surgery
  • Answering your questions
  • Sharing success stories
  • Showing you patient photos to help you anticipate the life-changing results you can expect

We encourage you to list your concerns and questions before your appointment to ensure your implant dentist answers them during your consultation. You can also check out our post on the top six dental implant questions.

2. Dental Implant Surgery

Your dental implants surgery may include bone grafting, implant placement, or both. We will explain what to expect with both procedures. Your implant dentist or oral surgeon will schedule checkup visits to monitor the progress.

Dental implant bone grafting

When you lose a tooth, the bone beneath it shrinks, so you may need a graft to build up the bone to support a dental implant.

A bone graft procedure includes these steps:

  • Administer sedation and local anesthetic
  • Harvest bone from another area of your jaw or body or use synthetic or donor bone
  • Make a small incision through your gums to access your jawbone
  • Clean and disinfect the area
  • Add bone grafting material
  • Protect the graft with a membrane
  • Stitch the incision
  • Wait four to twelve months while the graft heals and hardens

Your bone graft healing time depends on these factors:

  • Procedure type
  • Graft materials
  • Extent of grafting

Dental implant placement

Your implant dentist or oral surgeon will use digital technology and a custom surgical guide for precise implant placement.

Your procedure will include the following steps:

  • Administer sedation and local anesthetic
  • Remove existing damaged teeth, if applicable
  • Make a small incision through your gums
  • Make a precise opening in your jawbone for each dental implant
  • Place the implant in the opening
  • Suture your gums around the implant
  • Wait four months while your implant and jawbone fuse (the process is called osseointegration)
  • Expose each dental implant
  • Attach an abutment or connector to each implant
  • Allow three to four months for your gums to heal around the abutment

Your dentist will attach a temporary crown to individual implants or a temporary denture if you are receiving an implant denture.

3. Bone Graft and Dental Implants Recovery

Immediately after your bone graft or dental implant surgery, a staff member will take you to a recovery area to ensure you are stable and comfortable. The dental team will ensure you have post-surgical instructions.

Dental implant bone graft recovery

  • Take all medications as prescribed and on time to minimize discomfort when the local anesthesia wears off.
  • Apply a cold pack in 20-minute intervals to the side of your face for the first 24 to 36 hours only.
  • You may feel small granules in your mouth from particles of bone grafts for several days.
  • Avoid touching the bone graft.
  • Avoid pulling back your lip to see the graft area because it can disturb the sutures.
  • Avoid sucking through a straw.
  • Traces of blood might ooze from your nose if you have an upper sinus graft.
  • Avoid blowing your nose for 14 days if you have an upper sinus graft.

Hygiene

  • Avoid spitting for three to five days.
  • Avoid rinsing your mouth for 48 hours.
  • You may brush your teeth gently on the day after surgery while avoiding spitting. Rinse your mouth by allowing water to flow out of it.
  • Use salt water to rinse your mouth while avoiding spitting.

Activity

  • Plan to rest at home after your dental implant graft surgery.
  • Keep your head elevated while sleeping to minimize swelling and bleeding.
  • You may return to work or school within two days while avoiding strenuous activities for at least six months. Your implant dentist or oral surgeon will give precise instructions based on your case.
  • Avoid tobacco products while your bone graft heals because smoking slows blood flow and healing.

Nutrition

  • Drink nourishing liquids on the first day.
  • You can eat soft, nutritious foods that do not require chewing three days after dental implant grafting.
  • Resume foods that require minimal chewing when you can tolerate them.
  • Avoid getting food near the grafts for 14 days.

Although your mouth may feel well after two weeks, remember that it takes four to twelve months for the graft to heal and harden.

Dental implant surgery recovery

  • Take all medications as prescribed and on time to minimize discomfort when the local anesthesia wears off.
  • Apply a cold pack in 20-minute intervals to the surgical side of your face for the first 24 to 36 hours only.
  • Avoid sucking through a straw.

Hygiene

  • Keep gauze over the surgical sites and apply light pressure to control bleeding for the first few hours. Remove the gauze when the bleeding is light.
  • Avoid rinsing or spitting for the rest of the day after surgery.
  • Avoid touching the surgical sites.
  • On the day after surgery, begin rinsing your mouth with warm salt water every two to three hours. Let the water run out of your mouth instead of spitting it out.
  • On the day after surgery, you may gently brush and floss your teeth in areas away from the surgical sites.

Activity

  • Plan to rest at home after your dental implant graft surgery.
  • Sleep with your head elevated for three to four days to minimize swelling and bleeding.
  • Plan to stay home from work or school for two days while avoiding strenuous activities for at least six months.
  • Avoid tobacco products because they restrict blood flow and healing.

Nutrition

  • Drink nourishing room-temperature liquids 48 hours after surgery.
  • You can eat soft foods that do not require chewing on the third day.
  • You can gradually enjoy soft foods that require minimal chewing for the rest of your recovery.

It takes three to four months for your jawbone to lock the implants in place, so minimize chewing to promote healing.

4. Dental Implants Restoration with Crowns or a Denture

After your dental implants and jawbone heal, you can expect the following:

  • Your implant dentist or oral surgeon will expose the implants.
  • Your implant dentist or surgeon will attach a connector (abutment) to each implant and allow it to heal.
  • Your dentist will take impressions of your mouth.
  • Your dentist will work with a lab to craft a custom crown or denture.
  • Your dentist will attach the crown or denture to the implant(s).

5. Life with Dental Implants

Living with dental implants is almost as easy as having healthy natural teeth.

Individual dental implants

You will take care of individual implants as you would natural teeth. Brush your teeth and dental implants twice daily, and floss between them daily.

Implant dentures

  • Removable – A removable implant denture requires you to snap it off daily for cleaning.
  • Fixed – A fixed implant denture requires daily cleaning. Many patients use a water flosser to flush away food debris beneath the denture and away from the implant.

Summary

The dental implants process begins with a consultation and a 3-D cone-beam CT scan of your oral anatomy. An implant dentist or oral surgeon uses sedation and a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable through a bone graft or dental implant surgery. Closely following instructions while you recover at home will support a successful outcome. After your implants and jawbone fuse, your dentist will attach crowns or a denture.

Request a Dental Implants Consultation

Dr. Mo Saleh of Vancouver, Washington, earned fellowship status from two dental implant training organizations. Dr. Saleh is an avid listener and compassionate dentist. If you are interested in dental implants, schedule a consultation with him to explore your options. Although Dr. Saleh is highly skilled in oral surgery, he makes treatment affordable. Call us today or schedule an appointment online.

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