Dental implants are becoming more and more popular. Here’s the lowdown from Madison Family Dental on the surgery procedure and recovery process.
What is a dental implant?
Dental implants are part of restorative dentistry. The implants themselves are small titanium cylinders that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw to function as sturdy anchors for replacement teeth.
Because they are designed to fuse with your bone, dental implants become permanent and can withstand daily wear and tear much like your natural teeth.
This makes them a great option for patients who have lost one or more of their adult teeth due to infection, injury, or other factors. Once you’ve recovered from your dental implant being placed, you can quickly get back to enjoying life with a full set of teeth again!
What happens during dental implant surgery?
Usually, a complete dental implant surgery happens in two phases.
Phase one involves the initial placement of the implant cylinder itself, and it includes:
- Applying local anesthesia
- Drilling a hole in the jawbone for the implant
- Screwing the implant into the jawbone
- Stitching over the incision
- Allowing the bone to fuse with the implant and surrounding soft tissue to heal, often for as long as a few months
Phase two involves actually placing the replacement tooth or teeth onto the implant, and it includes:
- Applying local anesthesia
- Re-exposing the implant with a small incision
- Attaching the implant abutment (this is the piece that will actually fit with your replacement tooth)
- Allowing the surrounding area to heal, usually for a few weeks — this is a shorter recovery period than after the initial implant cylinder placement
- Taking impressions to properly shape the replacement tooth
- Placing the replacement tooth crown on the dental implant
- Allowing any inflammation or pain to subside before using your new tooth normally — this is generally the shortest recovery period
How do I recover after dental implant surgery?
The longest recovery time is typically necessary after the dental implant cylinder is first placed into your jawbone. Having a hole drilled into your bone is no small feat — while implants are a routine procedure in today’s modern dentistry, it is still important to exercise caution after any surgery.
You’ll go through two additional recovery periods, as well: after the implant is re-exposed to attach the abutment, and after your replacement tooth crown is officially fitted into your mouth. Since no bone growth is necessary in either of these stages, symptoms of discomfort pass quickly — you can return to your normal routine within a few weeks.
Here’s a rundown of what you can eat, what activities you can do, and how you should clean your teeth during your dental implant recovery periods.
What can I eat after dental implant surgery?
After any dental procedure, it’s important to avoid eating foods that are crunchy or sticky. This will help your incision site heal by reducing irritation and keeping any foreign objects from getting stuck in your sensitive tissue. You should also avoid drinking through a straw, since the suction can re-open your stitches.
Here are some common foods you should not eat while you recover from a dental implant:
- Popcorn and chips
- Tree nuts
- Crunchy fruit like apples
- Caramels or other sticky candy
- Corn on the cob
- Acidic foods (citrus fruit, soda, energy drinks)
A good rule of thumb is to eat things that don’t cause you pain. Avoid eating before the anesthetic has worn off or if you’ve taken medication to dull your discomfort, because these things can make you unaware of how chewing actually feels.
Generally, soft foods are safe — think of what you can cut with the side of a fork. Protein shakes, smoothies, mashed potatoes, and other food purees are good options.
Once the inflammation has subsided and you have the go-ahead from your dentist, you can return to your normal diet. This usually happens between a week and a month after your operation date depending on the intensity of your surgery.
In the meantime, you can help avoid discomfort or further damage by shifting your chewing to the other side of your mouth.
What activities can and can’t I do after dental implant surgery?
For the first few days after surgery, you’ll want to lay low and give your body time to rest. You can return to your normal activities within a week once the initial swelling has gone down.
Pay attention to how your mouth feels as you go about your day, and avoid doing anything that puts stress on your incision site. Most activities will be just fine to resume, but you’ll want to check with your dentist if you regularly do things like blow into a musical instrument.
How should I keep my teeth clean after dental implant surgery?
It’s imperative that you keep your incision site and the rest of your teeth clean after your dental implant surgery. You can brush your teeth the night of your procedure, but take care to do so gently. Avoid flossing the gums directly surrounding your implant until the inflammation has subsided.
After 24 hours, you can rinse your mouth with salt water 2-3 times a day. This will help keep your incision site clean and flush out any particles of food to help avoid infection.
After a few days, you can return to your normal brushing and flossing schedule. If any part of your regular routine seems to irritate your incision site, get in touch with your dentist so we can give you some alternatives until your mouth is able to heal more fully.
Dental implants are a normal part of restorative dentistry. Procedures like this can sound scary, but at Madison Family Dental we promise there’s no need to be afraid — our in-house periodontist Dr. Andrew Carmosino has years of experience in oral surgery. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about your care!