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Dental Implants: Are They for Me?

By Thomas D. Taylor, D.D.S., M.S.D., and William R. Laney, D.M.D., M.S.

Stage 1 Surgery

Click on images for detailed views.

During the first operation, implants will be placed into the jawbone, underneath the gum tissues. They will stay "buried" under the gums for a healing time-from 3 to 6 months. (In the upper jaw and back part of the lower jaw, complete healing usually takes longer.)

Some implants are not buried; they are left uncovered during the healing period. With these implants a second surgery is not required, but a healing period of 3 to 4 months is still necessary.

The day after surgery, you can expect some swelling of the gums in the area of implant placement. You may also be able to feel the sutures (stitches) that were used to close the incision. The gums may be discolored as they start to heal. When you had teeth removed before, you probably remember the pain experienced; the immediate discomfort at this time will likely be similar or less pronounced. Medication can be used to lessen the pain.

Within 4 to 5 days, the initial swelling will be gone and the surgical area will be less painful. The denture that you may have been wearing can be lined with a soft material and placed back in your mouth to improve your speech and appearance. You should be able to return to work or resume normal daily activities comfortably by this time.

If the stitches closing the wound have not come out on their own by this time, your dentist or surgeon may remove them after 10 to 14 days.

You must not use your denture to chew solid foods until your dentist says you can do so. The ability of your mouth to successfully accept implants depends on their not being disturbed during the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. A soft diet must be continued during this period.

Illustration showing outcome of stage one surgery

Illustration of a soft liner added to the denture

All material is copyrighted by Quintessence Publishing Co., Inc. and reproduced with permission.