Dental Implants: What Is Osseointegration?

Dental implant treatment has two primary stages. During the first stage, your dentist inserts a metal implant post into the bone to provide support for the implant tooth; in the second, the false tooth is attached to the post. These stages do not happen in quick succession, and you have to wait for the post to integrate into the bone before your dentist can attach the tooth. This process is known as osseointegration, and it is a pivotal part of the success or failure of dental implants.

How Does Osseointegration Work?

A newly inserted implant post is typically not strong or stable enough to support a tooth and its attachment. However, once the post is in place in the jaw, surrounding bone will fuse to it over time. This anchors the post in to a fixed position, giving it the strength and stability to hold the false tooth securely.

How Long Does Osseointegration Take?

You usually have to wait a few months for the implant to become fully osseointegrated. According to the Australian Society of Implant Dentistry, timescales may vary, depending on whether your implant is on your top or bottom teeth. The society states that lower jaw osseointegration usually takes three or four months; the upper jaw may take between four to six months. Your dentist will be able to give you an idea of timescales before you start treatment.

Tip: You don't necessarily have to live with a gappy smile while you wait for the implant to fuse. Talk to your dentist about filling the gap with a temporary false tooth.

What if the Implant Fails?

Most dental  implants are made from titanium, a metal that typically bonds well with bone. According to the Australian Society of Implant Dentistry, implants only occasionally fail to osseointegrate. If an implant does fail, your dentist may recommend removing the original post and starting over with a bigger implant.

Make sure to consult your dentist before opting for implant treatment. Dentists should run a range of checks before deciding if you're a suitable candidate for an implant. For example, you need to have the following:

  • Good overall oral health.
  • Enough good-quality bone to hold the implant in place.

In some cases, your dentist may warn you that an implant may have a reduced chance of success. For example, smoking may impair the healing process after the post is inserted and during osseointegration, and your dentist may encourage you to quit smoking before having implant treatment to reduce the risk of failure.