Most dental implants are applied in three phases. First, you'll have the posts inserted into your jaw. Then, your dentist will attach abutments, or connectors, to the posts. Finally, in a third procedure, the crowns, or false teeth, will be attached to the abutments. Because it involves inserting a screw into your bone and then suturing up your gums, the first of these three procedures is generally the most extensive and has the longest, most involved recovery. You'll have to heal for six to twelve weeks after this first procedure and before you have the abutments attached. Here are a few tips to help get you through this six-to-twelve-week healing period.
Slowly ease your way back into chewing.
Once your gums are healed, which should only take a week or two, you should be able to eat moderately chewy foods as your jaw bones continue to heal around the implants. However, it's important to ease your way back into chewing slowly after the procedure to minimize soreness. For the first two days after surgery, stick to liquid-like foods like yogurt, smoothies and milkshakes. Then, you can add foods that require a little more chewing, like bananas and soft muffins. Stick to these soft foods only for another week or until your dentists tells you that your incisions are mostly healed and you can start eating some more chewy foods. Slowly introduce these chewy foods over the course of the second week following your surgery. If a certain food still causes discomfort, set it aside and try it again a few days later.
Don't underestimate the power of the salt water rinse.
Your dentist will likely recommend that you rinse your mouth out with salt water a few times per day following your procedure. This is advice you absolutely should follow. The salt water helps minimize excess inflammation in your gums, which will greatly reduce your discomfort. Salt also helps kill oral bacteria, reducing your risk of infection. If swishing salt water around your mouth is a bit painful for the first few days after your procedure, just do it gently. Lean over the sink, and just pour the salt water into your mouth, allowing it to flow out at will. This will still have the same helpful effects without the pain.
Take NSAID pain relievers.
Your dentist may or may not prescribe a pain reliever to take following your procedure. Some simply recommend over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. If your dentist takes the OTC route, ensure that the pain reliever you choose is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are NSAIDS. Acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) is not an NSAID. NSAID pain relievers not only alleviate pain, but also inflammation. This is very important after dental implant surgery when your gum tissues are inflamed. Relieving the inflammation will make you much more comfortable, especially when chewing and rinsing your mouth. Make sure you take whatever NSAID you choose according to the instructions on the package to avoid an increased risk of side effects.
Avoid contact sports and risky activities.
If you are hit in the jaw before your jaw bone is fully healed and fused with the implant, the implant might become knocked out of place. Thus, it is best to avoid contact sports and any other activities that may result in a blow to the jaw while you're recovering from your initial dental implant procedure. Once you are fully healed (after six to twelve weeks), you can return to these activities if you wish.
As long as you're patient and follow the tips above, your recovery from dental implant surgery should go smoothly. Having the abutments and crowns put into place is less involved and traumatic, and then you'll have your perfect teeth to admire in the mirror. If you have any questions about implants, consider contacting a local dentist, such as Dale D. Lentz DDS, to discuss your concerns.