From your initial consultation to your final crown fitting, here’s everything you need to know about the dental implant procedure timeline.
Dental implants are widely considered the best way to replace a missing tooth after a dental extraction. They’re incredibly life-like, have the longest lifespan of all tooth prosthetics, and they’re the only way to stop post-extraction bone loss in its tracks. However, this isn’t a procedure to enter into lightly. Unlike dentures or dental bridges, you can’t be in and out of our office with brand new teeth in a few weeks or even on the same day as your extraction.
Implants require planning your entire treatment well-ahead of your first surgical appointment. There are consultations, surgeries, recovery periods, and final crown fittings. You may even need preliminary treatments to prepare for your teeth implants, such as bone grafts. So just how long is the implant process? In most cases, the dental implant process takes around six to eight months to complete. Additional treatments may extend this time to over a year.
Let’s take a look at the specifics involved, each step of the way:
Before starting the implant process, our South Pasadena periodontists will need to ensure you’re an excellent match for dental implants. Implants have an incredibly high success rate of 90 to 95%. No dentist worth their salt goes into this procedure without checking that there won’t be any stumbling blocks along the months-long way.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Dental Implants?
Our dentists are often asked, “Am I too old for implants?” There is no age limit for dental implants. All you need is to be in great dental and overall health and have enough supporting jawbone. If you have any existing dental issues, we will need to take care of them before we begin. This is especially important with periodontal disease as it can destroy your smile’s gum and bone tissue. Without these structures strong and in place, your implant won’t have enough support to keep it steady, and your new tooth may fail.
Bone can also be lost as a natural reaction to tooth extraction. Soon after a tooth is removed, the mouth starts going through a process called bone resorption. Without the expected pressure of our tooth against your jaw, the alveolar bone keeping your tooth in place begins shrinking. Only an immediate tooth implant can stop the bone from resorbing. Waiting too long to start or getting a bridge or denture beforehand won’t do anything to prevent it. Within a year, more than a quarter of the original underlying bone is lost.
If you don’t have enough alveolar bone for an implant, whether from gum disease or resorption, the door to dental implants hasn’t closed itself to you forever. Instead, you’ll have to have a bone graft surgery to replace the missing tissue and restore your jaw to its natural shape and strength.
Once you're okayed for implants, your dentist will take scans and X-rays to develop a full treatment plan and timeline. We'll figure out whether you need a bone graft, what type of implant you'll need, and all other aspects of your procedure. Our team will also discuss with you any concerns we feel may affect your treatment's success, like existing health conditions or a smoking habit.
If your periodontist recommends bone graft surgery, you have nothing to worry about. The procedure is relatively quick and straightforward. First, your mouth is numbed with a local anesthetic or dental sedative. We will then make a small incision in your gum, allowing us to reach your jawbone. From there, the replacement tissue is grafted to your existing bone before the gum is put back in place.
What material is used for dental bone grafts? Bone grafts typically come from one of three sources:
Elsewhere in your body
Donors, either another person or an animal
Synthetic material made in a lab
Bone grafts typically extend your entire dental implants procedure time by three or four months. This time allows your graft to integrate with the jaw, which also promotes new, natural bone to grow.
With enough healthy jawbone, we can begin the first part of the dental implant procedure: the implant's insertion. The implant itself is a titanium screw or post embedded into the jaw where your missing tooth had been, allowing it to act as the new tooth's root. To give us access to the empty socket, we will make a small cut in your gums before making a hole just right for the post. From there, your periodontist can implant it deep into the jaw, where it can make its home.
Once placed, your mouth will require time to heal and recover. Over the next three to six months, the titanium implant will slowly fuse, or osseointegrate, to the jawbone. This process is crucial and must not be rushed as it allows the implant to stay strong and steady. Not giving enough time to heal and merge with the alveolar bone is one of the leading causes of dental implant failure.
Once your mouth has fully recovered, we’ll be able to attach the abutment to your implant. The abutment is the connector piece that keeps the entire false tooth together, root, crown, and all. To install this piece, we will need to make a new cut in the gums, which will have healed back over the socket during the osseointegration period. Then we can attach the abutment to the implant and give it time to heal.
It usually takes between four to six weeks for your mouth to fully recover after the abutment surgery. However, sometimes the implant and abutment can be installed at the same time. This can save you an additional surgery and cut down your overall treatment time by up to a month. However, this method leaves the abutment exposed above the gum line during the osseointegration process, which some patients don't like.
Once you’re fully healed, you can finally finish the dental implant by placing the dental crown. The crown is permanently screwed into the abutment, ensuring there is no looseness, wiggling, or chance for it to fall out. This last piece completes the artificial tooth, fully restoring its natural look and function. Any adjustments can be made to make sure that your new tooth fits perfectly and feels just as amazing as your original tooth.
However, we can change the restorative prosthetic depending on your smile's needs. Implant-supported bridges are often used to replace three or more missing teeth in a row. Two implants are placed on either end of the missing tooth gap, and the crowns of a dental bridge are attached on top. Since you are no longer relying on neighboring teeth for support and significantly prevent bone loss, these implant bridges are much sturdier and healthier than normal ones.
With denture implants, you can have added stability to your bite when speaking or eating. Using implants rather than your jaw or remaining teeth as support, even removable dentures are much less likely to slide or fall out. There is also a fixed, full-mouth denture that permanently secures your fake teeth on four implants spread across your jaw. These All-on-4 dental implants are incredibly long-lasting and the healthiest option for patients missing all of their teeth.
How Long Does A Dental Implant Last?
Dental implants are the longest-lasting of all tooth replacement options available. A standard denture requires replacing every 5 to 7 years, and bridges usually only last as long as 10 or 15. However, with good upkeep and excellent dental hygiene, the implant itself can last an entire lifetime. Whether it's a dental crown, dental bridge, or dentures, your restorative piece will need replacing more frequently.
Porcelain crowns are hardy and last 15 to 20 years on average, though they can have a lifespan of more than 25 with great care. Similarly, bridge and denture implants typically last around two decades, significantly increasing their regular counterparts' life by up to a decade.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
There is no single price when it comes to dental implants. Depending on your timeline, your needs, and how immediately you start treatment, your treatment cost may change. Your dental implant cost depends on several key factors:
Type of implant
Whether bone grafting is required
Cost of tooth extraction, if necessary
Cost of dental sedation, if necessary
Unfortunately, dental implants are typically not covered by dental insurance. If they are, usually only a part of the dental crown cost is paid for. However, our dentists at South Pasadena Dental want to ensure our patients don't have to worry about your dental implant cost. You can call our office at (626) 325-0331 to schedule a financial consultation with us. We'll go over your treatment's specifics, the precise cost, and our alternative financing options to ensure you can always get affordable dental implants.