A dental implant is an artificial tooth root replacement that is placed into the jaw bone and is used in prosthetic dentistry to support restorations that replace a tooth or group of teeth. Implant surgery is performed as an outpatient under general anesthesia (if several implants are to be placed) or with local anesthesia (for simple cases) by oral surgeons.
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The most common treatment plan consists of several surgeries over a period of months, especially if bone augmentation (bone grafting) is needed to support implant placement. In simpler cases, implants can be placed and restored in a single surgery.
A single implant procedure involves an incision of the gum or gingiva to expose the jawbone and takes approximately an hour, sometimes longer. Multiple implants can be placed in a single surgical session that can take several hours.
Healing and integration of the implant(s) within the jawbone occurs over three to six months in a process called osseointegration. At the appropriate time, the restorative dentist uses the implant(s) to anchor crowns or a bridge (a prosthetic restoration containing several crowns). Since the implants supporting the restoration are integrated, which means they are biomechanically stable and strong, the patient is immediately able to masticate (chew) normally.