How soon do gums harden?

“I need to have a tooth taken out and I was wondering how long it takes for my gums to harden before I can have an implant fitted?”

This email enquiry arrived at Dovetail from Tony recently and as it’s very similar to many other enquiries we receive I thought I’d post an answer.

There are two parts to a dental implant – the implant itself (also called the fixture) and the crown that fits onto the implant – so to answer Tony’s question we need to think about both of these parts separately.

When a tooth is taken out it may be possible to fit an implant at the same time but only if there is no infection and there is plenty of strong bone. Some dentists are happy to fit an implant just a few days after a tooth is removed but more prefer to wait a longer time to allow the gums to heal: six to eight weeks is generally sufficient.  If the tooth that required extraction was particularly badly infected then it may be advisable to wait for longer, perhaps 3-4 months particularly if any bone graft was placed at the time of tooth removal.

If you wait too long though, you can run into a different sort of problem. After the tooth is removed the bone will start to shrink away and after a while there may not be enough bone to completely surround the implant. This means you are more likely to need some bone grafting or supplements which increase the cost. How soon this occurs varies from person to person but the longer you go the greater the likelihood of needing additional treatments, particularly where it is important that the tooth looks really good in your smile.

The second part of the answer is how soon can you put a crown onto a new implant? After all, that’s the bit that you need for smiling and chewing. The answer, again, is it depends.

In the past, I remember, we used to wait six months after placing an implant before fitting a tooth but we’re much quicker these days. As a general rule at Dovetail we wait ten weeks for the implant and bone to knit tightly together before making the new tooth to fit on top: any sooner risks overloading the implant but sometimes that is a risk worth taking!

Imagine you are about to lose a front tooth and you just cannot face a denture, not even for a few months. Well, if there was no active infection and your bite was very light then we can remove the failed tooth, fit an implant and put a new tooth on all in one visit. The surgeons skill and experience is very important here and at Dovetail we’re fortunate to have one of the best in Dr Vivian.

Another occasion when we fit teeth straight onto new implants is if we need to do a full set of top or bottom teeth in one go. Amazingly, we can take out the remaining teeth and fit a whole new set in just one day. Ten years ago it often took us a year or eighteen months to help people get a full set of implants and it really wasn’t fun for them! Nowadays it’s so much quicker and faster allowing you to get on with your life: the technique is called Allon4 but is also known as same day smiles or teeth in a day.

We’ve done hundreds of successful cases at Dovetail, see how we solved M’s issue below:

M had a problem with her right incisor—the crown kept falling off and the underly-ing root was very weak though fortunately not infected.

We very gently removed the old crown and root, fitted an implant and attached a new prototype crown on top. This picture was taken just a week later, look how well the gum has healed. M had to be careful not to put too much strain on her new tooth for a while.

A few months later, after the gum and bone had healed and the implant was strong we made a new ceramic crown to give M a lovely smile!