Dental implant treatment may involve the extraction of the tooth that is to be replaced. If, after a thorough assessment, it's determined that the tooth cannot be restored, extraction will be performed, and dental implant surgery scheduled. This is in your best interests, since the implant in your jaw and the prosthetic tooth attached to it will have the functionality and look of a natural tooth, and you'll want it in place as soon as possible. But must you live with a gap in your smile while your jaw and gums heal from the surgery?
Mandatory Waiting Time
For most patients, there's a mandatory waiting time between dental implant surgery and having the implant's permanent crown (prosthetic tooth) attached. This waiting time allows your jawbone to heal around the implant, which gives the implant the necessary strength to function like a natural tooth root. Your jawbone integrates with the titanium alloy implant, and this process is known as osseointegration.
Osseointegration may take anywhere from six to twelve weeks, and some patients may need longer. It's crucial the implant has integrated with your jaw before the load-bearing component (the prosthetic tooth) is added. Otherwise, the bio-mechanical forces caused by bite pressure will destabilize the implant. But even though this waiting period is essential, you may not be enthusiastic about having a gap in your smile for an extended period.
Molar or Premolar
The gap may not be noticeable if the tooth being replaced with an implant is a molar or premolar. These are towards the rear of the dental arch and won't necessarily be visible when you smile, speak, or eat. A cosmetic temporary dental crown can be beneficial during osseointegration, but your dentist will likely suggest it's not necessary with molars or premolars. You may notice a small white or metallic disc seemingly embedded in your gums where the tooth was extracted. This is the healing abutment, which helps your jaw and gums to recover from the procedure while maintaining access to the implant for the eventual attachment of your permanent dental crown.
Canine or Incisor
But you may not be receiving an implant to replace a molar or premolar. When the tooth in question is a canine or incisor, its absence will be obvious—but your dentist has a solution. A temporary crown can be added. This can be what's called a dental flipper—a single prosthetic tooth made from acrylic materials that is affixed to neighboring teeth. It actually helps the implant to heal, but please remember that it's primarily cosmetic and doesn't have any load-bearing capabilities.
A temporary crown can be added after dental implant surgery while you wait for osseointegration to take place. But whether it's needed really depends on the location of the extracted tooth.