Getting dental implants is easier than you might think.

When it comes right down to it, dental implants provide benefits that no other tooth replacement option can match. They’re rooted in your jaw just like natural teeth, which makes them strong, stable, and natural-looking while allowing them to protect the health of your jawbone for a lifetime. This truly makes them the next best thing to regaining your natural teeth!

When you first begin looking into implants, however, it’s normal to be a little intimidated by the idea of them. After all, the term “surgery” is a quick way to ramp up most people’s nerves. Thankfully, dental implant surgery is a much easier process than many people expect!

If you’ve ever had your wisdom teeth taken out, congratulations! Implant placement is often said to be easier, so you might be surprised by just how smooth the process is. Plus, implants have an incredible success rate, with 98.6% of implants surviving after 5 years and over 99% of patients reporting they were pleased with their implants. Still, we understand just how much knowing what to expect from a treatment can help you feel more comfortable and confident during the treatment process, so we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to dental implant surgery so you know what to expect.

How to Prepare for Your Appointment

Before you can receive your implant placement surgery, you’ll need to visit your dentist for a thorough dental exam where they will take X-rays and potentially CT scans of your teeth and jaws. These images will help your implant specialist plan your procedure, including the exact placement of your implants in your jaw. They may also take impressions of your teeth, which Dr. Harrison and our team will use to help craft your custom-made dental restoration. It’s also incredibly important to go over your medical history and a list of your current medications with your implant specialist so that they can take these factors into account during your surgery and recovery. If you have a condition that makes you more prone to infection, for example, they may be more likely to prescribe antibiotics for you to take to decrease this risk.

On the day of your procedure, make sure you have a ride set up if you need or want one — which is absolutely necessary if you undergo IV sedation. Similarly, if you’re undergoing IV sedation you’ll need to stop eating anything by midnight the night before. Generally, though, dental implants are placed using localized anesthesia, so you can eat a light meal a few hours before your procedure and drive yourself home without a problem.

If you’re nervous, avoid caffeine on the day of your procedure, as caffeine can worsen anxiety. It’s also wise to make sure your home is stocked with soft foods for you to eat while you recover. Otherwise, though, preparing for your implant procedure is pretty simple! Just make sure you follow any additional instructions from your implant specialist or Dr. Harrison.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Whether you’re getting a single implant or multiple, most dental implant placements take two or three procedures over the course of several months. This is generally necessary because you need time to heal between each procedure, especially after the first. Since most dental implant surgeries are done using a localized anesthetic, the first thing your implant specialist will do is numb the area. This will prevent you from feeling any pain during the procedure. You’ll feel pressure, but even that shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Once the area is completely numb, they’ll make an incision in your gums and embed the titanium metal rod into your jawbone. Then they’ll close your gums back over your new implant, and your first procedure is done!

This is where a lot of the long healing time comes in. Before you can get your next procedure, your jawbone needs to heal and grow up around your implants, a process called osseointegration. Everyone heals at a different rate, but this part of your healing process will take the longest, usually up to six months. After you’re done healing, you can get your next procedure to attach the abutments to your implants. Abutments are the metal pieces that will support your dental restoration. They’re sometimes placed during the first procedure, but if they’re done on their own, the process is incredibly simple. Your implant specialist will numb the area again, make another small incision in your gums, attach the abutments, and then maybe add a few sutures to help your gums seal around the abutments well as they heal. During this procedure, your implant specialist may also take an impression of your mouth, which Dr. Harrison will use to craft your custom-made dental restoration.

Healing from the Procedure

You’ll need another few weeks for your gums to heal from this procedure, and then you’ll be ready to receive your new smile! Your mouth will be numbed for a final time to ensure the placement process is comfortable, and your dentist will secure your custom-made restoration onto your implants. They’ll check your bite to ensure that it feels comfortable and natural, and then you’re free to go and enjoy your new teeth!

The exception to this longer implant surgery process is the placement of All-on-4 implants. This process involves placing an implant-supported denture on just four implants, which is fewer than the typical number, in a single surgical procedure. This implant surgery involves all the same steps as the traditional, more lengthy methods, but they’re all done at once and you’re usually able to walk away from the dental office with a brand new set of teeth.

What to Do During the Recovery Phase

No matter which implant surgery process you undergo, the recovery phase will look much the same — the only difference is that you’ll go through the recovery phase more times with the traditional method, as opposed to just once with All-on-4 implants. After your procedure, you’ll likely notice symptoms like pain, a little bit of bleeding, swelling around your gums and face, and bruising on your gums. Many people find, however, that the pain they experience during the healing process is much less than they expected. You should be able to manage it easily using over-the-counter pain medications and by rotating ice packs to the area to reduce swelling.

You should also help the healing process along and reduce soreness by sticking to a soft diet while the bone ossifies and your gums heal. You may also want to avoid hot food for a few days after your procedure. Your implant specialist will send you home with specific instructions on what foods are the best and how long you should stick to your soft diet. Make sure to follow their instructions carefully — doing so will help you recover and feel better faster, as well as help you enjoy the best results possible.

Learn More With a Consultation

While we understand that the dental implant surgery process sounds intimidating at first, the truth is that it’s much easier and much less painful than many people think. Plus, it provides the best long-term results for the function, health, and appearance of your smile! If you’d like to learn more about dental implants from a dentist in Plano, TX or would like to learn about Dr. Harrison’s role in crafting your custom-made dental restoration, feel free to schedule a consultation with her at any time.