If you are thinking of getting dental implants or have scheduled an appointment to get one, you must be surely wondering how long it will take to recover after receiving them. Getting dental implants can be a complex process as they are embedded in your bone and eventually become a part of you, just like a natural tooth root. The healing process varies depending on individual circumstances such as the number of teeth involved, the patient’s oral and overall health and lifestyle as well as how you manage the recovery process. So let’s take a look at all the different aspects of recovering after getting dental implants.
Complexity of the case
The level of complexity of your case is one of the most important deciding factors of recovery. If you need a single dental implant, without or very little bone grafting, then there is very little post-operative discomfort and recovery is quick. Bone grafting is needed to solidify the bone and increase its thickness and density. In cases that need multiple implants and considerable bone grafting or soft tissue augmentation recovery is obviously a little tougher. These procedures also increase swelling. It’s best to follow your dental surgeon’s instructions so that you are comfortable throughout your recovery.
Implant placement is a surgical process and some amount of mild discomfort and swelling is quite natural. Your implantologist will prescribe medications to manage the pain. Most times over the counter medicines like Ibuprofen will suffice. You should take a soft diet along with careful brushing and cleaning of the area for a few days. Usually, in 7-10 days’ time, you should have recovered well and can return to a normal diet. The stitches are removed about 14 days after implant placement.
Once the initial healing is complete, the implants will continue to fuse or bond to bone giving them stability and load-bearing capacity by which the artificial tooth replacement can be attached to it. This process of bonding is called osseointegration, wherein Osseo means bone and integration means to combine or amalgamate, as defined by Albrektsson et al. in 1981. Osseointegration refers to the direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing artificial implant. Simply put the implant should fuse to the bone directly without any soft tissue in between. This process takes about 3-6 months. You have to wait and let nature takes its course. The ultimate time depends on the quality of your bone, bone grafting, etc.
In some cases, your dentist might load the implant immediately with temporary crowns or bridge but delayed loading is more prudent after a few months. Immediate loading of an implant is greatly convenient for the patient as it can save time in healing and you will get your teeth fast. Talk to your dentist if you are a candidate for such implants.
Once your dentist tests for successful osseointegration, you are ready to receive the definitive restoration, be it dental bridge or crowns or denture, and you can start chewing on the implant without problems.
A non-restorable tooth the needs extraction will delay the process as you have to wait until the underneath bone is healed. The presence of infection around a tooth or gum disease will also extend the implant process.
What can adversely affect implant healing?
Your lifestyle choices have a huge impact on the recovery process after implant placement. Smoking, poor diet, excessive consumption of alcohol and poor oral hygiene such as inadequate brushing, etc are detrimental to implant healing. Smoking should be completely avoided for at least a few weeks after the surgery. The buildup of plaque around the implant can cause infection and delay healing.
Here are a few recommendations after tooth implant placement for a smooth recovery:
1. During the first 2 weeks following a soft diet is best, so that you don’t have to chew. Don’t eat hard, sticky, spicy, coarse or sharp food as the soft tissues of your mouth are sensitive and eating such food will cause pain.
2. If you have implants placed in the upper jaw, you should not blow your nose as this may create unwanted pressure in the sinus area. Sneeze with your mouth open.
3. Refrain from pulling or lifting your lips or cheeks to look at the stitches as this can open the stitches, or irritate the gums.
4. Drink liquids directly from a cup/glass. Do not use a straw as this can create pressure in your mouth which is harmful to the stitches and the sore soft tissues.
5. You can apply a cold compress on the affected side of your face to alleviate the swelling.
6. Rinse your mouth very gently with warm saltwater. This will reduce the swelling and tenderness.
7. Do not smoke for at least the first week after implant placement. This includes chewing tobacco, the use of smokeless tobacco or other similar products. They adversely impact healing and increase the chance of implant failure.
Long term success of implants
Once the dental implants are osseointegrated to the bone, it is time to receive the definitive prosthesis – be it a crown, bridge or denture. This prosthesis will be attached to the implants through abutments. To make implants last you a lifetime it is important that you care for them just like your natural teeth. Brush them meticulously twice a day, floss around the implant and use an antibacterial mouthwash.
You may think why should you care for implants as they are not natural and will not decay. Correct, but the gums around them are vulnerable to infection. If plaque builds up around the implant it can gradually cause inflammation and infection of the gums and the underlying bone, affecting the implant eventually. And don’t forget to visit your dentist twice yearly for a checkup and professional cleaning.
If your implant dentist is well qualified and credentialed, the chance of success is high. Such specialists receive high-quality training and follow scientific research-based protocols that are validated over time to ensure the success of your implant. If you have more questions, schedule a free consultation with the implant specialists at Signature Smiles for high-quality affordable implants.