If you are missing one or more teeth, dental implants are a great option to replace them. The dental implant procedure is a multi-stage process and can take several months to complete. So, just how long does dental implant procedure take?
Unlike other surgical procedures where treatment is complete once the surgery has taken place—save for recovery and rehabilitation—implant surgery is just one part of the dental implant procedure. Each stage is essential, and by following the protocols rigidly, studies have confirmed that dental implants have an impressive long-term success rate, with one Australian study verifying an implant survival rate of 87% over 20 years. Thus, if you want to find out how long does a dental implant procedure take, it must be viewed in terms of the complete process from start to finish, rather than just the surgical, dental implant procedure.
Dental Implants – The process from start to finish
The dental implant procedure needs time. It requires careful planning, a surgical procedure to load the implant, healing time for osseointegration (when the implant and the bone fuse together), and finally, the completion of the procedure with the attachment of a crown (replacement tooth).
This process for dental implants is not necessarily the same for everybody and depends upon:
- Whether another treatment is required – This could be a bone graft to build up the jawbone if significant bone loss prevents the placement of a dental implant. You may also need to have teeth removed first if you are replacing them with implants.
- How long the healing process is after dental implants have been placed – The average time is between 3-4 months, but it could take considerably in some circumstances.
That said, the breakdown of each stage of the dental implant procedure follows the same process:
An initial consultation with an implant dentist will include an examination of your mouth, a discussion about your desired outcome, and the treatment options available to you. It will take between 1 and 2 hours and will include:
- Checking your teeth for signs of decay
- Examining your gums for evidence of active gum disease
- X-rays or CT scans to assess the health of the jawbone and the position of any nerves
- Making impressions of your teeth
- Compiling a treatment plan if you are considered a suitable candidate for dental implants
Dental Implant Surgery
You may want to know precisely how long a dental implant procedure takes for just the surgery alone. Again, this varies from patient to patient and depends on how many implants are being placed, the location, and the surgeon’s experience. As a ballpark indication, placing each implant generally takes between 1 and 2 hours.
However, when a patient undergoes digital, computer-guided implant surgery, much of the work is carried out during the planning phase. Therefore, dental implant placement can occur in as little as twenty minutes.
The implant surgery is carried out under a local anaesthetic in the dentist’s office. For anxious patients, conscious sedation is also available. For conventional surgery, the surgery commences with a small cut in the gum. This is opened to form a flap that allows the dentist to access the jawbone where a hole is made where the implant is inserted. The gum flap is closed to cover the implant and is sutured back in place.
In computer-guided digital implant surgery, the implant is inserted straight through the gum and into the bone, so there is no need to cut the gum. This also helps with recovery as there is no suturing involved.
Once the implant is placed, the area is left undisturbed for osseointegration to occur. Dental implants are typically made from titanium —a biocompatible metal. This means the implant will not be rejected, and new cells generated by the jawbone will fuse with the implant to form a strong and secure base onto which the replacement tooth can be mounted.
Attaching the Replacement Tooth
To complete the dental implant procedure, the final stage involves attaching the replacement tooth or teeth to the dental implants that have now fused with the jawbone. This is a straightforward process carried out with a local anaesthetic and typically takes less than an hour.
The crown is attached to the implant with a connecter (called an abutment) which holds the crown firmly and completes the dental implant procedure.
Looking after your dental implants
Once you’ve had dental implants, it’s not the end of the procedure. Just like your own teeth, they require meticulous care if you want to ensure that your dental implants last for the longest time possible—if not a lifetime.
Fortunately, they don’t require special care and attention—simply brush and floss regularly, as you would your teeth. Failure to do so can invite harmful bacteria that can damage your teeth and gums and affect the dental implant, particularly when peri-implantitis (a condition similar to gum disease) takes hold.
To make sure your implants remain healthy, you should continue to see your dentist for regular check-ups to prevent any problems that could cause dental implants to fail.
How long does a dental implant procedure take? The key takeaway
The process for dental implants is not particularly quick, but it can be completed in as little as three months—and even if it takes significantly longer, it’s worth it for a stable and permanent tooth restoration that feels and looks natural—and functions as well as your own tooth.
If you want information about how long dental implant procedures take related to your specific circumstances, speak to our experienced team today. Contact DDSS/DDII to schedule an appointment and find out more.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Australian Dental Journal: Twenty-year analysis of implant treatment in an Australian public dental clinic
Colgate: Bone Resorption: why it happens and what to do next
American Academy of Periodontology: Peri-Implant Diseases