Dental implants are a popular and effective treatment option for patients with a missing tooth or teeth, as they provide a strong, natural looking and feeling solution and restore patients back to having a bright, full smile. It is important to be aware that the dental implant process takes place over several months and will require multiple stages to ensure that your implant is strong and that you do not develop any complications.
Following an initial evaluation, during which your periodontist will take diagnostic exams to determine whether you are a viable candidate for dental implants, the first major step in replacing your missing tooth is to have a fixture or titanium post placed into your jawbone, which will act as the new root for your new prosthesis. Healing abutments may be placed during this time to help the gum tissue heal.
Once your gums have healed, an abutment is placed either at the same time as your implant or following implant placement during a follow-up procedure After your gums have healed around the abutment, you will be ready to have your permanent prosthesis designed. This process may take several visits to ensure that the design of your prosthesis is perfectly designed for your specific mouth and ensure your teeth fit together properly. This is done by making molds of your teeth, jaws and abutments and using bite registrations to determine your occlusion. Once this design is perfected, it is sent to a lab, where it may take a few weeks or even months to be built.
Once your prosthesis is finished, you will return for placement of the prosthesis. Once the prosthesis is placed, it will be tested to ensure the bite is correct and that the tooth feels natural and comfortable. If necessary, minor adjustments may be made, after which the crown is screwed or cemented to the dental abutment and the dental implant process will be complete.
Healing Following Placement of Dental Abutment
Following placement of your abutments, it will typically take around four to six weeks for the gums to heal. During this time, it is critical that you follow any care instructions provided to you and be careful about what types of foods you eat. In general, it is better to stick to softer foods during this time period and avoid smoking and alcohol as much as possible. You will also be instructed on how to properly clean around the abutments, which you should follow closely to promote healing and avoid developing an infection. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help reduce the risk of infection, which should be taken as directed until the prescription runs out.
Contact your periodontist if any of the following occur:
- Abutment feels loose
- Pain in sinuses, mouth, or jaw that is not improved with pain medication
- Fever over 100.4 ºF
- Bleeding that does not stop
Once you have completed the healing process, it is important to continue scheduling regular examinations to ensure that your dental abutment and implant remains healthy and strong. Provided you continue practicing good oral hygiene habits and scheduling these regular exams, your dental implants should last just as long as your natural teeth.