Your dentist will explain how to prepare for your procedure.
You’re likely to have some X-rays done so that your dentist can check the shape and thickness of your jawbone. These will also show the position of other structures in your mouth, such as your nerves. It’s possible that you may need to have a CT scan if the X-rays don’t provide enough information.
Dental implant surgery is usually done under local anaesthesia. This completely blocks pain from your mouth and you will stay awake during the procedure. You may have a sedative – this relieves anxiety and helps you to relax. It’s rare, but you may need to go into hospital and have treatment under general anaesthesia. This means you will be asleep during the operation.
Your dentist will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you may be asked to do by signing a consent form.
Alternatives to dental implants include:
- removable dentures (false teeth) – plastic or metal frameworks that hold false teeth
- a bridge – false teeth that are fixed onto your adjacent natural teeth
The length of time your operation takes will vary depending on how many implants you’re having inserted and how complicated the procedure is. It’s possible to have several implants fitted in the same operation, this will take longer.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your dentist will make a cut in your gum and drill a small hole in your jawbone. The implant will fit into this hole.
If you’re having any teeth removed before dental implant surgery, your dentist may be able to put an implant straight into your tooth socket. This is called an immediate implant. If this isn’t possible, your dentist will fit the implant after a few weeks, which is called an immediate-delayed implant. Sometimes he or she will fit it after several months once your jawbone has had time to heal – this is called a delayed implant.
Immediate and delayed implants can be done in one or two stages.
- In one-stage treatment, the implant rod and the abutment that attaches the implant to the false tooth are fitted at the same time.
- In two-stage treatment, the implant rod will be buried under your gum while your bone heals (you won’t see it in your mouth). You will have another operation a few months later to attach the abutment.
Your dentist may attach artificial teeth on the same day that you have the implant. However, usually you will need to wait between three and six months to allow your mouth to heal. Your dentist may fit a temporary bridge or partial dentures so you can't see the spaces between your teeth. If you usually wear complete dentures, they can be adjusted so that you can wear them throughout this time.
After your mouth has healed, you will have a second operation to uncover the gum over the top of the implant. Your dentist will then fit your artificial tooth or teeth onto the implant. The teeth may be fixed in place or you may be able to remove them when you need to clean them. Your dentist will ensure that they fit properly, match your other teeth and feel comfortable.
See our frequently asked questions for more information.
You may need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. After a local anaesthetic it may take several hours before the feeling comes back into your mouth. You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off. You will usually be able to go home when you feel ready.
If you have a general anaesthetic, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. Try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours.
General anaesthesia and sedation temporarily affect your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 24 hours afterwards. If you're in any doubt about driving, contact your motor insurer so that you're aware of their recommendations, and always follow your dentist’s advice.
It’s important to only eat soft foods for the rest of the day after having dental implant surgery. Be careful having hot food and drinks until all feeling has returned to your mouth otherwise you might burn yourself without realising. It’s very important to keep your mouth clean by brushing and flossing as usual. You may need to use special brushes that make it easier to clean between your teeth.
If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
Your dentist may prescribe you antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash to reduce the risk of your implant getting infected. However, there isn’t much evidence to show that these are effective.
You will need to go for more frequent appointments with your dentist for a few months after surgery. This is so that he or she can check that there aren’t any problems. The time it takes to make a full recovery from dental implant surgery will vary depending on your treatment plan. Therefore, it's important to follow your dentist's advice.
Once you have recovered, your implants and replacement teeth should function as natural teeth do and you will be able to eat as normal. It’s very important to make sure that you brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day to ensure they stay healthy. Make sure that you see your dentist and hygienist regularly. See our frequently asked questions for more information.
If you damage one of the teeth attached to an implant, your dentist can probably remove it and put in a replacement. If the implant itself is damaged, it may be possible to repair it. If your dentist can’t repair the implant, he or she will place another one alongside it.
As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with dental implant surgery. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your dentist to explain how these risks apply to you.
Side-effectsSide-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.
You may have some swelling and discomfort around the implant area. If so, you can take an over-the-counter painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
ComplicationsComplications are when problems occur during or after the procedure. The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, or excessive bleeding.
The nerve that runs to your face has branches that are in your lower jaw. These supply the feeling to your lower jaw, lower teeth and gums and your bottom lip. If the nerves are damaged by the implant, you may feel temporary or sometimes permanent tingling or numbness. It may also be painful. X-rays and CT scans help your dentist to see the position of the nerves in your jawbone to minimise this risk.
Occasionally, the jawbone doesn't fuse with the implant properly and the implant can become loose. This isn't usually painful, but the implant won't be able to support false teeth. You may need to have another implant fitted. Your dentist will ask you to attend regular check-ups to make sure your implants are still secure.
