The Process of Dental Implant Recovery
- May 15, 2023
- 6 mins read
According to the American College of Prosthodontists, about 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and 36 million do not have any teeth. This complete loss of teeth is called edentulism, and it affects the most vulnerable populations—the aging and the economically disadvantaged individuals.
The common reasons for tooth loss include decay, gum diseases, injury, cancer, and wear. Losing teeth significantly affects one’s quality of life and impacts oral and general health.
Fortunately, the modern world now offers various options to replace lost teeth aside from traditional dentures. One of them is the dental implant, an increasingly popular option due to its durability and ability to mimic natural teeth. Aside from these, dental implants also maintain a person’s natural facial contours and the alignment of the surrounding teeth.
Before considering getting a dental implant, you might ask what the recovery process is. Below is the information you need to understand the healing process after a dental implant surgery and some aftercare tips for quicker recovery.
Factors that affect the recovery time and process
For simple dental implant placements that require little or no bone grafting (such as an emergency implant to replace a failing tooth and single back tooth replacement), there is almost no post-operative discomfort or swelling that you will experience. You may need to follow a soft diet and careful brushing for a few days, but there should not be any form of inconvenience except these.
For more complex dental implants, it takes three to six months for an average, healthy person to heal fully. Depending on your oral condition, other factors, such as the following, may influence your recovery time:
- The total number of teeth extracted
- State of the jaw bone before surgery
Stages of dental implant healing
- Stage 1: Post-surgery
Due to the numbing or sedative substance injected before the surgery, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort right in the first 24 hours following the surgery. Once this wears off, you may experience some minor swelling, mild discomfort, and occasional bruising around the dental implant area. This is normal and may last only a few days to a week. To help manage the pain during this period, take the prescribed pain reliever as directed.
At this stage, your prosthodontist will advise you to avoid strenuous physical activities, eating hard and crunchy foods, and even smoking. You might also be asked to drink water through a straw to avoid contact with the affected area and use antibacterial mouthwash or saltwater solution.
- Stage 2: Soft tissue healing
Usually lasting around two weeks, the soft tissue healing stage is characterized by swelling and redness in the area where the dental implant was performed. For some people, this may last up to six weeks though.
Strenuous physical activities should still be avoided, and drinking plenty of fluids is still recommended. For example, doing contact sports, running, and weightlifting may cause some jarring and trauma around the implant site, causing the healing to slow down.
- Stage 3: Adjusting and bone healing
Depending on the patient’s dental age and health, the dental implant adjustment and bone healing period may take any time between a few weeks to several months.
Since the bone is not yet completely healed at this point, physical activities are still discouraged. However, you can resume some of your everyday activities gradually. Other recommendations to aid the complete healing process are gentle brushing of teeth, eating a healthy diet, and drinking plenty of fluids.
- Stage 4: Maintenance
Even after your dental implant has successfully healed, it takes proper maintenance to enjoy it in the long run. Regular brushing and flossing should still be part of your oral hygiene routine, as well as visiting your dentist for a cleaning twice a year. Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water also helps clean the mouth by reducing the number of bacteria without irritating the incision area of the implant.
Dental implant aftercare tips
To help heal your dental implant quickly, here are some post-operative tips:
- Eat the right food
Spicy meals must be avoided within 48 hours after the dental implant surgical procedure because they can irritate the implant site. Throughout the recovery period, soft foods or those that require little chewing and less jaw movement are recommended. Always follow your doctor’s advice on when you can resume eating normal foods and what type of food.
- Take a rest
Resting is one of the normal ways for our body to recover and regenerate. If you start feeling worn down post-surgery and throughout the recovery period, allow your body to take the needed rest. Trying to force yourself to go back to your normal routines without having completely healed may just prolong your recovery period. Even if you start to feel better, intensive activities, especially those that risk your face from being hit, are still prohibited to avoid postoperative problems.
- Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated helps the body flush away toxins, thus hastening your recovery. It also helps you feel energized and good.
Take note that beverages such as alcohol and coffee must be avoided because they rather cause dehydration in the body. Moreover, alcohol is known to slow down recovery from any type of surgery, so it must be avoided for at least two weeks after the surgery. What’s even better is to avoid it until full recovery.
- Change oral cleaning routines
Keeping the mouth clean is important to reduce the risk of infection. It is recommended to brush the teeth gently using toothbrushes with soft bristles and braces. Rinsing the mouth with warm saltwater for about 30 seconds also helps in cleaning the mouth by reducing the number of bacteria, without causing irritation in the incision area of the implant. The saltwater can be prepared by mixing one teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water.
- Avoid smoking
Smokers who continue to smoke even after a dental implant may experience the adverse effects of nicotine on osseointegration. This means that they have a higher risk of dental implant failure.
While each patient may have different recovery periods depending on factors like the dental implant procedure done, number of teeth extracted, state of the jaw bone pre-surgery, and lifestyle, it is important to become aware of what to do and what to avoid during the recovery process to hasten your recovery.