Dental implants look, feel, and act as real teeth do. This is why there is no better way to replace a tooth than with a dental implant. But one of the few downsides to this treatment is the length of time it can take to complete the entire process. For example, the average treatment time for a dental implant is 3–6 months. Read on to learn why it takes this long.
1. Dental Implants Need Time to Fuse to the Jawbone
Initially, dental implants have very little support from the jawbone. This is why you can't use them immediately after surgery, unlike other treatments such as crowns or dental bridges. A process that dental professionals call osseointegration needs to occur first.
During osseointegration, the jawbone grows new bone cells that form around the dental implant. And once complete, a new layer of strong bone tissue will surround the titanium post of the implant and anchor it into the jaw like a natural tooth. At this point, the prosthodontist will usually place the abutment and crown onto the titanium post.
If you are healthy and have good oral hygiene habits, your dental implant could heal in as little as three months. But some people need six months for their implants to heal. This could be because they smoke, which slows the healing process down or simply be because they tend to heal more slowly from wounds in general. Bone quality and quantity play a role in treatment time too.
2. Some Patients Require Bone Grafts for Dental Implants
During the initial consultation with your dentist, they will take an X-ray of your jawbone to assess the quality or quantity of bone available. If they discover that you don't have sufficient bone to support a dental implant, then they will recommend a bone graft. Unfortunately, a bone graft takes 3–4 months to heal. This means that your treatment time could be as long as 9–10 months.
The only way to avoid bone loss is to seek dental implant treatment soon after tooth loss because the body absorbs the areas of the jawbone where teeth are no longer present. This process occurs within months of tooth loss, which means that swift treatment is necessary if you wish to replace a tooth with a dental implant.
If you are in good health and have enough bone to support a dental implant, your treatment could take as little as three months to complete. See your dentist for a consultation to find out how long your particular case might take.