Prior to commencement of surgery, careful and detailed planning is required to indentify vital structures such as the inferior alveolar nerve or the sinus, as well as the shape and dimensions of the bone to properly orientate the implants for the most predictable outcome. Two dimensional radiographs, such as orthopantomographs or periapicals are often taken prior to the surgery. In most instances, a CT scan will also be obtained. Specialized 3D CAD/CAM computer programs may be used to plan the case
Whether CT-guided or manual, a 'stent' may sometimes be required to facilitate the placement of implants. A surgical stent is an acrylic wafer that fits over either the teeth, the bone surface or the mucosa (when all the teeth are missing) with pre-drilled holes to show the position and angle of the implants to be placed. The surgical stent may be produced using stereolithography following computerized planning of a case from the CT scan.