When potential clients begin to consider dental implants, one of the most common concerns we hear is what to expect after the surgical procedure. Fortunately, most patients who receive dental implant surgery don’t experience many complications during recovery, though this is dependent on the level of skill of their doctor.
Let’s take a look at what specifically dental surgery is, who the procedure is for, and then how to prepare and recover from the surgery.
Dental implant surgery is when dental implants are placed into the jawbone of patients. Implants are an option for patients looking to replace missing or failing teeth. However, unlike other options, like traditional dentures, dental implants are permanent.
Patients are anesthetized during dental implant surgery, and the procedure is outpatient (meaning you’ll leave the same day you arrive for the procedure).
Depending on how healthy your teeth are, there may be extra steps when dental implants are placed. Some patients can expect steps like:
- Tooth extraction (when patients still have remaining tooth/teeth)
- Bone grafts, for a small number of patients whose jawbones can’t support the implant anchor.
For most patients, the procedure is quick and straightforward, but this will vary depending on how extensive the surgery is and how skilled your doctor is.
A dental implant is a small, titanium screw that is permanently placed into your jawbone. Your bone will heal and fuse around the titanium.
The fake tooth/teeth are then placed on top of the titanium implant(s):
- A crown is a single, fake tooth. This is a good choice for patients that have a missing or damaged tooth, but otherwise have good oral health.
- A bridge is a single prosthetic that replaces multiple teeth. If you get the all-on-four procedure, you’ll receive a specific kind of bridge that spans an entire arch of your mouth
The crown/bridge can be made of porcelain or Zirconia. Zirconia is the best material since it is extremely durable, which helps fake teeth last a lifetime. Zirconia is also stain-resistant and white, which will help your replacement teeth look like real, natural teeth.
There aren’t a lot of things you need to prep before the surgery, but you do need to consider a few items. In particular, you’ll want to consider whether you need to take time off work, and you’ll need to make sure that you have someone to drive you home after the surgery.
Do You Need to Take Time Off Work?
We recommend taking at least one to two days off work so you can recover from your surgery. Depending on the kind of job you have, you may need up to a week off, especially if you work in a physically demanding environment.
When performed by oral surgeons under IV sedation, you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. However, most patients do feel some level of discomfort for at least a few days. Many patients find that over-the-counter pain relievers are enough to help with pain during recovery.
For patients that have more intensive surgeries, including multiple tooth extractions or bone grafts, prescription painkillers may be prescribed for the first few days of recovery.
Dental implant surgeries, including all-on-4 procedures, are surprisingly straightforward. Even if you are only replacing one or two teeth, the overall procedure will remain largely the same.
Before dental implants can be placed, any damaged teeth will need to be removed. For all-on-four procedures, all teeth on the arch (upper or lower) will be removed, even if there are a few healthy teeth remaining. Once the teeth are extracted, small incisions into the gums are made, which is where the implants will be placed.
Once incisions in the gums are made, titanium screws are placed into the jawbone. If you are getting individual implants, you’ll get one implant per fake tooth (or one crown) per implant If you are doing all-on-4 procedure, only four screws will be needed to anchor a whole row of teeth.
Finally, temporary crowns are connected to the abutments. For all-on-four procedures, the crown will be a single-piece prosthetic that has a row of new teeth. This prosthetic is temporary and will be in place while your gums and jaw recover from the surgery and while your custom, permanent teeth are being crafted.
Prep before your dental implant surgery is minimal, but you may have several questions about the recovery period. Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions patients have about recovering from dental implant surgery:
Most patients will recover enough within the week after surgery to return to work or normal activities. For complete recovery (when your permanent crown can be attached), most patients should expect 3-4 months.
Any pain or discomfort immediately following a dental implant surgery won’t last long. Most pain, swelling, and bleeding will subside within a few days following your procedure.
We recommend that patients plan on taking at least 1-2 days off work to recover from a dental implant procedure. If your dental implant surgery is simpler (for example, you received a single implant), you may be able to return to work the same day. If your surgery is more complex (for example, an all-on-4), you may need a few days from work to recover.
The kind of job you have will also impact how long you need to take off work. If you have an office job, you may need less time to recover. If you have a physically demanding job, or a job that requires regular speaking, you may need more time to recover in order to work comfortably.
It’s important to be gentle with your mouth and take extra care while your gums and jaw recover from the surgery. Unnecessary tissue damage, torn stitches, or other complications can delay the healing process, which will delay when you can get your final, permanent teeth.
For the first 2-3 weeks, you’ll be on a soft diet, as most patients find it uncomfortable to chew hard foods. After more of the pain subsides, you can move to a more normal diet.
Following these recovery steps will help reduce your discomfort, and more importantly, will help your mouth quickly heal:
- Avoid using a straw or blowing your nose (you want to avoid creating pressure in your mouth)
- Don’t use tobacco or nicotine products
- Avoid hot foods that might burn your mouth
- If you experience painful swelling, use an icepack to help relieve discomfort
- Rinse your mouth with a warm salt water solution every few hours to reduce inflammation, bacteria, and discomfort. )
Your oral surgeon will prescribe antibiotics for the first week after your surgery. The surgeon will also instruct you to use an antimicrobial mouthwash during the recovery period to avoid infections. It is extremely important to follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding antibiotics and mouthwash since an oral infection will create complications for you and your implants.
Low levels of discomfort are normal for a few days following dental implant surgeries. During this time period, most patients are able to reduce the discomfort with over-the-counter medication like Tylenol and ibuprofen, with some needing stronger medications. After just a few days, the swelling and discomfort will completely subside.
What and What Not to Eat After Dental Oral Surgery
Your diet will be limited during your recovery period, and it’s important to follow the dietary restrictions your oral surgeon will set. Immediately following the surgery, you’ll be on a soft diet for a few days. Afterward, you can eat a more normal diet except for hard foods. While your surgeon may provide specific directions, the following are some commons foods to eat and avoid:
- Soft fruits
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Ground meats
- Leafy greens
- Smoothies (use a spoon to avoid using straws)
- Some dairy products like yogurt and soft cheeses
- Hot liquids, like soup, tea, or coffee
- Meat or raw vegetables
- Citrus fruits, tomatoes, and other acidic foods
- Chewy or sticky foods like gummies or taffy
- Spicy foods
One of the biggest benefits of dental implants is that they are meant to be permanent. While it’s possible for dental implants to fail (due to inexperienced doctors or improper care after the procedure is complete), dental implants have a 97% success rate.
With proper placement and care, dental implants can last a lifetime. As long as you follow basic dental hygiene, including regular brushing, using a mouthwash, and seeing your doctor for cleanings regularly, your dental implants will be truly permanent.
In the rare instances that there is an issue with your dental implants, America’s First offers a 5-year warranty that covers replacing dental implants at no cost to you.