Implant Surgery: Part 1
I went in for the first implant surgery today, to replace the missing three upper teeth from my January Broomball accident. For those of you who haven't heard of dental implants (I hadn't!), they're roughly 1.5 cm titanium screws which are inserted into the bone where the tooth's roots used to be, ending right under the gumline. Artificial teeth are then attached to those screws.
The impact shattered two teeth, so I had to have the left-behind roots extracted from my upper jaw. Between the injury itself and having to dig around a lot to get the roots out, I'm now missing the thin sheet of bone which runs over the front of the roots, for the canine side of the upper jaw. Luckily the bone near the middle is reasonably intact. This is problematic, because the implants need solid bone to anchor to. If, upon opening everything up, they found that there wasn't enough bone to place the implants, I'd need a bone graft taken from my mandible behind the molars, and six months additional recovery for that graft to integrate. Luckily, this wasn't the case! The implants took hold in the jaw even though the labial bone wasn't intact. (Note to kids: another reason to get your calcium!)
The procedure took about an hour and a half for two implants, and was pretty much painless under local anesthesia. Started with novocaine (and another longer-lasting nocioception blocker whose name I don't remember), followed by a few incisions in the gums to expose the bone, and a lot of tugging. They drilled out the implant sites with three progressively larger bits, which go way up there. I suspect my sub-nasal sinus got real familiar with that drill, which apparently is okay. The implants themselves look like stocky, truncated conical screws, coated with a rough titanium dioxide layer which actually bonds to the osteoblasts in your bone, creating an extremely strong connection. They literally screw right in to the jaw—I remember thinking "I've stripped screws before," as they twisted in—but everything took hold right away and felt solid. After that, they packed in a processed bovine bone substrate around the sites. Over the next six months, my intrepid little osteoblasts will move into that substrate and grow new bone, hopefully back to the original thickness. Bunch of sutures finished up the job, and I walked out of there a little sore and bloody but doing okay.
The whole site is really tender, so I'm sticking to Mac & Cheese for now, but if the last extractions were any indication, I'll be basically healed in 4 days, and back to normal in a couple weeks. It is a pretty big incision to close up though, so it could take a while. Regardless, I'm pumped that they were able to place both implants today. I could get real teeth by fall, which would be terrific.