What is Osseointegration?

When you visit our dental implant dentist for an initial consultation, you might hear us discussing Osseointegration and wonder what it is and why it is so important. It is why dental implants are such an effective solution for tooth loss. Osseointegrate is based on the Greek words for bone, ‘osteon,’ and ‘integrare,’ Latin for ‘to make whole.’

    Osseointegration is a process where a structural connection forms between the implant post or screw and the surrounding bone. It provides far greater strength and functionality than other tooth replacements lacking this connection.

    The process was originally discovered by accident by Per-Ingvar Brånemark in the 1950s during an experiment to study blood flow in bones using titanium implants. At the end of the experiment, the titanium had fused firmly in the bone and could not be removed. Over seventy years later, we now have a far greater understanding of Osseointegration, how it works, and how to encourage this process.

    How Does Osseointegration Work?

    Osseointegration Process of Dental ImplantsOsseointegration is a process that takes months to complete. It can take three to six months for an implant to fuse with the bone completely. Osseointegration begins when we make a hole in the jawbone to insert the implant post.

    When making an opening in the bone, some blood vessels are ruptured, prompting the body to start the healing process. In just a few moments, proteins begin adhering to the implant surface. At the same time, a blood clot forms and attaches to the dental implant. After a few hours, the body’s immune system gets to work, releasing special cells that help to kill bacteria as part of this inflammatory process.

    A few days after surgery, cells found in connective tissues begin to form collagen, stimulating another type of stem cell so new blood vessels start to grow, restoring the supply of oxygen. This process enables the bone to begin to heal and create new bone tissue. This new bone tissue is held onto the implant surface through collagen fibers. Just one week after implant surgery, a scaffolding of new bone structure forms around the implant. After several weeks, the new bone continues to remodel and mature, gradually forming a bone structure that will hold the implant firmly in place.

    How Do Dental Implants Encourage Osseointegration?

    The implant post or screw will often have a special coating called hydroxyapatite, which helps prompt new bone growth. The surface of the implant screw may be roughened as this increases the surface area so more bone cells can adhere to the implant, helping to aid Osseointegration.

    During Osseointegration, it is extremely important that the implants don’t come under too much stress and cannot move. Any movement could affect the bond between the bone and the implant, so Osseointegration is less successful or may fail.

    When are Dental Implants Strong Enough to Be Restored?

    Traditionally, dental implants are placed into the jaw and left undisturbed to heal until Osseointegration is complete. A temporary prosthesis enables patients to smile confidently, talk, and eat during healing. After this time, the implants are strong enough to support new implant teeth and withstand forces created during biting and chewing. Nowadays, it is becoming more common for dental implants to be immediately loaded or restored soon after surgery and before Osseointegration occurs.

    Immediately Loading Dental Implants

    It’s important to know this is only possible in specific circumstances and that Osseointegration must still occur uninterrupted. When restoring multiple teeth with an implant bridge, a temporary prosthesis can be fitted soon after surgery, and this splints the implants together. Splinting the implants together helps prevent movement during Osseointegration so it can still occur successfully. When immediately loading a single dental implant, the temporary crown is designed so it cannot contact the opposing tooth and is purely for cosmetic purposes. The crown shouldn’t be used for biting or chewing food until Osseointegration is complete.

    Usually, Osseointegration will occur smoothly without any problems, especially when patients follow our instructions closely.

    How Can I Ensure Successful Osseointegration?

    If we approve you for dental implants, we have already checked your jawbone density and assessed your dental and medical health to ensure dental implants are the right solution. When properly planned and placed, the success rate for this treatment is 95% or more, but there are other factors to consider.

    While healing after implant surgery, it’s essential to avoid smoking entirely, and you should stop smoking for a while before the implants are placed. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, slows down healing, and disrupts Osseointegration. Drinking alcohol can also slow down healing.

    We will give you precise instructions on how to look after your mouth during healing, and it’s important to follow these closely as you must eliminate bacteria by cleaning your mouth thoroughly. Initially, we may recommend rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash, and we will show you how to brush and floss carefully around the surgery site. You will need to have follow-up appointments, and attending these is important so we can monitor your oral health.

    If you are concerned about healing or notice any issues with the surgery site, please don’t hesitate to contact us immediately. We can check for any signs of infection or other problems that could affect Osseointegration and delay the completion of treatment.

    It is unlikely that any problems will occur with Osseointegration, especially for anyone with reasonable dental and general health.