Dental Implant Q & A

How much time will I need to take off work after dental implant surgery?

While many patients are able to return to work the next day after implant placement, recovery time depends on several factors including how many implants were placed, your own general health, and how physical of a job you have.  If you have a job that requires lifting or you have to be on your feet all day, you may need a few extra days to heal before returning to work. The best way to answer the question is to discuss this question with your implant surgeon. 

How long does it take to heal after dental implants? 

The time it takes to heal after dental implants is unique to each patient based on several factors such as:

  • The number of teeth that have been extracted and implants placed.
  • If you had a bone graft before the implant surgery or at the time of the implant surgery
  • Whether you are a non-smoker or a smoker.
  • Your general health.

Generally, when you have implant surgery, you can expect post-surgery discomfort and mild swelling for about 2 days.  After that initial period, your mouth will start feeling more comfortable.

Once the surgical site has initially healed, the implants will continue to fuse with the bone. This means that in some cases, it may take anywhere from 2-6 months for the implant to be completed by placing the permanent crown over top.  In some cases, the implants can be loaded with the implant immediately but will depend on the patient’s unique case.

What is a healing cap? 

Healing caps are generally referred to as healing abutments or healing cuffs, which are coverings that help gum tissue heal around the implant site.  

What’s the difference between an implant, healing cap, and a “cap”? 

The implant is the titanium screw that is placed within the bone while the healing cap is placed on top of the implant during the healing period.  A ‘cap’ is a term that is commonly used for the professional term, dental crown.  A dental crown is the covering that is placed on top of the implant final abutment.

So, a dental implant is just a screw they put in your jaw, right?

Implants are made of titanium and shaped like small screws.  The wiring of the implant helps your jawbone to fuse with the implant for stability.

What is involved with a dental implant procedure?

The dental implant procedure is a dental surgical procedure that places a titanium implant into the space where your tooth root used to be.  Because the implant process is individualized, the procedure requires several steps, which include:

The Consultation:

  • An initial evaluation, which includes x-rays, photos, and teeth models so that your implant surgeon can plan implants that will most closely fit to and match your existing teeth and your bite.
  • An evaluation of your general health, any medical conditions, and medications. 
  • Discussion about anesthesia options and pre-procedural tips.

The Implant Process:

Implant surgery is typically done in several stages because the jawbone needs time to heal around the implant before the finish work is completed.

These steps may include:

  • Removal of the damaged tooth that is to be replaced.
  • Preparation of the tooth space with bone grafting to ensure enough bone support.
  • Implant placement into the space using a surgical procedure that gently places the small titanium implant into the bone space.
  • Time for healing and integration on the implant and bone to occur.
  • Placement of an abutment that will be the piece that supports the finished crown.
  • It is important to be aware that without proper bone integration, the implant will not take properly.  So that is why patients must know that this process can take up to several months to allow your jaw time to heal and prepare for the final placement of the implant that will last long term.
  • Keep in mind that each implant case is unique to the patient, which means that the best way to learn about the procedure is to schedule a personal consultation with a dental implant specialist. 


Are dental implants expensive? 

Because every implant case is different, the costs will vary.  Implants are more expensive than less permanent replacement solutions but offer more stability and longevity in tooth replacement. Generally, implants can range in costs around $3,000-$5000 dollars. Keep in mind that these costs are for the dental implant surgery and components of the implant.  But that range is not guaranteed, which is why having a consultation that includes clear treatment & financial planning is the best way to know expenses. 

Are dental implants covered by insurance? 

Unfortunately, this answer is not as easy as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because dental insurance plans vary.  To find out if your dental insurance covers implants, you need to contact your insurance provider and ask about plan coverage details and plan annual limits. Sometimes, your dental provider can help you determine your coverage.

Are there payment plans for dental implants?

Each dental provider has its own payment policies regarding implants.  However, in most cases, patients will receive a detailed treatment plan that includes all the fees and the timetable of the procedure, which can help to plan payment.

Do dental implants hurt?

During the implant procedure, you will be comfortable and numb so you will not feel any discomfort.  The only feeling you may have during the procedure is pressure, but not pain.  Following the procedure, the anesthetic will be in effect for a few more hours.  During the healing process, you may feel some discomfort that can be managed with pain medication and post-operative instructions that assist healing.  

Once the implant is placed, you will not even know it is there.  Implants will feel like they are your normal teeth.

Am I awake for dental implant surgery? 

