If you have damaged teeth or tooth loss, you know how disruptive that can be to your oral health. Biting down into your favorite foods can become a source of anxiety. So can how you look when you’re smiling.
Still, getting a complex restorative procedure may be intimidating in its own way. You may be afraid of oral surgery, post-operative pain, the idea of drilling, even just the word “implant.” And as a result, you may not explore your options fully.
If you’re in that category—if, say, you think dentures or a dental bridge are your only options for missing teeth—we want you to know something: dental implants are one of the most effective, durable, and beautiful options for tooth replacement. And getting them is a lot more comfortable than you might think.
How the dental implant procedure works
“Implants tend to be much less uncomfortable than the perception,” explains Dr. Schlenoff, Tend’s Head of Clinical Development.
Your treatment plan will depend on your specific situation, but in general, dental implant surgery involves replacing a tooth’s root with a small metal post—the “implant.” After the implant and the underlying jawbone come together, a dentist tops the post with an abutment, or connector, to which they attach a ceramic crown. A crown is a gorgeous, long-lasting artificial tooth that looks and performs just like a natural tooth.
Although the process sounds intimidating, dentists have been performing and perfecting this procedure for more than 30 years. And they’ve become really good at making it comfortable. Plus, studies suggest that dental implants have up to a 99% success rate, meaning if your dentist or oral surgeon has determined you’re a good candidate for an implant, you can feel confident that it’ll be successful.
No nerves = no pain
“In the bone where we’re attaching the implant,” says Dr. Schlenoff, “there really are no nerve endings. So, amazingly, that part of the procedure does not hurt.” Plus, depending on your situation, your dentist will use a combination of local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia to ensure the entire surgical procedure is pain-free.
There is some temporary discomfort post-surgery, he says. But that comes from “the manipulation of the gum tissue” around the implant—not the implant itself. This pain is generally mild and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. Salt water rinses (starting the day after the procedure) can also help ease discomfort.
This means that, overall, “most people are very pleasantly surprised,” he says. In fact, many describe the level of pain as being less than that of a tooth extraction. “I’ve dealt with hundreds of implant patients, and most people are just fine the day after. Certainly by 48 hours later they’re back to their normal activities.”
A (worthwhile) wait
Dr. Schlenoff does note that, once an implant post has been attached at the implant site, it can take a few months for it to fully fuse with the bone (a process known as osseointegration). This wait is important, because your new tooth shouldn’t be placed until the implant—technically, your new artificial tooth root—is strong enough to support it. (A temporary restoration can be placed in the meantime.)
But the wait is worth it. Once the permanent crown is in, it looks and behaves exactly like a normal tooth—making chewing and smiling anxiety-free. Just like a natural tooth, you’ll need to protect it from gum disease with diligent at-home dental care—including brushing and flossing daily. Regular checkups will also keep your implant and crown performing their best. And the best part of all? With the right oral hygiene routine, you can expect your dental implant to last a lifetime.
Tend’s elite team
If you need an implant, it’s critical to work with a skilled dentistry team—like the one Dr. Schlenoff leads at Tend. Each of our dentists is trained to make placing an implant as comfortable as possible. And to craft beautiful dental crowns that will be part of your smile for decades.
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