The time it takes to complete the implant process depends on many factors.

When the traditional method of placing an implant is used, the shortest time frame is about five months for the lower jaw and seven months for the upper jaw. This includes surgeries and the placement of the implant-supported bridge. However, the process can last a year or more, particularly if bone needs to be built up first.

Two surgeries are usually required to place and prepare the implant. During the first surgery, the implant is placed in the jaw and covered with gum tissue. Dr. Harrell may wait three to six months. At the end of the healing period, a second surgery is done to expose the implant so that the bridge can be placed.

To help determine where the implants should be placed, Dr. Harrell creates a model, called a wax-up, of what the bridge will look like when it is completed. To do this, he uses a model of your mouth made from impressions taken of your teeth and jaw.

Using the wax-up, he will make a surgical guide. The surgical guide is a clear piece of plastic similar to a mouth guard. It fits over your existing teeth and extends over the area where teeth are missing to show where the implants need to be placed.

After the first surgery, Dr. Harrell typically waits three or four months if implants were placed in the lower jaw, and five or six months if they were placed in the upper jaw, before scheduling the second surgery.

During this time, bone and implants fuse to one another in a process called osseointegration.

Once the implants have fused with the bone, you can schedule the second surgery.

Dr. Harrell will determine if the implants are ready for the second surgery through X-rays.

This second surgery is simpler than the first. A small incision is made in your gums to expose the tops of the implants.

A collar, called a healing cap, is placed on the head of the implant after it is exposed. This ensures the gums will heal correctly. The collar is a round piece of metal that holds the gums away from the head of the implant. The collar will be in place until the temporary bridge is inserted.