What is a dental implant procedure?
A dental implant procedure is part of a dental operation to replace a missing tooth. Unlike dentures, which are false teeth that you can easily remove, dental implants are placed in the jawbone in a series of minor operations.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is a piece of titanium or other materials that looks like a screw. It is put into the jaw where the missing tooth’s roots were. Over time, bone grows around the implant, which helps to hold it in place.
An artificial tooth, or crown, is then attached to the metal to fill in the gap left by the missing tooth. The crown is specially made to look like the other teeth in size, shape and colour.
Dental implants can also be used to hold a dental bridge or dentures in place.
When might a dental implant be needed?
If you have one or more missing teeth, a dental implant might be a suitable option if you:
- have a fully grown, healthy jawbone
- don’t have gum disease
- don’t have conditions that affect bone healing
Your dentist will discuss with you whether a dental implant procedure is suitable for you.
What happens during a dental implant procedure?
A dental implant is usually done in stages over a few months, with a series of minor operations and tests.
- First, scans and x-rays are done to give the dentist a very clear picture of where to place the implant.
- The dental implant is fitted into the jawbone in a minor operation. You will usually be given an anaesthetic so that you don’t feel pain during the surgery.
- In a few months, the bone grows around the dental implant.
- Once the implant is stable, the dentist will create a foundation for the new tooth or teeth.
- Sometime later, the dentist will take a mould of the mouth to make the artificial tooth or teeth.
- Finally, the artificial tooth or teeth are screwed or cemented into the foundation.
It’s a slow process, with quite a few visits to the dentist and possibly some trips to have scans or x-rays.
What to expect after a dental implant
After any of the minor operations, you might have bruising, pain and swelling of the gums and face. You may also have some bleeding from the gums.
You might need to eat soft foods after each surgery to let the dental implant site heal.
No special care is required for a dental implant. You will probably be advised to keep your natural and artificial teeth clean by brushing and flossing, and have regular dental check-ups.
What are the benefits and risks of a dental implant?
Dental implants are usually successful. Problems are rare but include:
- injury or damage to surrounding teeth or blood vessels
- nerve damage
- sinus problems
What are the alternatives to a dental implants?
The alternatives to dental implants are wearing dentures or having a dental bridge. The advantages of dental implants is they look and feel like your own teeth and they don’t sacrifice the quality of other teeth.
What are the costs of dental implants?
A dental implant is expensive — it can cost thousands of dollars. Make sure you know all the costs before you start. If you have private health insurance, ask the insurance company how much you will get back.
Resources and support
You should talk to your health professional about the benefits and risks of getting a medical implant. Use the Therapeutic Goods Administration's guide on what to ask. The information is in English, Arabic, Croatian, Farsi, Greek, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: January 2021