What to expect after dental implant surgery

Dental implant surgery is a major oral operation, disrupting the natural state of bone and gum in the mouth to make way for the implant fitting. As such it comes with a long total healing period, but many normal activities can be returned to only a few days after the procedure. Some symptoms that will be experienced straight after the implant surgery include:

Bleeding

Some minor bleeding is to be expected for the first 24-48 hours. This should quickly ease up and lightly ooze after the first hour or so. When experiencing bleeding around the implant area it is best to bite down on the gauze, ensuring pressure is placed on the implant(s) to soak up the blood.

Pain

Unfortunately, pain is unavoidable – it is an oral surgery operation after all! However, the pain is easily manageable and general painkillers should be sufficient to ease the discomfort. Painkillers or prescribed pain medication should be taken as often as necessary within their stated dosage limits and recommendations.

Alongside these symptoms there are some other lifestyle considerations to be aware of in the days and weeks following dental implant surgery. These include:

  • Oral hygiene habits
  • Eating appropriate meals
  • Prevention of smoking
  • Avoidance of dentures
  • Reducing physical exercise

Oral hygiene

Initially you should be brushing the area around the implant very lightly, returning to normal brushing habits as the pain reduces over the first few days/weeks. This helps to keep the area clean, dislodging any unwanted bits from the implant.

For the first few days following oral surgery you should rinse your mouth with salt water 2-3 times a day with the salt water being held over the implant area for a minute or so. Alongside this, mouthwash should be used alongside the salt water as an addition to teeth brushing in order keep the implant area clean. Again, holding mouthwash over the affected area will help to maintain a clean, healthy implant. This should be done after eating for the most effective results.

In summary:

  • Brush teeth lightly
  • Clean with mouthwash
  • Rinse with saltwater 2-3 times per day

Eating

For the first couple of days after the procedure only liquids or pureed foods should be consumed.  Do not use a straw – sucking through a straw creates pressure in the mouth which can stress the fresh implant(s) and induce bleeding.

The important thing to remember is that meals shouldn’t be skipped – you need to maintain your energy levels to aid the healing process.

After a couple of days, once your implant feels more natural/stronger in your jaw, you will be able to return to some solid foods. It is important to not go too solid too fast in order to account for the gradual healing process of the implant(s). You should find yourself able to eat normally after 7-10 days, but in some cases a soft diet may be required for up to 6 weeks.

In summary:

  • Consume only liquid foods initially
  • Do not use a straw
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Gradually introduce solid foods as pain decreases

Smoking

If you are a smoker you will have been informed of the increased risk of implant failure at your consultation appointment should you continue to smoke around the time of the implant.

It is strongly recommended that you shouldn’t smoke for around 2 weeks following the implant surgery. Should you smoke there is an increased risk of infection and a severe slowing of the healing process, either of which can damage the longevity of the implant and increase the risk of failure.

To sum up, smoking after the implant procedure can:

  • Slow the healing process
  • Increase risk of infection
  • Risk implant failure

Wearing dentures

If you wear dentures it is advised to do so as little as possible to improve the healing process of the dental implant. Wearing dentures will slightly aggravate the sore area around the implant, slowing the healing process and potentially leading to slight bleeding.

Of course wearing dentures may be required in order to eat, but beyond necessary use they should be avoided for the first few days after the dental implant procedure. Importantly, dentures should not be worn at night so as not to disrupt the healing process.

In summary:

  • Wear dentures as little as possible initially
  • Wearing dentures risks aggravation, bleeding, and slowing of the healing process
  • Dentures should not be worn at night

Exercise

Taking part in exertive activity needs to be avoided in the 3-4 days after oral surgery. This is to help avoid the increased blood flow from exercise which can increase swelling, bleeding and discomfort around the dental implant area. After this period exercise can be eased back into but be aware of the potential for some discomfort around the implant. Moving forwards, depending on the nature of the activity, mouth guards/head protection gear should be worn to reduce any potential impact which could damage the implant.

To summarise:

  • Avoid exercise immediately following surgery
  • Ease back into exercise, monitoring discomfort carefully
  • Wear additional protection in impact sports

On average, dental implants don’t take too long to heal and can be sufficiently settled within 3-4 days. It is worth remembering that some of these symptoms/considerations could last longer and as always it is best to err on the side of caution to help protect the new dental implant.

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