The final destination of your dental implant journey is a perfect smile, with prosthetic teeth seamlessly replacing your missing teeth, securely anchored via a titanium implant that has integrated with the surrounding tissue. But what's the first step of your dental implant journey? It all starts with your initial consultation.
Your Jaw's Suitability
Your initial consultation is largely to assess your jaw's suitability for dental implants. This is most relevant when a tooth is already missing. Your alveolar bone is a thick ridge of bone that holds your tooth sockets. When a tooth is absent, bone resorption (loss of density) will occur. Because your alveolar bone no longer has to host the tooth and withstand the pressure exerted on the tooth from chewing, it will lose its density. This density is necessary for a successful dental implant.
When your dentist has assessed that your alveolar bone has lost significant density (which will be confirmed with an x-ray), bone grafting can be required to strengthen it. This grafting process will be performed at a subsequent appointment, followed by a waiting period in which the site heals and your alveolar bone regains its density, and only then can the implant be installed.
Having said that, when the tooth that will be replaced by an implant is still in the jaw, bone grafting might not be necessary. Your dentist can extract the tooth in question, and then proceed with the implant after the surrounding tissues have healed, but before your alveolar bone has begun to lose its density. Alternatively, if extraction is necessary but you decide to wait before implant placement, your dentist might opt to perform a direct bone graft on your dental socket so that bone resorption can be prevented.
Another option your dentist might suggest (although the work itself will not be performed during your initial consultation) is immediate implants. This is when the implant is installed and immediately finished with a prosthetic tooth. This type of dental implants is only suitable when your overall oral health (and the density of your alveolar bone) will permit it. The necessary integration of the implant with the surrounding tissues will still need to take place, but when the state of your dental health allows it, the prosthetic tooth and its titanium implant can be installed in a single sitting.
Your implant consultation is the first step on your journey to a perfect smile, and it's necessary so that you and your dentist can determine the best next step for you.