Each year millions of patients undergo dental implant surgery to replace one or more failing teeth. Sometimes, however, patients forget that the healing process and aftercare is an important part of ensuring those dental implants take hold, heal properly, and last a lifetime.
Although you should always follow the advice given to you directly by your dentist, this guide will help you better understand what you can expect to do for aftercare once you’ve had your new set of pearly whites permanently implanted.
Dental Implant Aftercare – a sometimes overlooked, yet important part of the healing process
Immediately following dental implant surgery, certain aftercare procedures need to be followed in order to ensure that your oral cavity is a peak optimal health, and to encourage healing while warding off the risk of infection.
Leading up to your procedure, your dentist will give you detailed instructions on what to do after the day of the surgery, and will outline the steps you need to take throughout the healing process.
But don’t get overwhelmed. Aftercare is easy, and temporary. The body is an amazing self-healing machine. With a little patience you’ll be back to eating your favorite foods in no time!
Dental Implant Aftercare: The First Few Days After Surgery
For a few days after the treatment, there will undoubtedly be some soreness. Although this is to be expected, surprisingly, many of our patients note that they experience only minor discomfort that tends to subside fairly quickly.
For any slight swelling or bruising, an ice pack or an over-the-counter pain relief medication will help to reduce any swelling.
No matter how eager you are to show off your pearly new white teeth, now is not the moment for ‘showtime’ and hitting the stage out on the town. For the first few days following your procedure, it is recommended to avoid social events, restaurants and food-related outings where you have little control over the menu.
Day One – taking it easy and keeping things clean
On day one, rinsing your mouth out forcefully is discouraged, as it can dislodge stitching and encourage bleeding. Physical exertion such as exercise should be avoided for the same reason.
Hot drinks and spicy foods will be on the same list of banned items and activities, but cold drinks may be soothing and are allowed.
Eating foods post-procedure can be a delicate experience for the first few days. During this time soft foods that are easy to chew are advisable.
Implants and Oral Hygiene: Things to do, and avoid
Taking care of your implants from the very first day is a must. After all, you want them to last a lifetime, right?
Of course you do.
In the days following your surgery, gently rinse your mouth with a lukewarm saline/salt solution three times daily and/or after meals. This will keep the area around the implants clean, while discouraging bacteria and creating an ‘isotonic environment’ that is favorable to the healing process. But remember, don’t swish vigorously. Just a gentle swishing or swirling will do the trick.
Depending on your situation, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics in case of any infections or additional inflammation that arises in the days following your procedure.
Smoking can create an environment favorable to infections, and can dramatically slow the healing process while also increasing the risk that your implants will fail. As such, your dentist will provide recommendations on cessation in the days or weeks leading up to your procedure and following the day of the implant.
Similarly, a poor diet without the proper nutrients, or excessive alcohol consumption, can both hinder the healing process.
Due to these lifestyle choices, the recovery times can vary significantly between implant patients, making a difference as long as 6 weeks to 6 months.
Patience is Key- don’t rush it
We all heal differently, and its not a race. The worst thing you can do is to push your mouth, gums and teeth before they are ready for the regular daily stressors of life. With a little patience and by following the aftercare instructions from your dentist, your new pearly whites will be ready for action in no time.
Dental Implant Maintenance Tips for the Long Haul
The first item that probably has to be switched out is your toothbrush, and possibly your toothpaste. Implants react better and will have fewer aftercare problems if a nylon-bristled toothbrush is used for cleaning. These types of bristles are pliable and very gentle while cleaning thoroughly at the same time. Similarly, your dentist may advise against certain types of abrasive toothpastes.
Don’t Go Overboard
Even though you can go back to your regular eating habits once healed up, there are still certain foods that can be detrimental to your dental implants (much in the same way they would be for your natural teeth).
Smoking, alcohol, acidic foods and drinks, hard candy and other hard food items should be eaten with care, in moderation, or avoided altogether. Remember, even though dental implants are durable, they aren’t indestructible.
Routine Maintenance and Care is Still Necessary
The importance of regular brushing and flossing cannot be underestimated either. Your new teeth are just as susceptible to staining and damage from food as your natural teeth, and should be cared for and maintained in the same manner, brushing and flossing twice daily and/or after every meal.
Don’t Skip Your Regular Dental Checkups
Similar to routine maintenance, just because you have a new set of teeth doesn’t mean you can skip your regular checkups. Regular checkups and cleanings aren’t just about cavities and aesthetics, they screen you for potentially deadly conditions (such as cancer), and for signs of other serious issues like periodontal (gum disease).
The Final Word
Dental implants can be a real game-changer for many suffering from broken, failing or lost teeth. They can instill a renewed sense of self-confidence and help you take back control of your oral health and hygiene. But that’s only if you follow proper aftercare instructions given to you by your dentist.