Dental implants are a popular tooth replacement option that offers stability due to a metal root structure. The dental implant process involves at least one surgical procedure and healing time before proceeding to the next step. If the amount of time between initial consultation and final implant is important to you, you need to consider a few of the factors that can impact your time investment for dental implants. Here are a few of the issues you should discuss with your oral surgeon.
Type of Implant
When someone says "dental implant," the term usually means a traditional or endosteal implant.
An endosteal implant requires the dentist to drill a hole into the jawbone that the metal root will fit into. Once the root is in place, the gums are stitched shut and your healing process begins. The dentist will wait until the bone and gum tissue have fused with the root to proceed.
The next step involves fastening a metal post to the root. This can also require a healing period, albeit much shorter than the initial healing. The artificial tooth is then snapped onto that post.
Does that process sound entirely too long for you? Subperiosteal implants are a less-involved alternative.
A subperiosteal implant forgoes the jawbone-inserted root for a metal plate that fits down over the bone but under the gums. The plate already has the post attached. So once the gums heal closed over the plate, all your dentist needs to do is snap on the tooth. The potential downside is that subperiosteal implants are a bit less stable than endosteal due to the lack of bone anchor.
Subperiosteal implants are often used in situations where the jawbone has eroded or decayed too much for a traditional root anchor. But weak bone doesn't always eliminate the usage of an endosteal implant, if that's your preference.
Prior to the endosteal implant, you would need to undergo a bone graft. This graft would likely use bone from elsewhere in your mouth to help build up the weakened area. The graft is allowed to heal for months to ensure that the new bone and old bone heal together. Then, the endosteal implant process can officially begin.
Opting for a bone graft can greatly increase the time investment for a dental implant. But you might consider the root stability worth this investment.
Osseointegration refers to the healing process when the bone fuses with the metal root of an endosteal implant. Full osseointegration is reached when the implant can't wiggle around inside its slot in the bone.
The amount of time for full osseointegration varies widely between patients. Determining factors include any bone graft procedures or underlying health conditions such as diabetes or osteoporosis.
For more information, speak with experts like Terrence E. Robbins DMD, Inc.