Post-Op Answers to Dental Implant Recovery’s Most Asked Questions

Sometimes repairing a smile takes more than simple cleanings and fillings. Dental implants are one of the most effective ways patients can replace lost or severely damaged teeth. Even though it is a common procedure, some people remain wary of such repairs because implants are a time-intensive surgical process. Understanding the dental implant recovery process may help to prepare you for the treatment that will give you back your grin!

No matter what the procedure, we at Meredith Davis, DDS, want our patients to know what their treatment is all about. If you live in the Richardson, TX area and are interested in learning more about recovering from dental implant surgery, call today. We’re ready to schedule a consultation and find the best solutions to your dental dilemmas!

man with dental implants smiling with his wife

The Info on Implants

Crafting false teeth and setting them into jaws has been a method for replacing lost dentition for thousands of years. From molded metal to carved bone, people have tried almost everything to recover their smiles after breakage or loss. By far the most successful, dental implants offer the chance to have replacements that look and feel almost exactly like natural teeth.

Each false tooth isn’t a single unit. Implants are designed in three distinct parts:

  • Crown: The piece that everyone sees is tinted and shaped to match your existing dentition. 
  • Abutment:  This component connects the crown to the implant, helping to keep the gums healthy while ensuring the crown can be easily removed later for a replacement.
  • Implant: Constructed of titanium, this is the part that is inserted into the jaw itself to keep the crown stable and supported.

During these procedures, only the implant is surgically implanted below the gumline. The abutment and crown can only be attached after the area has healed. Once the patient is fully recovered, their false teeth will act just like the originals, and no one will know the difference!

Procedure Timeline

Patients seeking dental implants should be prepared for a recovery process that can take some time to complete. Every treatment plan is different and may take several months to over a year. Depending upon how long patients need to heal between phases. The most extensive implant regimens may include:

  1. Removal of overly damaged or irreparable dentition
  2. Bone grafts
  3. Implant Surgery
  4. Abutment Placement
  5. Crown Positioning

Not every patient will need to undergo each step of the process. For example, bone grafts are only necessary for those who have lost too much bone mass in their upper or lower jaw. Without proper density, implants won’t seat correctly and may cause more harm than good. Once you and your dentist have discussed which procedures are necessary, you’ll have a better indication of what your recuperation will consist of.

How Long Does It Actually Take?

The dental implant recovery process largely depends on you. Different people heal in different ways, and some treatments require more surgeries than others. While you may be anxiously awaiting the day to dig into your favorite dish, here are some of the more common aspects of the procedures that affect how long it will take to recuperate.

  • Overall Health: For most surgeries, the healthier you are the less time it will take to heal. This also goes for oral hygiene, since poor practices can negatively affect the healing process.
  • Amount of Implants: More implants means more areas that need to get better before the next steps can proceed.
  • Grafting: Bone and gum tissue grafts are additional procedures, and as such require additional recuperation time.
  • Age: Older patients may need to make more time for convalescence in their schedule.

Generally, doctors advise at least a week to 10 days before you can start eating again, though you should be careful about what you consume at first. Patients that heal a bit more slowly may see that increased to several weeks. Overall, you can expect a typical treatment plan to last from six to nine months to allow for recovery time between procedures.

Does the Discomfort Last Long?

As with any surgery, dental implants can be painful during recovery. After a procedure as numbing agents begin to wear off, there may be some redness and swelling, and bruising. Many patients report that discomfort reaches its height around five days after the surgery.

Patients should be careful as even the most benign movements such as yawning and gentle biting can increase pain. In some cases, a slight fever may also present itself for a day or two. Your doctor or dentist may have prescribed some medications to help lessen discomfort, and over-the-counter remedies are recommended as well. Careful patients should find their mouths feeling completely normal again after about two weeks.

What Can I Do to Help Heal Faster?

Patience is key when recovering from dental implant surgery. Though you may initially feel ready to tackle your favorite foods, it’s important to take it slowly. At first, start with softer foods until you feel like you can handle more substantial servings. 

It is also important to keep an eye on your oral and physical health. Rinsing with salt water may help to alleviate some of the pain, while gentle brushing keeps bacteria away from fresh surgical sites. Patients with chronic maladies that can slow healing such as diabetes or vascular diseases will need to maintain communication with their dentist and doctor to ensure they stay on the right path to recovery.

When Can I Eat Normally?

Unless the meal of choice is mashed potatoes, you’re going to have to put your feasting on standby while the dental implant recovery process proceeds. Immediately turning to a normal diet after these procedures may cause problems, including slowing down your recovery. Implants need time to bond with the bone, and too much pressure early on may even cause them to unseat.

The reason why dental implants are so effective is thanks to the material they’re made from. Titanium reacts very well with bone and stimulates a process called osseointegration. During this healing phase, bone bonds to the titanium, creating strong support for bridges and crowns. While it can take from six to nine months to completely heal, you’ll be able to start your post-operative diet long before then.

What Can I Eat During Recovery?

The standard diet patients should utilize tracks a course through the healing process. Spacing a progressively more complex diet over time ensures your jaw won’t apply too much pressure on implants before they’re ready. A normal post-dental implant diet may be similar to this:

  • For a few days after the surgery, patients should get most of their caloric intake from liquids and very soft foods. Yogurt, applesauce, and smoothies are excellent choices, but you should also try and avoid extreme temperatures at first.
  • Once the initial pain has subsided, you can move on to more substantial foods. Stay close to softer menu items such as pastas, fruits, and cooked vegetables. 
  • After a week or so osseointegration will have progressed enough to allow you to return to a fairly normal diet. Even so, pay attention to your body, and if some foods are still painful to chew they should still be avoided.

Even if the discomfort lessens your appetite, it’s still important that you focus on eating healthy meals. Without vitamins and nutrients, your mouth will have a much more difficult time healing, making it that much longer before you can dig into the dinners you truly enjoy.

woman with dental implants smiling with her husband

Is There Anything That Should Be Avoided?

There are a few things that patients should keep away from as they wait for the dental implant recovery process to complete. To avoid wreaking havoc on oral stitches, patients should stay away from drinking straws for at least the first few days. Cigarettes cause additional problems as smoke can irritate surgical sites and may even cause infections.

You should also stay away from certain kinds of foods when considering your post-procedure diet. Some of the worst offenders that can influence recovery times include:

  • Hard foods (nuts, cold raw vegetables, ice)
  • Tough meat and chewy candy (medium-rare steak, caramel)
  • Fruits and vegetables high in acidity (oranges, tomatoes)
  • Spices and hot foods (chilies, salsa)
  • Very hot liquids (coffee, tea, steaming soup)
  • Crunchy snacks (popcorn, tortilla chips)

Perhaps the most important thing to avoid is strenuous activity. Healing is a whole-body process and even if you’re giving your mouth a rest, overexertion won’t do anything to help heal. Take the necessary time to rest and eat the right foods, paying attention to how well your mouth is feeling as you go. Be patient, and you’ll be snacking with a smile before you know it!

Renew Your Smile WIth Merideth Davis, DDS

Choosing to rejuvenate your grin using dental implants is a big decision. It takes time to heal, but at Meredith G. Davis, DDS, we’ve seen patients so pleased with their results that it’s worth the wait. Call us to schedule an appointment today and take your first steps towards a more confident you!

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