Losing a tooth can be a traumatic experience, not only from the standpoint of physical pain, but also because of the change in appearance and the decreased function of the mouth that result. It’s only natural that patients who lose a tooth to accident, injury, or illness, for example, want to correct the issue immediately so they can get back to their normal selves.
Dentists are often keen to get the replacement process underway, as well, since the longer a tooth is missing, the more permanent damage (shifting teeth, deteriorating jaw, and so on) may occur. That said, implanting a false tooth is not a process that happens overnight. It can actually take several months to complete. What can you expect when getting a dental implant? How long does the process actually take? Here’s what you need to know.
Before you can even consider dental implants as a solution to tooth loss, your oral health has to be optimal. This is the best way to ensure that your dental implant takes and serves you well for many years to come.
Depending on the reason for tooth loss, you may have some down time while your mouth heals, and you might have to go through a series of antibiotic treatments. In some cases, patients do not have sufficient jaw bone for a dental implant to be installed, or existing bone may be too soft. In this case, your dentist might recommend a bone grafting procedure to help build up the jaw in preparation for the implant.
During a bone graft, a piece of bone is taken from another area of the body and transplanted to your jaw. In some cases, artificial bone is used instead. Generally, you’ll have to wait for the bone graft to heal and grow, and this could take several months. After all of this, your dentist will still have to do an exam to make sure you’re a good candidate for a dental implant.
Unfortunately, the process of preparing for a dental implant can be long and tedious. Specific treatments and the amount of time they take will depend entirely on each patient. If your oral health is ideal and your bone is sufficient for an implant, you might be ready to move onto the next step as soon as you heal from your tooth loss, which could be a matter of mere weeks. If you require further healing time or bone grafting treatment, prepare yourself for months of waiting before you even have the post implanted.
Once your jaw is in good shape and ready to go, the next step is to implant a titanium post in your jaw. A hole will be drilled in your jaw and your dentist or oral surgeon will implant the metal post, which will replace the root of your natural tooth. Since titanium bonds with bone, this post will serve as a stable base for your crown, or false tooth.
Again, healing from this procedure is likely to take several months, generally about 4-6. During this time, you may opt to wear a temporary denture to eliminate the gap in your smile and maintain the position of neighboring teeth, which might otherwise begin to lean into the gap.
Adding the Crown
Finally, you are ready to complete the process. When your metal implant has successfully bonded with your jaw, it’s time to add an abutment to the top (if it wasn’t done at the time the implant was placed) and affix a crown to it. Your dentist will take impressions in order to create a tooth that fits perfectly into your natural smile. Ideally, you will heal from this last portion of the procedure within just a couple of weeks and return to your former habits immediately.
Although the entire dental implant procedure, from start to finish, could take as little as about six months if everything goes perfectly, it is not at all uncommon to find yourself finalizing the process a year or more after you’ve lost a tooth. The process simply cannot be rushed if you want to enjoy a healthy mouth and a lasting implant for the foreseeable future. The good news is, with proper care, your dental implant could last a lifetime, although the crown may need replacement within about 10-15 years.