What to Expect after Dental Implants
If you lose a tooth, one possible solution is acquiring a dental implant. Whether the tooth was damaged or simply fell out, the end is the same: surgery to replace that tooth. Dental implants are artificial teeth that are put in, using screw-like components. They are an alternative to bridgework and dentures.
Many people have questions as to what post-operative care looks like, how long it takes to recover, and what complications there might be. We’re going to answer those questions in this article.
Dental Implants—Understanding the Basics
Dental implants become the root of the new tooth, securing the tooth to the jaw. Eventually, the titanium in the implant fuses with your jawbone, and therefore your new tooth won’t slip, be noisy, or cause damage to the bone. This is quite unlike dentures or fixed bridgework.
Your recovery may depend on a number of factors such as:
- Whether your jaw was healthy and sound before surgery
- How many implants you need
- Whether your teeth are generally healthy
- The medication you use
- Whether you’re a smoker and how often you smoke
Because so many factors are at play, the aftereffects do vary extensively from patient to patient. Some find it’s less uncomfortable than wisdom tooth removal or other mouth surgeries but it’s important to have a realistic expectation and take good care afterward. Your dental surgeon will discuss the specifics with you.
Steps in the process can sometimes be combined. This will depend on your particular surgery and pre-operative mouth care.
What to Expect with Dental Implants
Prior to the Implant
For some people, the process begins with the extraction of the tooth in question. This usually takes place 3 months before the implant placement to give your mouth and gums a chance to heal. In some cases it’s possible to follow the extraction with an immediate placement during the same session, but only if there’s no infection.
A solid jaw is required for a tooth to be able to bite or chew, so your dental surgeon will assess this to ensure a long-term positive outcome. In patients with major bone loss, the jaw will need to be strengthened before surgical implants, using bone grafting or bone regeneration. After a major graft, an implant is left longer before the final crown is put in place. Most of the time bone grafting is done at the same time as the implant is placed.
If your missing tooth is in the front of your mouth, your dentist may provide you with a temporary replacement tooth for aesthetic purposes. This can be removed for cleaning.
Immediately After the Surgery
Straight after surgery, it’s normal to experience the following:
- Some swelling of the mouth and face
- Bruising of the skin and gums
- Minor bleeding or seeping
- Pain at the implant surgery site
Once the anesthetic has worn off, you may experience some pain or discomfort. Take some over the counter pain medications, such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Your dentist will inform you how to use this and any other medication prescribed. However, if pain or swelling gets worse over the course of a few days, please contact your oral surgeon.
Note: don’t pull on your lip or touch the wound or implant area with your finger or even with your tongue.
The First 24 Hours After Surgery
It’s advisable to continue to brush your teeth, just not near the implant. Also, don’t rinse or spit.
In terms of food, your best option is a liquid diet at this stage, moving to soft foods after a while. This means:
Avoid fizzy drinks, alcohol, and hot or spicy foods.
Get plenty of rest by minimising activities for a day or two. After this, you should be able to return to work, depending on the procedure. Your dental practitioner will be able to advise you more precisely on this after you’ve had the surgery.
The stitches will normally dissolve of their own accord. You normally won’t need to have your stitches removed.
24 Hours to 5 Days After Implant Surgery
Your swelling will increase until the 2nd or 3rd day after implant surgery. Use a cold compress or ice pack to reduce this. Remember to wrap the ice pack in a cloth of some sort, such as a towel, before placing it on your skin. Use it for 20 minutes, then give it a break for 20 minutes. Simply place it gently on your face at the site of the surgery. After 36 hours, you can use heat to reduce the swelling.
Caring for Your Implants
There are ways in which you can help ensure the success of your implant operation. If the implant fails, you have to repeat the surgery again in a few months, so it’s best you do all you can to help.
For instance, there is a direct correlation between the success of the surgery and stopping smoking or using tobacco. In fact, if you stop these activities a little while beforehand, you have a greater chance of success.
Keep your teeth healthy with regular brushing and flossing. This will keep your gums and teeth clean. You can always obtain some interdental brushes to help you clean between the implant and other teeth.
Avoid actions that are hard on your teeth, such as chewing tough foods or opening bottle lids with your teeth. Try to avoid grinding your teeth at night too. You don’t want your teeth to crack from the pressure.
Check regularly with your dentist about any problems and go for regular scheduled visits to make sure all is well.
In some patients’ cases, after your implant, you may need to have an abutment put in place. This is a collar that goes on top of the implant and is the base for a crown or replacement tooth when it’s ready. This usually requires anaesthesia.
The abutment is placed above the implant and is visible throughout the time it takes to heal. The abutment will attach to the metal post, and the surgeon closes the gum around it. After that, your dental surgeon will take digital scans for the new ‘tooth’ to be made. Then your crowns or replacement teeth are attached, and you’re ready to eat and smile as usual.
Having an implant will require several surgeries and much time to heal. However, afterwards you’ll have a lovely smile and the ability to chew your food properly. It’s certainly worth the lengthy procedure. And if you have any questions, the Shine Dental Clinic team is available at any time.