Dental implants can be life-changing, but the procedure is invasive and requires precise aftercare to minimize your discomfort and to ensure that your gums and bone heal properly. Always follow the instructions provided by your oral surgeon, and consider the following guidelines as general best practices.

What to Expect After a Dental Implant Treatment

There are generally three phases of dental implantation: 

  • The post placement. The dentist drills the posts into the jawbone, providing a foundation for the implants. Healing can take up to 6 months as the gums fuse to the posts (osseointegration). You may have some stitches that dissolve on their own or are removed by the dentist.

  • The abutment placement. The abutment attaches to the post, providing support for the eventual crown. While minor surgery is required to place the abutment firmly into the post, it’s less invasive than the post placement and can heal in as little as two weeks.

  • The crown placement. This is the easiest part of the procedure. The actual tooth (crown) is attached to the abutment.

Thanks to advances in oral surgery, the dental implant procedure involves far less discomfort than it once did. Many patients report minimal disruption to their normal lives, and some even return to work the day after the procedure. Nevertheless, it’s still a major treatment, and everyone responds differently. You may need to set aside one to two days to rest and heal when the procedure is complete. 

In addition, be sure to have someone to escort you to the facility and drive you home after each phase of the procedure. Dentists typically use a local anesthetic, though mild sedation may be used in some cases. 

While bleeding is usually minimal, you may notice some mild to moderate swelling in the days following your treatment. The swelling usually starts the next day and reaches its peak after about four to five days. This is completely normal. All swelling and discomfort should subside within a few days. If pain worsens, contact your oral surgeon right away.

What to Do After a Dental Implant Treatment

After each phase of your treatment, there are a few important steps you’ll need to follow in order to aid the healing process and minimize your discomfort. 

  • Stay hydrated. You should drink plenty of cold liquids before and after the surgery. Avoid hot drinks for a few days.

  • Eat healthy foods. It’s okay to start eating as soon as the anesthetic wears off. Start with soft foods, and avoid anything spicy. Eating might seem like a challenge for a few days, but it’s important to maintain optimal nutrition throughout the healing process. You should be able to return to your normal diet in about a week.

  • Use ice packs and moist heat to manage swelling. When swelling begins, you can control it using ice packs. Place the pack on the swollen gums for about 20 minutes. If swelling persists, wait 10 minutes and repeat. After 24 hours, use moist heat compresses instead of ice.

  • Use warm salt water rinses to ease discomfort and aid healing. After the first 24 hours, you can use a warm salt water rinse four to five times a day. Just add ½ a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and swish like you would mouthwash. And if you do use a mouthwash, make sure it’s a chlorhexidine mouthwash.

  • Brush gently for the first few days. Your dentist may advise you to start brushing your implants immediately, but it’s important to use caution around the implant sites. Brush gently, preferably with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

  • Take any antibiotics prescribed by your oral surgeon. Your prescribed antibiotics can help to prevent infection.

What to Do if You Experience Pain or Discomfort After a Dental Implant Treatment

If you experience pain or discomfort after any portion of the dental implant procedure, a mild pain reliever should be sufficient to reduce your pain. You may experience some relief with 400-600mg of ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) every 6-8 hours. 

Only take ibuprofen, though, if it’s safe for you to do so. Ibuprofen isn’t advised for anyone who has experienced allergic reactions to it in the past or for anyone who is pregnant or trying to become pregnant. It’s also not recommended for anyone with uncontrolled high blood pressure

As an alternative, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Always use as directed. If your oral surgeon recommends and prescribes a different medication for pain relief, always follow their guidance first and foremost. 

What to Do if You Experience Bleeding After a Dental Implant Treatment

Whereas a tooth extraction can lead to moderate bleeding, an implant post or abutment placement should come with only minor bleeding if any. If you do experience any bleeding, bite down on a gauze pad for about an hour to encourage blood clotting. If necessary, replace the pad with a clean pad after an hour and continue for another 30 minutes. If bleeding persists, contact your oral surgeon. 

Some experts also recommend biting down on a moistened tea bag for up to 30 minutes. Because tannic acid in tea leaves can promote clotting, this may help you to stop the bleeding more quickly. In most cases, though, this shouldn’t be necessary.

Things to Avoid After a Dental Implant Treatment

Just as there are specific things you should do after an implant treatment, there are also some key things you should not do. 

  • Don’t drink alcohol or smoke. Alcohol is a known blood thinner, and it can prevent clotting and create a major bleeding situation. Wait at least 3 days after your treatment before having a drink. Smoking can also inhibit the healing process, as nicotine restricts blood flow and compromises the body’s natural immune response.

  • Don’t rinse your mouth. You may feel tempted to rinse in the hopes of providing some relief to the irritated gums, but this may dislodge the blood clots and cause bleeding.

  • Don’t touch or irritate the inside of your mouth. For the same reason noted in the previous point, you should avoid touching the gums and doing anything that can disrupt the healing process. That includes sucking on straws and even spitting.

  • Minimize any physical activity on treatment day. Moderate to rigorous physical activity can place stress on the healing gums and lead to bleeding.

  • Avoid foods that can get lodged in the teeth and gums. Foods like popcorn, nuts, seeds, and anything with coconut should be avoided until the gums heal. If small pieces get lodged into the exposed, healing gums, it may lead to infection.

  • Avoid wearing full or partial dentures. If you have dentures, don’t wear them during the first few days while your post and abutment are healing. They may place pressure on the implant site and inhibit the healing process.

How to Keep Your Dental Implants Healthy and Strong

Ongoing maintenance is crucial to ensuring that your new implants last. While you may need to replace the crowns every decade or so, the post and abutment should remain in place for a lifetime. 

  • Visit your dentist for all scheduled cleanings and checkups, usually twice a year.

  • Use an alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash every day.

  • Maintain basic oral hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss at least once daily to prevent bacterial accumulation.

  • Avoid smoking, and limit your alcohol consumption.

  • Avoid aggressive or unhealthy chewing behaviors (like teeth-grinding and chewing on objects or hard foods).

And of course, if you have any issues with your implants, visit your cosmetic dentist right away. 

Dental implants are one of the best oral care investments you can make. They look just like natural teeth, and as long as you treat them well, they can provide you with a flawless smile for a lifetime.

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