Yes.  Typically, patients are awake for dental implant surgery.  To be comfortable, you will be given local anesthesia to numb the area. 

If you are nervous about the treatment, you can discuss other options such as medication to take prior to the surgery to relax you or the option of general anesthesia, during which you will not be awake. These options will require that you have a driver to and from your appointment.

Does dental implant surgery have to be performed by a surgeon? 

While cosmetic dentists can legally place implants, oral surgeons and periodontists specialize in implant surgery.  Keeping in mind that you want the implant to be secured into your jawbone, having a surgeon with specialized training is the best way to achieve that in a healthy way.

Will I have a tooth when I leave right after dental implant surgery? 

Typically, it takes about 4-6 months to get a permanent crown for the implant. However, temporary appliances or crowns can be made to replace teeth during that time, especially when the implant involves a front tooth.

Do I go to the surgeon, or my general dentist for a crown? 

The implant process is a co-effort between your general dentist and your implant surgeon.  Your general dentist will make the specialized crown that will go over the implant that the surgeon places.

How long will I be without a tooth when getting dental implants? 

Every implant case is different depending on the patient’s needs and the number of implants.  While it typically takes about 4-6 months to get the final crown for an implant, there are some cases when it can be done more quickly. However, in most cases, you can have a temporary tooth replacement during the final healing process, so you do not have to go without teeth.

Do I have anything to replace my front tooth while the implant heals?

Yes!  Your dental professionals understand that you do not want to go without a front tooth during the healing process, which is why they will fabricate a temporary replacement by either making a removable appliance or temporary fixture. 

How long until I can eat after getting a dental implant? 

After the procedure, you will want to avoid any chewing while you are still numb.  If you are still numb, you can have liquids if they are not hot or carbonated.  After the numbness has subsided, you will want to eat a soft diet for up to two weeks or as directed by your implant surgeon.

Will I ever eat normally with an implant? 

After about two weeks following the implant surgery, patients can resume eating normally.  However, the patient will typically not have the final crown.  Once a permanent crown is placed, patients can immediately chew on that implant like a natural tooth.

What foods can I eat with a dental implant?

After your permanent implant crown has been placed, you can eat the same foods that you can eat with your natural teeth.  However, during the healing process, your implant surgeon may recommend a softer diet.

Can I brush and floss normally with a dental implant?

Yes!  Once you have an implant crown placed, you can brush and floss it like a natural tooth.  In fact, you should also have it cleaned by your dental hygienist when you visit for your routine cleanings.

Do dental implants get cavities?

No, dental implants do not decay.  However, they still need to be brushed, flossed, and professionally cleaned to rid the implant area of gum-invading plaque bacteria.

Do implants get infected like teeth do?

Implants can be infected by the same plaque bacteria that causes gum disease, which is why good homecare and professional cleanings are essential for implant health.

Can a dental implant break?

Although rare, implants can break if too much pressure is applied to them while they are healing and integrating to the jawbone.  This chance of breakage increases in the case of immediate or same-day implants.  If an implant breaks, it must be removed and replaced.

How long will a dental implant last?

With proper care, implants can last a lifetime. Keep in mind that proper care will primarily determine the lifespan of the implant. The best way to ensure the longevity of your implant is to practice good homecare and visit your dental professional regularly for routine cleanings, implant exams, and x-rays to evaluate your implant health. 

What happens when a dental implant breaks?

If an implant breaks, it must be removed and can be replaced with a new implant.

Is a dental implant considered a cosmetic procedure?

While insurance companies consider dental implants cosmetic because there are cheaper ways to replace teeth, your dental professional knows that implants are a functional procedure because they replace a tooth that is important for chewing.  Although there are other ways to replace missing teeth, implants provide the most stable way to replace a missing tooth. 

Do I have enough space for a dental implant?

That is a great question that can be answered by your dental professional who will measure the space available using various measuring and diagnostic tools.  Fortunately, there are various sizes of implants available that can fit into even smaller spaces.

Do I have enough bone for a dental implant?

To answer that question, your implant surgeon will recommend imaging through Cone-Beam Computed Tomography (CBTC), which is a 3-D scan that shows if you have enough bone to support an implant.  A CBTC is typically done during the planning stages of an implant case.

Are my gums healthy enough for a dental implant?

The best way to find out whether your gums are healthy enough for an implant is with a full periodontal screening that includes periodontal charting that measures the health of your gums and full-mouth x-rays that can check that your jawbone is stable.  If you have questions about your gum health, ask your dental professional to perform a full periodontal assessment.

