If you are missing one or more teeth, don't feel alone. An estimated 69 percent of the American population is missing at least one tooth. However, you are likely eager to regain the beautiful smile you had before you had your teeth extracted or lost them due to trauma.

While you have several other options for replacing missing teeth, including bridges and dentures, dental implants are a great permanent tooth replacement option. There are more dental implant options today than ever, including mini implants and immediate placement (also called one-day) implants.

However, traditional dental implants are still the best option for many patients. You don't have to fear the dental implant process because your dentist will take steps to keep you calm and comfortable every step of the way. Read on to learn about the main steps of the implant placement process.


Consultation

First, your implant dentist will meet with you to examine your mouth and determine if you are a good dental implant candidate. Your gum health and jawbone density, along with your overall health, are the main factors taken into consideration when your dentist decides if dental implants are the best option for you. 

However, if you smoke cigarettes, your dentist will require you to quit before your dental implants are placed because implant failure rates are much higher among cigarette smokers.

If your dentist discovers that you have periodontal disease, then they will help you take steps to get your gums back into good health before placing your implants. If you have lost bone density in your jaw due to osteoporosis, then this will be taken into consideration when determining if you are a good implant candidate.

Dental implants can often be placed successfully in people with osteoporosis as long as proper precautions are taken by you and your dentist. You may need a bone graft to build up bone density in your jaw, and typically, implant posts with larger diameters are chosen for people suffering from osteoporosis. 


Bone Grafting

While not everyone needs bone grafting before dental implant placement, some people do. In general, the longer it has been since your missing tooth or teeth were extracted or lost due to trauma, the more likely you will need a bone graft before implant placement due to bone loss that naturally occurs over time.

However, other factors do contribute to the possible need for a bone graft before implant placement, such as lack of bone density where the implant will be placed.

Thankfully, there are many types of bone grafts available today, including:

  • Autografts — An autograft involves removing a small amount of bone tissue from elsewhere in your body and placing it in your jaw where your implant will be placed.
  • Allografts — Allografts are performed using human cadaver bone.
  • Xenografts — Xenografts are performed using bone from other animals, typically cows.
  • Alloplasts — These grafts are made from synthetic materials.

If you need bone grafting before dental implant placement, then you may have to wait several months for the bone graft to fuse with your natural bone before the rest of the implant process can be performed. However, some patients do qualify for implant post placement the same day as bone grafting is performed if the grafting is minimal.


Implant Post Placement

The next step in the dental implant process is placement of the implant post. Local anesthesia will be used to numb your mouth, then a flap or hole will be created in the gum tissue over the bone where the implant post will be placed. A drill will then be used to create a hole in the jawbone under the gum tissue flap or hole, and finally, the post will be inserted.

The implant post must fuse with your jawbone after placement, which is a process called osseointegration, before the implant abutment and crown can be attached to it. The period of time it takes for osseointegration to occur varies from patient to patient, but it typically takes between three and six months.

During this time, the post may have a temporary crown that restores the appearance of your smile until your implant post can be topped with a permanent crown. 


Implant Abutment and Crown Placement

Once your implant post has fused with your jawbone, it is then time for the final step in the dental implant process (aside from follow-up appointments). During this step, the permanent dental crown that has been fabricated to match your natural teeth will be connected to your implant post with a connective piece called an abutment. You can then show off your beautifully restored smile when you leave the dentist's office. 

If you are missing one or more teeth, contact the implant specialists at All Valley Dental to schedule a dental implant consultation today. If you are a good candidate for a dental implant (or several), you can look forward to a permanent tooth restoration that is strong and easy to care for.