Dental implants are small titanium posts that are placed inside a patient’s jaw bone to replace a tooth. Implants mimic the functionality of a tooth root while preserving the strength of the mandible. Dental crowns, which are placed above the implant, are the replacement teeth that look identical to your natural ones.
Dental implants are the best technology to date for replacing missing teeth, however, it’s important to remember what the procedure itself entails. In an ideal scenario, the existing tooth root will be removed and the metal post will be implanted in its place. Depending on your situation, you may need more than one implant and/or a bone graft if there’s not enough bone to successfully anchor the implant.
While it’s highly effective and safe, it’s a process that requires time and patience for the gum tissue and jaw to heal. During the healing process, it’s common to experience minimal swelling, bruising, and some discomfort.
Swelling can last between 5 to 7 days, bruising can last up to 14 days, and pain or sensitivity can linger for about a week, although 90% of cases have very little swelling, bruising, or discomfort.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you should expect after implants, how to reduce swelling, and what you can do to heal faster.
What to expect after dental implant placement
The thought of getting implants might be scary but it doesn’t have to be. We want to put your mind at ease by answering a few of the most common questions we hear from our patients at Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID.
How much swelling and bruising is normal after a dental implant?
Swelling is the body’s normal reaction to trauma.
The extent of swelling after implant placement will vary from one patient to another. For example, someone who receives one implant should experience less swelling than someone who receives full-mouth implants or a bone graft.
In any case, you can expect moderate inflammation in the jaw and gums within the surgical area as well as mild inflammation of the cheeks and the facial muscles.
Note that swelling will peak between the first and third-day post-op and will gradually reduce during the week that follows until it subsides completely. Continue reading for practical tips on how to minimize swelling naturally.
Bruising and skin discoloration on the sides of the face may also occur, however, the majority of cases show very little to no bruising at all.
How long does pain last after the placement of a dental implant?
Depending on the extent of the procedure, your dentist may choose to use either a local anesthetic or sedative. Once the numbness from the local anesthesia has worn off, pain may set in.
While temporary, this soreness could last for 1 to 5 days with the worst of it expected to occur between the first and third-day post-op.
Over-the-counter medications may alleviate mild aches and sensitivity, but prescription medication may be necessary for those experiencing higher levels of discomfort. Be sure to take them only as instructed and call your dentist if you don’t feel any pain relief.
Be gentle during the first week of the recovery period to prevent the sutures in your mouth from opening up if sutures are placed. Most implant procedures do not require sutures.
How long does it take for gums to heal after dental implants?
The length of your recovery process will largely depend on the treatment you received, as well as the period of time it takes your body to heal.
You should begin to see major improvements within the first week post-op. At that point, you should be able to resume normal activities without a problem.
If bone grafts are needed in the event of bone loss, your recovery time may be a little longer.
Tips for reducing swelling after a dental implant procedure
These are practical things you can do at home to reduce the level of inflammation experienced after receiving dental implants.
1. Place ice packs over the implant area: Use ice or a bag of frozen veggies (wrapped in a washcloth) and place it against your cheek closest to where the implant site is. A frozen ziplock bag with corn syrup works well too. Keep this on the outside of the face for a consecutive 10 to 20 minutes and then rest for 20 minutes.
The immediate use of ice packs is the best way to help combat the amount of swelling early on. After the first 72 hours, you can switch from cold compresses to moist heat compresses with the same time alternating procedure (20 minutes on/ 20 minutes off).
2. Elevate your head with pillows: Your body heals faster when it’s in a restful and relaxed state. Spend the first couple of days of recovery in repose with your head elevated.
3. Avoid excessive talking: Remain as calm and quiet as possible during the first 24 hours.
4. Do not disturb the wound: Don’t brush or rinse your mouth on the same day as your dental implant treatment.
5. Maintain good oral hygiene: After the first day, delicately brush your teeth around the wound with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
6. Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water but do so without a straw. The sucking movement created when drinking from a straw may dislodge the blood clot in your mouth and delay your healing. Only drink cold or tepid water, at least initially; hot liquids can burn and irritate the wound.
7. Eat a soft diet of nutritious foods: Your sutures will need time to heal so it may be a good idea to start off with a liquid diet and gradually switch to softer foods. Avoid excessive chewing for 10 to 14 days or until your mouth is no longer tender.
Limit your salt intake and eat cold or lukewarm things. Hot, crunchy, hard, and spicy foods should not be consumed. Ideal soft foods include smoothies, protein shakes, all-natural juices, applesauce, yogurt, mashed potatoes, egg, steamed veggies, warm broth-based soup, and ice cream. Once your implants have healed, you will be able to return to your normal diet.
8. Do warm salt water rinses: Do a mouth rinse after each meal for 7 to 10 days. Salt is a natural antibacterial that will help keep the wound from getting infected.
9. Take prescribed pain medication as directed: Do not take medications on an empty stomach, unless otherwise noted, as this could cause side effects like nausea and vomiting.
10. Boost your vitamin intake. It is beneficial to be on multivitamins and vitamin D before the procedure to promote faster healing.
11. Rest: Reduce physical exertion and strenuous exercise.
12. Do not smoke or drink alcohol: Smoking can cause excessive bleeding, delay healing, and contribute to infection. Drinking alcohol can cause dehydration and should be avoided especially when taking pain medications.
13. Follow your dentist’s instructions: Your oral surgeon will provide you with a treatment plan and schedule follow-up appointments to ensure your new implants are healing properly.
How do I know if my dental implant is infected?
While the vast majority of patients don’t experience any issues after receiving implants, we recommend keeping track of your healing progress in order to prevent overlooking symptoms of infection.
Be sure to take notes of your initial level of discomfort and any changes. It’s normal for inflammation to be at its worst during the second and third days, but it should start diminishing around the fifth or seventh day.
If any of the following symptoms occur, follow up with your dentist right away.
- There’s prolonged inflammation that lasts beyond the first seven days of recovery.
- The swelling has gotten worse a week after treatment.
- You’re experiencing severe pain, specifically at the surgical site.
- You develop a fever.
The dental team at Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID has over 25 years of experience in the placement of dental implants.
Call 208-762-8750 to schedule your free consultation today!