You've always felt a little fearful of the dentist. The sharp tools, the high-pitched drills and the blinding lights are enough to put anyone on edge.
But after a recent accident, you've discovered that you need several teeth replaced. Though you could opt for dentures or bridges, your dentist recommends implants to protect healthy bone and retain your natural face shape.
As dental implants involve placing a metal post inside your jawbone, you can't help but shudder a little at the thought. But before you panic, keep the following information in mind.
1. The Procedure Has Been Around for Years
Humans have tried to replace missing teeth with implants for thousands of years. In the past, the ancient Chinese fashioned pegs from bamboo and then tapped them into the bone. Similarly, the Egyptians forged pegs from precious metals, ivory and human teeth.
However, implants, as we know them, have been around since 1965, when Swedish scientist Per-Ingvar BrÃ¥nemark discovered that screws can fuse to the bone. Over the years, dentists around the world perfected the implant procedure to make it as smooth and comfortable as possible. Advances in technology now allow for single-stage implants that minimise healing time and increase the lifespan of the replacement tooth.
2. Your Dentist Plans Each Step of the Surgery
Implant surgery is a science, not an art. You don't have to worry about your dentist digging haphazardly into your gums or second-guessing your tooth placement.
Before every implant, your dentist has to carefully plan each step of the surgery based on your individual needs, the total bone mass in your jaw and the location of your surrounding teeth.
For accuracy, your dentist will take multiple X-rays and, if necessary, a few CT scans as well. Your dentist may even want your medical history to account for any chronic or previous conditions. And if he or she discovers anything worrisome, your dentist may even consult your family doctor to learn more about how your body responds to treatment.
From there, your dentist will decide where to place the implants to best support new teeth and to reinforce the remaining bone. He or she will also assess the quality and quantity of your bone, and your dentist may recommend an additional bone graft to avoid complications.
To help you stay calm, your dentist will likely walk you through each of the steps for surgery and explain how to care for your replacement teeth.
If you have any questions, your dentist can answer them long before you undergo surgery.
3. An Anaesthetic Will Numb the Pain
Dental implants do involve opening up the gums and preparing the bone. But fortunately, you don't have to suffer through the procedure on your own.
To minimise pain and discomfort, you'll receive a local anaesthetic via small shots near the surgical site. If you feel particularly nervous about the surgery, you can usually request sedation as well, so you can sleep peacefully while you receive your implants.
After the procedure, you may experience some swelling, bruising and minor bleeding. But you can keep the soreness under control via a mild, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine(like aspirin or ibuprofen). Regularly rinsing with anti-bacterial mouthwash can keep infection at bay and can soothe the gum tissues while they heal.
For more tips for post-surgery recovery, check out our earlier blog post.
4. You'll Love the Final Results
Once you've healed, your dentist will fit your new implants with porcelain crowns that match the size, shape and colour of your surrounding teeth.
These crowns will look and feel so natural that you'll hardly notice them, and just like regular teeth, a simple brushing and flossing will ensure they look great for years to come.
So don't feel afraid of your upcoming surgery! In just a few weeks, you can show off your gorgeous, healthy smile, and the procedure itself will become just another memory