To find a consultant or therapist in your area who can help you, please visit www.finder.bupa.co.uk
How do I care for my dental implants?
It’s very important that you have good dental hygiene if you have implants. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is key to making sure that your treatment is successful.
Good daily oral hygiene is vital to ensure that your implants last as long as possible. Clean and floss your teeth and gums thoroughly every day. It’s also very important that if you haven’t already stopped smoking, you try to quit.
Clean around each implant by brushing and flossing in the same way that you would usually clean your natural teeth. You may need special floss or interdental toothbrushes to clean around your implant and teeth – ask your dentist for more information. It’s important to follow his or her advice about caring for your dental implant.
Although it may take you longer to brush your teeth with implants, it’s important to do this as it will help the implants last longer. They can last for your lifetime if you care for them properly. If you don’t clean them every day, the implants may develop calculus and plaque. This can lead to gum infection, bleeding, soreness and general discomfort, just as would happen with natural teeth. The tissues that support the implant will gradually be destroyed and the implant may fall out.
It’s also important to visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly to maintain your implants and teeth. Your dentist may ask to see you more frequently for the first few months after you have implants to check that there aren’t any problems. After your treatment is complete and if your implants are functioning as planned, your dental care will be the same as for natural teeth. Ask your dentist for more information on how often you will need check-ups. He or she can also give you specific advice on caring for your implants.
To find a consultant or therapist in your area who can help you, please visit www.finder.bupa.co.uk
How long will dental implant treatment take?
Dental implant surgery can take several months to complete. This is because often your dentist will allow your gums to heal after the first procedure before carrying out the second. He or she will give you a written summary before your treatment starts, outlining an estimated schedule for your individual treatment plan.
After fitting the implants, your dentist may recommend that you wait between three and eight months before having your false teeth attached. This is so that your mouth can heal. Your dentist will take steps to ensure that your appearance and ability to eat and speak are affected as little as possible during your treatment. He or she will discuss options with you, one of which may be to wear temporary dentures.
There is little evidence to show whether implants are more successful when the false teeth are attached straight away or after a few months. Talk to your dentist about which procedure is most suitable for you.
If your treatment is going to take longer than you had hoped, try to be patient. Your dentist will have planned your schedule carefully to try to ensure that you have successful implants that last for as long as possible.
I grind my teeth at night. Can I have dental implants?
Yes, you will probably be able to have dental implants if you grind your teeth, but it will depend on how severely you do it. It's important that you discuss this with your dentist so that he or she can plan your treatment accordingly.
Grinding your teeth, which is called bruxism, is a very common habit. However, most people who do it do so while sleeping, so you may be unaware of it. Your dentist will be able to pick up signs and symptoms of bruxism.
Grinding your teeth will put extra pressure on implants. Your dentist may recommend placing additional implants to support the artificial tooth or teeth. He or she will also make sure that the materials used to make the false teeth are strong enough to withstand the extra pressure.
Your dentist may also suggest you wear a removable mouthguard (sometimes called a splint) at night. This is a cover made from hard or soft plastic that fits over your upper or lower teeth. The aim of the mouthguard is to decrease grinding and pressure on your teeth.
What is bone grafting and when can it be used?
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure to increase the amount of bone in your jaw. Having more bone will mean the dental implant is better supported.
For dental implants to be successful there must be enough bone to hold and support the implant. There are a number of reasons why you may not have enough bone in your jaw, including gum disease or wearing dentures. As a result, your dentist may recommend a graft to increase the amount of bone in your jaw.
Bone grafting involves taking bone from somewhere else in your body and adding it to your jaw where the implant will go. This is called an autogenous graft. Bone is usually taken from your hip, but may also come from your shin or other area of your jaw. Depending on where the bone is taken from you may be able to have the procedure done under local anaesthesia. If it’s taken from your hip, you will need to go into hospital and have this treatment under general anaesthesia.
Your dentist can use artificial bone (an alloplastic graft) or materials made from the bone of animals (a xenograft). However, your own bone is considered the most effective as there is less risk of your body rejecting it.
There are different types of graft surgery. One of these is sinus augmentation, which adds bone to your upper jaw. The bone is added between your jaw and maxillary sinuses, which are on either side of your nose.
If you need to have a bone graft, your treatment will take longer. This is because you will need to wait between three and 12 months after your bone graft before you can have an implant fitted.
- Association of Dental Implantology UK
020 8487 5555
- British Dental Association
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- Chen H, Liu N, Xu X, et al. Smoking, radiotherapy, diabetes and osteoporosis as risk factors for dental implant failure: a meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 2013; 8(8):e71955. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071955
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- Esposito M, Grusovin MG, Maghaireh H, et al. Interventions for replacing missing teeth: different times for loading dental implants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 3. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003878.pub5
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- Association of Dental Implantology UK
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