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If you have one or more missing teeth, your dentist may recommend dental implants. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root. Your jawbone fuses with the implant to provide a secure platform for a prosthesis (artificial tooth). Abutments are connecting pieces that join the prosthesis to the implants. You may need an abutment and a prosthesis as part of your treatment.
In certain cases, abutments may be placed at the same time as implants. More often, though, surgery to place abutments is done after the jawbone has fused to the implants. This second surgery usually takes less time than the first. Depending on your dental needs, two kinds of abutments may be used. Healing abutments (also called healing cuffs) help gum tissue heal around the implant site. Once the gum has healed, final abutments are placed so the prosthesis can be joined with the implant.
Exposing the implant. If you have a second surgery to place abutments, a small incision is first made in the gum tissue.
Placing healing abutments. In many cases, a healing abutment is temporarily secured to the implant.
Placing final abutments. When gums have healed, the final abutment is placed.
It usually takes 4-6 weeks for gums to heal around abutments. During that time, follow your surgeon’s advice about what kinds of foods to eat. You will also be given instructions for cleaning around the abutments. Proper cleaning prevents infection and promotes healing.
After abutments are placed, call your surgeon if you have any of the following:
Bleeding that won’t stop
Pain in the jaws, mouth, or sinuses that isn’t relieved by prescribed medication
A fever over 100.4ºF
An abutment that feels loose
When your gums have healed around the abutments, your restorative dentist will begin making your permanent prosthesis. Several office visits may be needed to make a precise model of your mouth. Then it may take a few weeks, or even months, to build your prosthesis.
A custom fit. To custom-fit the prosthesis, your restorative dentist will make impressions (molds) of your jaws, teeth, and abutments. Bite registrations are also made to see how your teeth fit together. These molds are used to create a model of your mouth. Your new prosthesis is then made from this model.
Fitting your prosthesis. Once the prosthesis is ready, you’ll have several fittings to see how it feels in your mouth. With a fixed prosthesis, this process may take a little longer. After any needed adjustments are made, the prosthesis is attached to the abutments. You may be told not to eat hard or crunchy foods for a few weeks after the prosthesis is attached.
Call your restorative dentist if you have any of these problems:
Pain in the jaws
A bite that feels wrong
A prosthesis that feels loose, chips, or breaks
Implants or abutments that feel loose