Dental Implant Temporary Tooth
Dental implants have become the most popular choice for people who want to replace one or more missing teeth, providing a secure, natural-looking option for dental restoration. One of the things that makes dental implants so secure is the fact that, as it heals, the dental implant fixture fuses with the bone in the jaw, in a process called osseointegration. It can take a few months for the jawbone to fully heal following the placement of an implant, which raises a common question: what do I do while my bone is healing, between surgery and the time when my dentist can place my permanent dental restoration? The good news is that there are multiple answers to this question; there are many choices available for patients who are waiting for their dental implant to heal and integrate with the jawbone.
Dental implant treatment involves multiple steps, each of which works toward ensuring the long-term success of the implant. All treatment plans begin with a comprehensive assessment to evaluate the integrity of the jawbone and the positioning and condition of the teeth, to determine whether a dental implant procedure is appropriate. The initial assessment may indicate that a bone grafting procedure is necessary to restore the bone in the jaw before an implant can be placed; if this is the case, the bone graft procedure is performed and the bone is given time to heal before the implant surgery can take place. During the dental implant surgery, the implant fixture or fixtures are surgically placed into the jawbone. The implant fixture is a small screw-like cylinder that is made of a biocompatible material, usually titanium, that stimulates bone growth around the implant and serves as a replacement tooth root. Once the bone has fully healed and fused with the implant, a process known as osseointegration, the crown or other permanent restoration can be placed. It’s imperative that the implant gets sufficient time to heal, allowing the bone to grow around the implant, so that the implant is securely rooted into the bone and can withstand the forces of biting and chewing, and healing time can vary from person to person. When the implant is placed into the lower jaw, it usually takes 4 or 5 months to heal, while implants placed into the upper jaw tend to take about 6 or 7 months to fully heal. One the implant has fully fused to the bone, the dentist makes a small incision in the gum and places a healing cap or an abutment onto the tip of the implant, helping the gums heal in the proper position and shape, and then, once the gum tissue has healed, the permanent crown or denture is secured to the implant.
While it is certainly acceptable to leave the site of the dental implant uncovered, many people prefer to use a temporary option that will protect the implant site as it heals and will also provide the visual appeal of a replacement tooth rather than a large gap in the teeth. If the dental implant is being placed in a visible area of the mouth, patients often want a temporary option to fill the gap between the teeth while they wait for their implant to heal and for the permanent fixture to be placed. One option is a temporary tooth called a dental flipper, also called an acrylic removable partial denture, which is a type of temporary tooth replacement that looks like a retainer that fits the temporary tooth into the gap and holds it in place. An Essix retainer is another option; this is a devide that is made of clear plastic that fits over the teeth and contains a replacement tooth to fill in a gap. A temporary bridge can also be a good temporary replacement option and uses the teeth adjacent to the gap to support an acrylic artificial tooth. In some cases, depending on the complexity of the procedure, type of implant, and specific clinical needs of the patient, a temporary crown, or even a permanent crown, can be placed on the dental implant shortly after it is placed. Some patients may also have an existing denture that can be worn while dental implant heals. You and your dentist will discuss the possibilities for temporary replacement options, as well as overall treatment plans, that would work best for you.
While a temporary tooth option can help protect a dental implant surgery site as it heals, it is also important to follow your dentist’s instructions while you heal, particularly with regard to foods or drinks that might impede healing as well as habits that can be detrimental to the success of the implant. Generally, dentists recommend that patients avoid hot foods during healing, due to the sensitivity of the surgical site, and that patients also avoid using straws or smoking, as focused, strong inhalation can damage the surgical site and slow down the healing process. Dentists also recommend that patients avoid hard, crunchy foods, like popcorn or nuts, that can leave behind significant debris or damage a temporary replacement tooth or the healing tissue of the gums. Staying hydrated will help the healing process, and carefully cleaning the implant site regularly will help with healing and ensure the success of the dental implant. Of course, it is also important to maintain the cleanliness and overall health of the mouth in general, which will help support your implant-based dental restoration over the long term.