Dental Implant Temporary Tooth
Getting a dental implant is a two-step process, and one that requires some significant time for healing between the first step and the second step, during which your restoration is completed. In this article, we’ll go over the dental implant procedure and provide information on what temporary tooth replacement options are available to get you through the healing period.
Dental Implant Procedure
Getting a dental implant—for one, several, or all of your teeth—requires two procedures. During the first procedure, your dentist/oral surgeon will first remove the damaged root of the tooth that is missing. Then, they will drill a small hole into the jawbone, into which a metal post will be implanted, then cover it with the gum to allow it to heal. Bone must grow around the post to secure it. This process generally takes around two months but can vary from patient to patient.
This process takes so long because the post needs to be stable enough in the bone to be able to function like a normal tooth and withstand the forces of chewing. If it is not allowed to fully heal, your chances of success are slim.
After the healing period—once the post is secure—the second step is to place a piece called an abutment onto the post. The abutment is screwed onto the post above the gums. This piece is the foundation onto which the crown will be secured. Then the crown will be secured onto the abutment and the procedure is complete.
Temporary Tooth Replacement Options
Because the healing process from the first surgery can take two months or in some cases, a bit longer, many patients want to know about their options for temporary tooth replacement before the second procedure is completed.
Particularly when the implant(s) will be placed in the front of the mouth where it is visible, some patients may choose a temporary tooth to cover the gap. Some patients replacing a missing tooth in the back of the mouth may decide a temporary replacement isn’t needed.
Options for temporary tooth replacement include:
- A Dental Flipper. Also called an acrylic removable partial denture, a dental flipper looks like a retainer but has an artificial tooth attached that will fill the space where your tooth used to be. A dental flipper often has only one tooth attached. It sits on the roof or ridge of the mouth and patients can easily remove it. Made from gum-colored acrylic, dental flippers may have clasps to help attach them to the surrounding teeth. This is a popular option for temporary tooth replacement. One disadvantage is that patients cannot eat with a flipper in, and it must be removed every evening for cleaning.
- Essix Retainer. This clear plastic retainer fits over the patient’s remaining natural teeth and has an artificial tooth to fill in the empty space(s). This can be a better option if a patient is getting more than one implant in a visible area.
- Temporary Bridge. A temporary bridge, usually made of acrylic, is an artificial tooth that uses the adjacent teeth to support it. Unlike a permanent dental bridge, your teeth surrounding the implant will support the temporary tooth but will not be permanently affected in any way as the bridge will be removed once the implant procedure is completed. A temporary bridge allows patients to eat more easily and is more durable than some of the other options.
- Immediate Temporary or Permanent Crown. In some cases, an immediate temporary or permanent crown can be placed on the day of or shortly after the placement of the implant. Not everyone is a candidate for this option.
- Existing Denture. If a patient is switching from a denture to a dental implant, their existing denture can usually be worn during the healing process.
Regardless of which option you and your dental health care provider decide is right for you, it will be important to follow all the appropriate instructions for caring for your implant site and your temporary tooth replacement option. It is also imperative for you to maintain good oral hygiene during this healing period no matter what option you choose.
Each option has different pros and cons and different costs. It is important to discuss all options with your dental health care provider. They can help you understand the full range of benefits and drawbacks of each possible solution for your specific situation and help make sure you choose the right option for you.