We’re not going to lie, the dental implant treatment process takes a while to complete. A lot of patients feel unsure about the procedure because of the long waiting period. This post is going to answer the question, "How long do dental implants take to heal?" and explain why the process is so lengthy, what steps are involved, and how additional surgeries can affect the duration of the treatment. Keep reading for all the details.
How Long Do Dental Implants Take to Heal?
There is more than one healing stage involved with getting an artificial tooth since the treatment is carried out in chunks. There are multiple steps.
First, should an extraction be required ahead of time, it will take a couple of weeks to heal. Yet, in most cases, this may not be necessary. New advances in dentistry make it possible to perform the two procedures in one go.
The next task is to secure the titanium post to the bone, which means the gums have to be opened. This creates the first healing stage.
However, dental implants don't immediately lock it in place. For the prosthesis to become stable, allowing you to chew normally, it needs to bond with the surrounding tissue.
And indeed, over time the jaw and gum tissues will grow around the implant metal, strengthening its position. The process is called osseointegration.
Depending on your overall health, it can take four to six months to complete prior to the implant portion of the treatment plan. That’s for the first part.
The next stage of the surgery is to place the abutment and then wait for a while before the gum tissue heals. Sometimes the abutment is inserted at the same time as the implant post itself, i.e. during phase 1. But many times this step is left for later. If this is the case with you, you should expect another four to six weeks to pass before the jaw can heal and you are ready for the final stage of the process.
And lastly, on your next visit to the dental office, the dentists will place either an artificial tooth over the abutment (a dental cap, a.k.a. a crown) or a denture.
So, if we had to put it in numbers, we would say the overall recovery period of dental implants can take several months. Needless to say, everybody has unique healing times and it’s difficult to predict an exact timeframe. Not to mention, something else may happen to the patient's health in the meantime.
What Can Affect the Length of the Treatment Process?
When you ask the question, "How long do dental implants take to heal?", you should think about what factors affect the dental implant healing time. One that can significantly lengthen the entire implant treatment is bone grafting. As you know, the implant has to be placed inside the bone so that it can serve as the root of your artificial tooth.
However, if you lack healthy bone tissue, you don't have a firm base onto which the implant will hold. And that’s going to impede any further action.
Sometimes patients suffer from bone loss due to ageing, tooth decay, gum disease, or tooth loss. When you lose a tooth, it leaves a gap in your gums. If you get dentures, they will constantly apply pressure on the empty space and the underlying bone, which will make it shrink.
There is another possible turn of events following tooth loss. Since the bone is no longer in regular use, it triggers natural resorption mode. This can leave you with less healthy bone than what you'll need for the treatment plan to work.
In that case, the surgeon will likely suggest bone grafting to help build up the tissue so it can hold an implant. It is usually performed on the day of the dental implant procedure. The bone graft triggers another healing process and adds some four to six months to the recovery time.
Even though this may seem like a waste of time and resources, it’s essential to understand the extra time involved in the process is worth it after all. You will end up having a brand new tooth that functions and feels like a natural tooth. So, if your dentist suggests your bone volume has to be increased, you know what to do.
Another thing that affects the length of the treatment is the number of teeth that you need to replace. If you have several implants done at the same time, this will make it harder for the gum and bone to heal.
How to Care for a Tooth Implant after Surgery
The first thing you need to remember is that you should not eat before the local anaesthetic has exited your system. If you don’t feel any pain, you may involuntarily hurt the affected part of the gums and cause bleeding.
In the first 24 hours following the dental implant procedure, make sure not to put your tongue on the implant site as it can introduce both bacteria and unneeded pressure. Do not disturb the area with food either.
You want to stay away from warm drinks. Apply cold to the cheek on the side of the implant.
From the second day on, brush with a soft-bristled brush for the time being (you don’t want to damage the sutures). Have good oral hygiene to maintain a healthy smile. Don't forget to use mouthwash and salt rinses to keep bacteria in the mouth at bay.
Also, make sure to rest. Do not get involved in vigorous physical activity for several days after the dental implant procedure.
How to Speed Up Your Dental Implant Recovery Process
There are certain things you can do to make your implants heal faster. It’s vital to keep in mind that no matter what you do, it will still take a few weeks for the healing period to be over. However, the following tips will help you have a nice recovery time.
Things you can do at home after your dental implant procedure
- Don’t smoke: tobacco products can inhibit the dental implant process
- Do not use straws: they add pressure to the area
- Use ice packs to keep the swelling from the implants down
- Until your implants are in place, try to eat soft foods
- Take any medication you were prescribed exactly how you were instructed
- Try not to drink coffee: hot liquids can prevent a blood clot from forming
- Stay away from intense exercise
- Stay hydrated: it is crucial to drink plenty of fluids throughout the entire process of getting implants
Things your dentist can do after the dental implant procedure
Some dentists resort to a technique called Plasma Rich Growth Factor (PRGF) in order to accelerate the healing period generated by dental implant surgery. It entails taking your own blood and putting it into a centrifuge machine.
The machine is responsible for separating the proteins in the blood from the plasma. Then the centrifuged blood is inserted into the implant area to stimulate the natural healing processes. This can help the bone to more quickly fuse with the dental implant metal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Dental implants require multiple steps and take months to heal, but the effort you put in will pay off. There is nothing like the ability to chew your own food and enjoy your meals.
The implant procedure is divided into several stages. Before it begins, the dentist needs to evaluate the patient's health by checking their natural teeth for cavities and other issues, as well as asking them questions about their overall health and medication intake.
If there is significant bone loss, bone grafting will be offered. This will extend the recovery period.
If a tooth needs to be extracted first, the necessary steps will be made. The surgery is usually executed in a dental office under some form of anaesthesia. Then, the abutment is placed.
To ensure a smooth recovery, new patients should follow the instructions provided by their dentist and take good care of their mouth. Sometimes the healing process is facilitated with Plasma Rich Growth Factor (PRGF).
The procedure is over when the dentist places the crown or denture over the implant abutment.