When a person loses a tooth, a dentist may recommend replacing the lost tooth with a dental implant. These implants are typically effective, long-lasting and natural-looking and functioning tooth replacements. Once placed, they should last for a lifetime. However, something as permanent as an implant does not happen overnight. It takes several steps and two full stages to complete the implant process.
2-stage dental implants: What to expect
Placing a dental implant requires several steps in one or two stages. When a person's jawbone is healthy enough to provide ample stability or when appearance is a concern, a dentist may decide on the one-stage implant process. This process involves placing the healing abutment during the same surgery in which the titanium root is placed.
However, one-stage implants require ideal conditions. For many patients, conditions are not ideal, hence the need for two-stage implants.
In step one of the two-step process, a dentist places a titanium root and foregoes the abutment. The goal is to allow the gum tissue to cover the root and let it fully heal and fuse to the jawbone before the patient can use it.
Some patients may require a step before this step. If a person does not have substantial healthy jawbone, the dentist might recommend a bone graft. If a bone graft is necessary, the jawbone may not be ready to receive the first implant for another four to 12 months.
Once a patient's mouth has healed, the oral surgeon performs a second procedure. During this surgery, the dentist reopens the site of the first surgery to reveal the titanium root. The dentist then attaches an abutment, atop which is secured a temporary crown.
The temporary crown is necessary while the gum tissues continue to heal around the artificial tooth root and any remaining natural teeth. The patient generally wears the temporary crown for four to six weeks, during which time a dental lab creates the permanent crowns. To ensure an exact match, lab technicians use impressions the dentist should have taken before placing the temporary crowns.
With the right care and attention, a dental implant should last for 25 years or more. To ensure longevity, patients should follow recommended post-op care and understand the common expectations.
There may be some degree of pain, swelling, minimal bleeding and bruising in the days and weeks following the initial and second surgery. However, that should not stop individuals from keeping up with their basic oral hygiene routines. Once home, implant patients should brush and floss two to three times a day as well as rinse with non-alcoholic mouthwash. Patients should plan to visit the dentist every six months or so for cleanings and implant maintenance.
During follow-up visits, the dentist may take more X-rays to make sure the implant, abutment and crown have fused properly. The dentist will also look for alignment issues.
Your dentist may recommend a one-stage or two-stage dental implant process. Either way, the time and monetary investment can be more than worth it when you have a natural-looking and functional smile.
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