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The Recovery Process for Dental Implant Surgery

September 4, 2014 — by John Meola
Tags: Dental Implants Restorative Dentistry

A woman with a full, healthy smileLost teeth can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life. Not only can they affect someone’s smile, but they can restrict diet and speech while having continuously negative consequences on oral health. If you need to replace one or more missing teeth, the ideal option is one that most closely replicates the strength, stability, and appearance of natural teeth. For many patients, this means using dental implants to fully restore a smile.

Implants provide virtually all of the benefits of natural teeth, but the installation process is also more involved than alternative tooth replacement options. Namely, implants must successfully fuse with surrounding soft tissues and bone. With a skilled oral surgeon and proper hygiene throughout recovery, most patients should expect fantastic results. Nevertheless, we encourage our Boston patients to learn as much as they can of the implant process, including the months-long recovery.

Side Effects of Implant Surgery

Like any oral surgery, implants tend to result in a few post-surgical side effects. For most patients, the effects are surprisingly mild and do not require more than a day or two of full rest. Still, each procedure is different and can result in varying degrees of the following:

  • Bleeding directly after surgery: Slight bleeding may continue for a few hours immediately after surgery. This should be controlled by the application of a gauze pad and very light pressure. Contact your dentist if bleeding does not stop within the first 24 hours.
  • Pain: The gums and jaw will be sore over the first week, especially as the anesthesia wears off after surgery. Although painkillers will be prescribed, many patients find that over-the-counter medication is enough to reduce discomfort after the first couple of days.
  • Swelling and bruising: The jaw will likely be swollen and possibly bruised, surfacing over the first 48 hours. The application of a cold compress for 15-minute intervals can help reduce these effects, although patients should expect swelling and bruising to improve on their own by the end of the first week.  

Typically, patients will look and feel significantly better within 10 to 14 days, and most patients will return to most of their normal activities even before that. After two weeks, evidence of implant surgery will be virtually gone, allowing patients to continue their day-to-day activities without any problem or concern. Still, it is important for patients to remember that their tissues are still healing around the implants, and as such, they should be extra vigilant in their hygiene and dietary habits.   

When Will Implants Fully Heal?

Although patients may feel fine soon after implant surgery, it actually takes months for the implants to fuse with surrounding bone tissue. This process is called osseointegration, and it is a necessary step in order for implants to reliably function like the roots of real teeth. The exact timeline for osseointegration varies, depending on a patient’s prior oral health and hygiene during recovery. In most cases, patients can expect their implants to fully integrate within three to six months, although some patients may need longer if they have slower healing or previously needed to undergo a bone graft.

Improving Your Success

Recovery and osseointegration is a crucial time for dental implants, and it is often a patient’s actions during this time that determine whether implants fail or succeed. Keep the following points in mind in order to improve your chances of success:

  • Avoid hard or chewy foods: Any food that pushes or pulls on implants will disrupt their position in the jaw, thus slowing their integration or preventing it altogether. Avoid foods that may put such stress on implants.
  • Avoid chewing directly on implants: If it is at all possible, try to avoid chewing on the implants themselves. Use surrounding teeth or the opposite side of your mouth to chew, especially if the food is sticky or tough.
  • Avoid smoking: Cigarettes and other tobacco products will drastically increase the risk of implant failure. Your dentist may recommend a certain time period to abstain from smoking, but it’s best to avoid smoking throughout the entire healing process.
  • Maintain good hygiene: Perhaps nothing is more important to the success of your implants than good hygiene. If harmful bacteria are allowed to grow near an implant or within the gums, it can result in an infection that makes a proper recovery impossible. Be sure to brush and floss as you normally should, but be particularly meticulous around your newly installed implants. Consider the use of non-alcoholic mouthwash to further decrease the risk of gum disease.

Contact Us

Remaining in touch with your dentist is equally important when it comes to making a full, safe recovery. Contact us with any questions or concerns regarding a recent implant procedure, or if you want to schedule a consultation for a new restorative or cosmetic treatment.