Most dentists and oral surgeons in the Austin, Texas, area and throughout the US would agree that in this day and age the best way to replace a missing tooth is with a dental implant. This isn’t surprising, considering the advantages of implants over other tooth-replacing methods like bridges and dentures, for example. After all, implants are permanent, durable, natural-looking, and they function just the same as the patient’s natural teeth. One of the biggest concerns of patients considering an implant is how long the dental implant procedure takes. This article explains the procedure, how long it typically takes, and other information about implants that should be helpful to patients in deciding whether or not to get a new implant.
An Introduction to Dental Implants
An implant consists of a metal post (usually made from titanium) that is inserted into the jawbone of the patient, at the same location of the missing tooth. After the post is inserted, the metal fuses with the bone over a period of time. Once that fusing is completed, the dentist affixes a crown to the top of the post.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Once you understand all the benefits of dental implants, you’ll understand why so many patients and dental professionals prefer this type of restoration above other tooth-replacing methods. Here are some of the advantages of dental implants:
- An implant is a permanent solution for missing teeth. The post that is inserted into the patient’s jawbone fuses with the bone tissue, essentially forming an artificial tooth root, which is permanent.
- Implants look just like natural teeth. The crown that is attached to the top of the implant is created to exactly match the patient’s natural teeth, so it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between an implant and a natural tooth.
- Dental implants are extremely durable and long lasting. In fact, if properly cared for, an implant can last for the lifetime of the patient.
- Implants don’t come with dietary restrictions. Unlike other tooth-replacement methods (such as dentures or dental bridges, for example), implants don’t require the patient to avoid certain types of food. People with implants can enjoy whatever foods they’d like.
- Implants are easy to care for. Patients with implants simply brush and floss as they normally would.
The Dental Implant Procedure
There are several steps involved in getting a new dental implant, including the following:
Step 1: Consulting with Your Dentist about Dental Implants
While it’s true the dental implants are an excellent method for replacing missing teeth, they may not be the right choice for every patient. That’s why the first step is to meet with your dentist for a consultation. He/she can assess your current oral health and determine whether or not an implant is the right choice for you. Your dental professional can also completely explain what’s involved in the procedure – including the timeline – so you can know what to expect.
Step 2: An Exam Prior to the Implant Procedure
If your dentist or dental professional has not done so already, he or she will perform an oral exam to gather all the information needed for the implant procedure, as well as to answer any questions you may still have regarding the process. This is also typically the time at which your procedure will be scheduled.
Step 3: The Dental Implant Surgery Process
The oral surgery involved in getting a new dental implant is typically done over the course of several visits to the dental office. If you don’t require bone grafting beforehand, the implant surgery process begins with your dentist inserting the implant post into the jawbone, at the location of the missing tooth. After that, the implant is given sufficient time to fuse to the bone tissue – a process that typically takes from 3 to 7 months. In most instances, the dentist or oral surgeon will place a “healing collar” around the area where the implant was inserted, which prevents the gums from growing over the implant and covering it up entirely. This collar usually remains in place for 10 to 14 days.
Step 4: Attaching the Abutment
An abutment is a piece of metal that will secure the crown to the top of the implant. In some instances, the abutment is placed at the same time that the post is implanted into the jawbone of the patient. If it is not done at the same time, it typically is placed after the healing collar is removed – usually 10 to 14 days after the post is inserted into the patient’s jawbone. The dentist will place a temporary crown onto the abutment while a permanent one is created. This abutment needs to “settle” for several weeks after it is attached and before it will be ready to hold the permanent crown.
Step 5: Fitting the Permanent Crown
Once the permanent crown is ready, it is fitted onto the abutment. This usually takes place about 6 weeks after the abutment is attached to the implant. This is the final step in the surgery process.
Step 6: Post-Procedure Visits
The dentist will likely recommend that you return for post-procedure visits periodically, so that he/she can ensure that the implant is healing properly.
Although the process involved in getting one or more dental implants is time-consuming, most patients would agree that it is well worth the wait. These revolutionary restorations are as close to getting brand new natural teeth as modern dental technology will allow. Not only do implants provide all the advantages we discussed earlier in this article; they also feel like natural teeth to the patient. Thanks to implant technology, virtually anyone who is missing one or more teeth can have them replaced with permanent, durable, attractive restorations. It should be noted that some patients may not have an adequate amount of jawbone present to accommodate an implant. In these instances, an oral surgeon may have to perform a bone graft prior to the implant procedure, which could add a few months to the entire process.
For more information about how long it takes to complete a dental implant procedure, contact your Austin, Texas, dentist today!