What to Expect After a Dental Implant Procedure
Dental implants are definitely worth it. It is a safe procedure that’s been around for more than 30 years in the dental industry and it’s getting more popular every year because it’s virtually pain-free. Like any other surgery, it has its risks, but with adequate preparation and aftercare, the recovery should be quick and effective.
Once it’s fully healed, a dental implant looks great and feels great. This is a process that takes several months, with regular visits to your dentist, but it’s a long-term, cost-effective solution that will positively surprise you.
Overview of the Procedure
This minor dental surgery consists in cutting open your gum and exposing the bone. After drilling a small hole, a metal (titanium) post is placed where the root of your tooth would normally go, deep into the jawbone. Your gum should heal in approximately 2 weeks with proper care over the post. And the bone takes a few months to grow back and unite with the dental implant (this process is called osseointegration).
This is the first half and it’s the hardest part, the second half is much easier and the recovery takes less time with little to no pain.
Once the osseointegration is completed, a second dental surgery (also minor) will be required. Your surgeon will cut open your gum again, this time to expose the implant and to attach the abutment on top where your new crown will be placed. On this occasion, your gum will heal around the abutment in a couple of weeks.
The Main Risks
Infection, which can be prevented and treated with antibiotics prescribed by your dentist.
Nerve damage can cause a lack of feeling in certain areas of your mouth and jaw, also a burning sensation or tingling, and loss of taste. This may be temporary but it might take up to 6 months to go back to normal.
Sinus problems (if the surgery is performed on the upper jawbone: maxilla).
During the preparation stage, you should ask your dentist all the questions you might have and clear any doubts or concerns. Despite being a minor surgery, it is still surgery and you need to take every precaution and be able to make an informed decision.
What to Expect on the Day of the Surgery
The most common question about a dental implant is if it’s painful. No worries, both surgeries are performed with anesthesia, so you shouldn’t feel any pain. The surgeon will probably recommend an over-the-counter painkiller to help you with any discomfort you might feel in the following days.
After the procedure, you are probably going to feel a little bit drowsy while the effects of the anesthesia wear off. That means you shouldn’t drive that day and it’s best if you take someone to take you back home. Taking the rest of the day off is a good idea, but the next day you should be able to go back to work and continue with your normal routine.
You will probably walk out of the dentist's office biting a gauze pad. An hour should be enough and a blood clot will form (remove the gauze gently). Remember not to spit or use straws for the rest of the day to prevent any extra bleeding.
You can expect swelling in your face and gums and some pain where the dental implant was placed. Taking painkillers while the anesthesia wears off will take care of any extra discomfort. Also, your dentist might prescribe antibiotics to prevent an infection.
For the first 24 hours, try your best not to touch the area and use an icepack placed gently on your face to treat the swelling. The next day ice won’t work anymore, but you can start using heat instead. To speed up the healing process after your dental surgery, use a moist heating pad.
Additional recommendations: no hot drinks or foods, no brushing your teeth, no caffeine or alcohol, and only soft foods.
The Following Days
After your dental implant procedure, you can resume drinking hot beverages, but try to stay away from crunchy or chewy foods for a few more days. Also, always remember to chew away from the dental implant. It’s also essential to keep your mouth clean. Gently rinse your mouth with salt water and brush your teeth softly.
It will take approximately a week for the swelling to disappear. By then, you should be able to eat pretty much any food and brush your teeth normally. After 2 weeks, your gums will be fully healed. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, get in touch with your dentist.
After a Few Months
The second surgery is far less invasive. On that day, your surgeon will place the artificial tooth and give you the final instructions to take care of it and make sure it lasts for a long time. Again, your gum will need to heal and it will take only a couple of weeks to recoup from this dental surgery.
The overall success of this whole process will also depend on your oral hygiene. You should take care of your new crown just how you would take care of the rest of your teeth: brushing them after every meal, flossing every day, and dropping by your dentist's office regularly for deeper cleanings.
The things that normally damage your teeth will also damage your new crown, like chewing on ice or hard candy. Beverages with caffeine not only stain your teeth but also contribute to bacterial growth in your mouth, which can lead to more serious afflictions like tooth decay and gum disease.
It’s very important to mention that the use of tobacco is the main reason why these types of procedures fail. In that case, the dental implant needs to be removed and after a couple of months, you could start over from 0. If you smoke, try to quit some time before the surgery, otherwise, you might risk wasting a lot of time and money.
Other than that, this is pretty much an uneventful journey. It takes several months to complete, but it’s one of the best solutions for people with damaged teeth and the success rate is pretty high.