The process for placing dental implants happens in three phases over the course of several months. In the initial phase, the implant is placed into the jawbone via a surgical procedure and allowed to heal. During this healing time a natural fusion process known as osseointegration occurs between the implant and bone.
The second phase involves placing the abutment which will serve as the connector between the implant and restorative prosthesis. During this second surgery, the gums are again opened up to expose the implant. A collar is then placed over it to guide the gums and ensure proper healing. Once the gums have adequately healed, the collar is removed, the abutment is placed, and an impression taken to create the dental crown.
The final phase of a dental implant procedure, which will be the focus of this article, involves placing the restorative dental crown.
Placing the Dental Crown
Once the abutment has been screwed on the implant and tightened, the surgeon will place a temporary crown onto the abutment. In some cases, a collar may not be needed following the second surgery allowing the abutment and temporary crown to be placed simultaneously.
The temporary crown will generally be worn for about four to six weeks during which the gums will heal around it creating a natural appearance. Not as strong as a permanent crown, the temporary crown is simply used to protect the implant from chewing forces and allow the jawbone to strengthen while the permanent crown is being created.
During the healing time, the permanent crown is created in a dental lab. Production typically takes two to three weeks and is based on the impression taken earlier in the process. Because the crown is custom made specifically for the patient to create a realistic replacement, multiple dental visits are needed.
Once the crown has been created, the dentist will verify that it was produced up to standards by checking its fit, appearance, and match to existing natural teeth. Assuming the crown is acceptable, the dentist will proceed with securing it in place. Placing the crown is painless as local anesthesia is applied throughout the procedure. The dentist binds the crown over the tooth using dental cement and if needed, minor adjustments can be made to the crown’s shape in order to properly align it with opposing teeth.
After the crown has been screwed or cemented in place over the implant, the resulting prosthetic tooth looks and functions like the natural teeth. Because it is a relatively simple procedure, two dental visits are generally required to place the crown.
Types of Prosthetic Crowns
- Removable: Identical to a traditional full or partial removable denture. The crown is enclosed at the base by plastic and mounted to a metal structure that connects to the abutment. The device snaps securely together but can be removed for routine cleaning or repairs.
- Fixed: Instead of being removable, fixed dental crowns are permanently cemented or screwed onto the implant abutment. Fixing a crown on a dental implant is a common scenario and because of the strength of the implant, multiple teeth can be supported by a single implant.