You’ve made the decision to move forward with dental implant surgery, or you’re considering it and are wondering what comes next.
This is going to be a life-changing decision in all good ways. You’re going to be chewing easily, your smile is going to look better, and you’re going to feel all-around better about your smile.
Let’s look at what to expect after dental implants.
How Long for Healing?
Your top question is probably going to be about how long it will take to heal and recover. This answer really depends on some factors particular to each individual patient, and your doctor will certainly discuss it with you.
For instance, bone grafting may be required beforehand if the existing jawbone is too soft and isn’t thick enough. If bone grafting is necessary, that will lengthen the healing time, and of course, the more grafting, the more additional healing time. Another factor that can affect healing time is the exact type of implant used.
Next to the healing timeframe, side effects will likely be a top concern when wanting to know what to expect after dental implants.
Complications are rare, but side effects are common. It is good to know, in advance, what the possible side effects are so that you can plan for them.
Pain is the most common side effect, and it may last a few days following surgery. Most of the time, over-the-counter medications are fine for handling this, but a dentist can prescribe stronger medication if needed. Avoid using aspirin, which is also a blood thinner and can increase the risk of bleeding.
Swelling around the incision site may also occur. It will go away on its own, but if you want to reduce the swelling in the meantime, you can try applying ice or a cold pack for 20 minutes at a time. Bruising on the cheeks and inside the mouth can occur, too, and it will go away on its own as well.
In the very unlikely instance of an infection, nerve damage, or sinus troubles, seek medical attention right away, especially in the case of an infection, which can spread and create serious problems.
Next Steps Following Surgery
Following the surgery, the dentist will provide you with a list of instructions about how to properly care for yourself and recover properly and as soon as possible. Make sure to follow all instructions carefully so you don’t slow the healing process down and/or risk complications. For example, the dentist will most likely advise against using any tobacco products since tobacco slows healing.
Make sure you also schedule and keep all recommended follow-up appointments. This way, the dentist can make sure everything is well and that you are healing and recovering properly.
Foods You Can and Can’t Eat
The list of instructions your dentist gives you will likely include foods you can and can’t eat. Here is a little taste of what to expect that list to include.
For its texture and the fact that it requires little jaw movement when you eat it, applesauce is a great food to eat after surgery. Warm, but not hot, broth-based soups are good for the same reasons, plus they’re good sources of protein.
Mashed potatoes are good, too, and you can flavor them with soft toppings such as butter, cheese, or gravy. Yogurt, as long as it doesn’t have nuts or candy with it, is a great post-surgery food choice as well.
You can add oatmeal back into your diet after a few days, once oats are no longer able to irritate the gums.
Basically, you’re looking for foods that aren’t too hot, require little or no chewing, and go down easily.
Foods to avoid include hot or spicy ones (they can irritate the incision site), chewy or sticky ones (discomfort when chewing), and foods such as candy, chips, crackers, nuts, and popcorn. The foods in that last group break into small pieces when you chew them, and those can get stuck in the incision site and cause an infection.
Last, all jokes about self-medicating with a good bottle of wine aside, you’ll need to avoid alcohol. It can delay the healing process and make pain or swelling worse. Sorry!
Keep your mouth clean by swishing warm salt water around in it for 5 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. Just take 8 ounces of water and add up to a teaspoon of salt to it.
Hold off on exercising for now. When the dentist gives you the okay to resume, choose low-impact exercises like stretching, walking, yoga, and light weight training. These reduce the likelihood of triggering bleeding.
Finally, avoid touching the incision site as much as you can. You can brush your teeth, but avoid brushing the incision site until the dentist tells you it’s okay to do so.
If you’re thinking about getting dental implants and have questions, reach out to us. Poling Family Dentistry provides safe, skilled dentistry services to the families of Pittsburgh’s South Hills and surrounding areas. Let us help you have a beautiful smile!