Can a dental implant affect my health?

Typically, dental implants do not negatively affect your health.  However, as with any procedure, risks do exist.  A few rare but common risks include:

  • Infection – Infection around the implant can cause peri-implant diseases that can usually be treated by a periodontist.
  • Nerve Injury – Nerve damage, which can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in your teeth, gums, lips, or chin can occur.  The best way to avoid this is with careful planning of the implant placement through measuring and imaging by an implant specialist like an oral surgeon and periodontist who both have many years of specialized training.
  • Sinus Issues – If implants are placed in the upper jaw, they will be placed close to the sinus, which can cause sinus issues.  One of the best ways to avoid sinus issues is by proper placement, which can be planned by using the CBCT to ensure that there is sufficient space for the implant to be placed from the sinus.

Why should I get a dental implant?

While there are many benefits to dental implants, some of the most common reasons are that dental implants can replace your teeth more naturally and function most like your natural teeth.  

Can I just leave my missing tooth as an empty space?

Of course. Deciding whether to replace a tooth is your personal decision.  However, it is important for you to understand the risks of not replacing a tooth.  Having a space can cause adjacent teeth to shift, which can cause unattractive spacing and bite imbalances.  In addition, missing teeth also equals missing jawbone, which can cause less overall support for all your teeth.  Missing teeth can also hinder your ability to chew and put more stress on your remaining teeth.  

If I grind my teeth, will an implant hold up?

If you grind your teeth, your implant can most likely handle the pressures.  However, the tooth that opposes the implant could be at risk because grinding can make the periodontal ligament that attaches your tooth to bone to become inflamed.  The bottom line is that if you grind your teeth, you should contact your dentist to fabricate a custom dental guard to protect your teeth.

Can smoking cause problems or infections with a dental implant?

Yes! Smoking increases your risk of implant failure such as peri-implantitis.  The best way to increase your chances of having a healthy implant is to quit smoking before your implant procedure.  If you are a smoker, it is best to discuss your risks and benefits for an implant with your dental provider.

Can you get an implant if you’re diabetic?

Studies have shown that patients who have controlled diabetes have good survival rates of their implants.  If you are diabetic, it is important to discuss your medical history with your implant surgeon to determine your individual case.

What is an implant retainer?

The term implant retainer can have different meanings. 

  • Orthodontic Retainer – Sometimes while a front tooth implant is healing, an orthodontist can fabricate a retainer called an Essix Retainer that has a tooth attached to temporarily replace the missing tooth. 
  • Implant Retained Denture – Implants can be used to support a full denture and allow for a more comfortable and secure fit.

What is a hybrid denture?

There are two types of implant-retained dentures, overdentures and hybrid dentures. While overdentures are removable, hybrid dentures are fixed, which means that the implants support a denture that remains in place and is only removed by your dentist or implant surgeon for periodic check-ups.

Can one implant replace two teeth?

Yes. Because implants are stronger than natural teeth, they can often support more than one tooth.  But because every patient case varies, an individual treatment protocol will determine which cases can support those multiple cases.

How many implants do I need to support a full upper or lower denture?

On average, four implants are typically needed to support one denture.  However, because each case is different, individual treatment plans can best determine how many implants will be needed to support a denture in each case.

Do dental implants come with warranties?

While there is no universal warranty when it comes to implants, many implant companies offer warranty for their implant components.  In addition, some implant surgeons will provide services for failing implants.  The best way to find out what your implant surgeon’s policy is on implant success is to ask detailed questions at your consultation appointment.

Is it possible to give a ballpark cost for dental implants?

While there is a price range for dental implants that can range on average about $3,000-$5,000 on average nationally, each case is different.  So, the best way to know the cost for your specific case is to schedule a consultation where you can receive a clear treatment and financial planning.

Can you get same-day dental implants? 

While traditional implants usually require several months to complete, Same Day Implants are available in certain cases.  The typical good candidate for same-day implants are patients who have good quality bone with depth more than 10 millimeters, are in good physical health, and have an implant in an area that does not receive excessive chewing forces.

Why most dental implants are not “same-day” procedures.

Traditional implant procedures that require several months of healing are still the most common way to do implants because they usually offer more success than same-day procedures.  Allowing more time for bone integration with the implant before chewing forces are applied is a more predictable way for implant success.