Dental implants are one of the most effective ways to restore lost teeth. Whether used alone or in conjunction with larger restorations, implants allow patients to eat and live comfortably even after complete tooth loss. Part of the reason dental implants are so effective is because they are attached to the jawbone, gaining natural strength from it while reinforcing surrounding bone tissue. However, this also means that implants take a while to fully heal after surgery.
While a patient’s recovery time is largely dependent on the procedure and his or her own health, there are various steps one can take to improve healing and reduce the risk of failed implants. We offer the below post-surgical tips for our Charlotte patients who have recently undergone dental implant surgery.
Easing the Side Effects of Surgery
After implant surgery, patients can expect a few side effects to surface over the first few days. During this time, patients can take the following preventative measures to reduce them:
- Bleeding: Immediately after surgery, patients may experience light bleeding from the surgical incisions. By applying gauze and light pressure to the area, bleeding can be controlled and should be expected to stop by the end of the day.
- Discomfort: Patients can expect some pain from the jaw and gum tissue, especially as the anesthesia begins to wear off. Prescription painkillers should be used in the early stages of recovery, while less powerful medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be used later on.
- Bruising and swelling: Bruising and swelling of the jaw or cheek can be expected to appear over the first two to four days. The severity of these effects can be reduced through the application of an ice pack over the first 48 hours.
Preventing Implant Failure
The primary concern after implant surgery is the risk of peri-implantitis. This is an inflammation of gum or bone tissue surrounding an implant, preventing the implant from properly fusing with the jaw. As long as patients take the right precautions during recovery, the risk of implant failure is low:
- Maintain good hygiene: The best way to prevent implant failure is to keep teeth and gums free of disease. Brush and floss regularly to stave off gum disease and the accumulation of plaque. For extra protection, consider using mouthwash, but only as recommended by your cosmetic dentist.
- Rinse with salt water: Rinse your mouth gently with salt water during the early stages of recovery, up to four times daily. Combine half a teaspoon of salt with one cup of warm water, and swirl the water around in your mouth without aggressively swishing.
- Abstain from tobacco use: Smoking and chewing tobacco are detrimental to dental health and the success of your implants. If you normally use tobacco products, you will be asked to abstain from them in the weeks prior to implant surgery and the full duration of your recovery.
- Take it easy at first: Most of your recovery time will not require extra rest or adjustments to your lifestyle. However, it is important to rest and refrain from strenuous activities in the first few days of recovery. You should also keep your head elevated during this time, in order to prevent bleeding and swelling.
- Watch out for infection: As long as you take care of your oral health, infection is rare, but it is still a possibility. Take any antibiotics given as directed, and inform your dentist if any post-surgical symptoms remain or worsen over time.
After receiving dental implants, you should avoid putting any pressure on them for at least the first week. Of course, the longer implants remain undisturbed, the more easily they will heal. When eating, this means chewing on the opposite side of the mouth when possible or - if implants are installed on either side of the mouth - only chewing gently. Soft foods are therefore the best choice, whereas chewy, crunchy, and hard foods can press or pull on implants. Small, grainy foods that can get stuck in the gums and irritate the implants are also a poor choice. Early on, teeth and gums may also be extra sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, which patients should keep in mind when preparing meals and drinks. Regardless of these restrictions, it is equally important that patients eat full and nutritious meals, as a healthy diet is integral to proper healing.
Meet with Dr. Porter to learn more about your dental implants or to inquire about any of our restorative dental services. Schedule your next appointment with us, and see how our Charlotte dental office can give you a lasting smile.