If you've scheduled your first dental implant surgery, you're probably both nervous and excited. The prospect of finally having new teeth can be exciting, but knowing that you'll have to deal with pain and discomfort during the recovery period can be a bit nerve-wracking. Knowing what to expect can help. This guide will give you a basic idea of what to expect following your dental implant surgery so you can approach your recovery with confidence.
What Your Gums Will Look Like
Assuming you're having traditional implant surgery, during the first surgery, your dentist will just implant the posts into your jaw bones. Then, the gums will be sutured back up over these posts. You won't see anything protruding from your gums yet. (This will come later when your dentist attaches the abutments to your implants. This is a simple procedure where your gums are re-opened so that the posts can be attached.) When you look at your gums after your dental implant surgery, you'll just see sutures and some redness. The sutures used are typically self-dissolving, so you won't need to have them removed. Your gums will probably be a bit swollen, especially for the first couple of days after the surgery.
Dealing With The Pain
Initially when the procedure is completed, you won't feel any pain because the anesthesia will still be in effect. Depending on the type of anesthetic your dentist used, feeling should return to your mouth in anywhere form 2 to 7 hours. At this point, you will begin to feel some soreness. Most patients have two types of discomfort after implant surgery. There will be some aching in your jaw where the implants were inserted, as well as a more topical soreness where your gums were cut.
Your dentist will likely prescribe you a pain reliever to keep your discomfort at bay. It's best to start taking this before your anesthesia wears off so you don't have to struggle with intense discomfort while you wait for the pain reliever to start working.
You can also use these strategies to manage discomfort after your surgery:
- Sip cold ice water. The coolness will alleviate inflammation and soreness.
- Sip on some cool ginger tea. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Try not to talk more than necessary. Moving your jaw a lot may make soreness worse during the first day or two.
Eating Soft Foods
Your dentist should give you specific instructions for eating after your implant surgery. For the first few days, you'll need to stick to very soft foods like the following:
- Mashed potatoes
- Soft pasta
After about 3 or 4 days, you can start incorporating some slightly harder and chewier foods, like fish, cheese, berries, and soft veggies, into your diet. Slowly build up to harder and harder foods -- you should be able to chew all but the hardest foods (like hard candies and ice) within about 10 - 14 days after surgery. When you visit your dentist for checkups, he or she will tell you when you're ready to progress back towards more regular foods.
Preventing Infection and Other Complications
One of the most common complications of dental implant surgery is infection, but there are so many ways to reduce your risk of infection following surgery. Rinse your mouth out with salt water a couple of times per day. The salt will help keep oral bacteria at bay. Brush your teeth regularly after surgery; just be careful around the surgical sites and use a soft brush. If you avoid brushing your teeth, oral bacteria will proliferate, increasing your risk of infection.
If your surgical sites do start to feel exceedingly sore, begin oozing pus or cloudy liquid, or become excessively red, these are signs of an infection. You should contact your dentist immediately.
If you have any additional questions about recovering from your initial dental implant surgery, don't hesitate to ask your dentist. He or she should be happy to explain anything that is unclear or that is concerning you.