Dental implants are becoming a popular choice for many patients desiring to regain their smile and confidence and restore function to their mouth. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, over three million people in the US currently have dental implants, and that number is growing by over half a million every year. The strength and stability of dental implants offers patients a better quality of life than traditional dentures and bridges, and the process is not as intimidating or painful as it may sound. Your first step will be to meet with a highly trained dentist for a thorough consultation and dental examination. This will include 3D digital X-rays and dental modeling to ensure that you are healthy enough for implant surgery and have adequate jawbone to support the implants. Some patients with jawbones that are too thin or too soft may require a bone graft to support the implants. Patients who smoke may want to consider cessation before getting dental implants, as tobacco use interferes with the healing process and increases the risk of implant failures and oral infections. Next, once it has been determined that you are a good candidate and ready for implants, the X-rays and models from the examination will be used to plan your surgery. Any damaged or partial teeth fragments and roots will be removed and the jawbone prepared for the new implants, if necessary. Dental implants are made from titanium, a biocompatible material, and are set deep into your jawbone to become your new tooth’s artificial root. This procedure, which requires drilling holes for each implant, is surprisingly comfortable and is done on an outpatient basis with local anesthetic, and most patients return to work or other activities the next day. During the recovery period, it is critical to the success of the surgery to follow your dentist’s instructions for care, and you can expect to be on a soft food diet for several weeks to encourage proper healing and minimize risk of infection. You may experience some bleeding, swelling and discomfort similar to what is experienced with other dental procedures, but symptoms and pain are typically managed with over-the-counter medications. Once the implant is set, your jawbone fuses with the titanium root as part of the healing process. This process is known as osseointegration (os-e-o-in-tuh-GRAY-shun) and can take up to a few months to fully heal. Osseointegration is defined as the “direct structural and functional integration between bone and a load bearing implant.” When the bonding between the jawbone and the implants are complete, an abutment or small connector will be placed on the implant as the second surgical procedure. In certain cases, the abutment (or abutments) may be able to be placed on the implants during the initial surgery, allowing you to be fitted with temporary prosthetic teeth for aesthetics; please ask your dentist if this would be right for your situation. If the abutments are placed after osseointegration is complete, this second procedure is also done from the comfort of the dentist’s office with local anesthesia. The gums are reopened and the abutments are then attached to the implants, which have now become your new roots. It takes approximately two weeks for your gums to heal sufficiently around the abutments prior to affixing your new tooth or teeth. Most dental implants are successful, and - aside from the normal and expected discomfort during healing - have few, if any, problems. Some patients may experience pain at the implant site, bruising, swelling and/or minor bleeding. If any of those symptoms worsen or become severe at any time, do not hesitate to contact your dentist. Maintaining proper dental hygiene is very important to the long-term success of your implants, so be sure to brush, floss, and schedule regular check-ups and cleanings. The entire process from initial consultation, one (or possibly two) surgical procedures, healing and osseointegration, and affixing the new teeth for permanent use can take several months. We believe the end result of having a restored smile and fully functional teeth is worth this time investment! Dr. Schmidt has over 10 years of expertise and the advanced technology to ensure your implants are done precisely and with the utmost concern for your comfort and the restoration of your beautiful smile! Call us or schedule an appointment online today for your dental implant consultation.