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What to expect with dental implants pain ? Tips for recovery

dental implants painDental implants pain ? Ouch is probably the first word you think of when you read about how dental implant operation is performed.

Just the thought of being operated on could make anyone cringe — with all that blood, tooth extraction, metal piercing the bone, and cutting of the gum. That certainly sounds like a horror movie.

But however impressive it may seem, almost every patient who had dental implants would tell you the whole procedure seems scary and painful but in fact, it is absolutely not.

Why ? Because this dental procedure is a surgical one and like most surgical procedures, anesthesia is used to make the operation as painless as possible.

Still not convinced ? Read on.

What kind of anesthesia is used ?

Local anesthesia is mostly used to prevent you from feeling the pain. It means you get a local injection in the area where you will be operated on.

If you are uncomfortable with the drilling noise or not used to pressure being applied during tooth extraction or drilling, you may be treated with sedatives to make the procedure less stressful.

In some rare cases, if you have dental or surgical phobia, your doctor or dentist might recommend that you get general anesthesia to make you unconscious all throughout the procedure.

So whatever you level of stress or pain sensitivity, you have different options to choose from to make the implant surgery as painless as you want. Don’t be afraid to mention to the dentist any issues you may have with pain, this is perfectly fine.

No one will judge you. And even if you stumble upon morons that do, that is their problem, not yours.

Is the implant surgery painful ?

With local anesthesia, the implant procedure itself is not painful at all. The only pain you may feel is the minor pain associated with the first local anesthesia shot, but some dentists are so skilled that even the first shot is painless.

When local anesthesia is applied, your mouth will be numb so you will not feel the pain in your gums and jaw. You will still hear the sound of the drill and feel the pressure being applied, but you will be completely numb from the pain.

Although rare, the anesthesia might wear off while you are still being operated on.

Ok, don’t panic, it is very very very rare (I repeated the word « very » 3 times on purpose, it is not a typo haha)

But should this happen, simply tell your dentist immediately so that additional anesthesia can be used to prevent the pain until the end of the operation.

Oh did you know there are some dentists who will let you listen to some music during the whole procedure so you won’t even hear the dreaded drilling noise. Nice idea, isn’t it ?

In fact, discomfort in any surgical procedure is actually person-dependent.

People with higher pain threshold can tolerate more pain and discomfort than others. For those who have high anxiety level, the mere sight of a needle can be totally uncomfortable. (I admit I am one of those people). Anyway, we are all different.

But, whatever your situation, whether you need sedatives in addition to the local anesthesia or you cannot go without general anesthesia, the procedure will be tailored to suit your comfort zone.

Post – operation pain and side effects

Most patients who underwent dental implant operation found the post-operation pain is actually tolerable.

Yes, there was some kind of discomfort associated after the operation but it was not really as painful as they thought it would be. So dental implants pain is definitely overrated.

In fact after each surgical procedure, you will feel some kind of pain, soreness and discomfort, in the area where the implant was placed, especially once the anesthesia effect starts to wear off. (Usually a few hours after the procedure)

But your dentist will prescribe you some painkillers accordingly.

To give you a better idea of the pain intensity, if you have undergone any root canal or tooth extraction before, the resulting pain of dental implant will be almost similar. So, it shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

Of course, the more complex your surgery was, the more pain you can expect. But with the prescribed painkillers, this will be bearable.

That pain feeling will probably last for about a week after the surgery.

Also don’t be surprised if pain extends to different parts of the face like the cheeks, the chin, or even below the eyes depending on your level of sensivity. This can be normal and it mainly depends on the area operated on, whether in the upper or lower jaw area.

In addition to the pain at the implant site, you may also experience some of the typical side effects associated with any type of dental surgery, such as:

  • Swelling (gums and/or face)
  • Bruising (skin and/or gums)
  • Minor bleeding

The swelling, and bruising usually reach a peak after 48 hours then everything will improve and be back to normal within a week to ten days.

Some bleeding following any surgery is perfectly normal. I know it can look pretty disturbing as it can look like a lot of blood but keep in mind your saliva mixed with your blood will even make it more impressive than it is in reality.

Besides, this bleeding won’t last long.

How long? The bleeding should last about 1-2 days.

After the operation, your dentist will normally ask you to bite gently on a gauze pad placed over the surgery area for 45-60minutes to stop the bleeding.

It is important to keep a constant continuous pressure; that means if you feel like taking the gauze in and out to check the bleeding, don’t. Yes, just keep it in your mouth for 45-60 minutes to let it clog.

You may also need to repeat this gauze biting a few times if necessary for the first 5-6 hours.

Of course, excessive bleeding is not normal and you should notify your dentist immediately if you notice abnormal bleeding or if you have any doubt.

Recovery time after dental implant procedure depends on several factors, and each patient’s recovery speed can differ. Some patients heal faster than others. Some don’t even have bruises at all, yeah it is not fair…

Anyway, if you still feel pain two or three weeks after the procedure, then it is safer to contact quickly your dentist, as it could mean an infection or another problem with your implant.

And the sooner your dentist handles the issue, the sooner it can be solved. (Hah I know its sounds a bit cliché, but sometimes, it is good to repeat some obvious advice, we all tend to wait too long before asking for help… sounds familiar ?)

Tips to bring the Level of Pain Down

There are a number of things that you can do to help alleviate your discomfort:

  • Finding the dentist with an extensive experience in doing dental implant operations can provide you with the assurance that everything will work out fine. You will feel reassured because you know you are in good hands. Dentists who offer dental implant service at a very low price may be worth considering because of the savings, but remember even though cost is important, experience and skills must be your top priority.
  • Stick with your treatment and post-operation medication. Your doctor will prescribe medicines such as antibiotics, pain relievers, and mouthwash. Follow his/her instructions to the letter to facilitate faster healing and to avoid complications. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are the most common medicines prescribed to take away pain.
  • You can reduce and prevent too much swelling by applying ice pack or even a bag of frozen veggies ( yeah get creative) over the swollen area during the first 48 hours.
  • Use warm water mixed with half teaspoon of salt to bathe and cleanse your mouth. Yet, don’t swish or gurgle the liquid while the wound is fresh because the liquid motion in your mouth can disturb the fresh incision. So wait for a day or 2 if necessary.
  • If you just had a tooth extracted or a dental implant, and if after a few gauze biting, you still notice some bleeding, then you can use a tea bag (any black tea would do the trick such as lipton or whatever brand). I said black tea not an infusion or a green tea bag. So wet the tea bag, then do the gauze-biting thing with the tea bag instead of a gauze pad. The tannic acid from the tea will help speed up the clot process. But there is one drawback: your gums will look black, don’t worry, it is only temporary.
  • To avoid excessive bleeding: it is best to avoid in the first 24 hours hot foods as heat causes blood vessels to open wide (dilate), which will make you bleed even more. Keep icing the area to reduce bleeding, eat cool or lukewarm foods.
  • Probably the best part : you may treat yourself with ice cream or smoothies while the wound is fresh. Yes, you have an excuse to eat some ice cream, so don’t miss the opportunity, chocolate chip ice cream addicts, please raise your hand…. Besides the cold effect will help with the swelling. In fact, the rule is : stay away from hard or solid foods for a few days. You don’t want to accidentally chew using the part of your mouth that has just been operated on.
  • Of course, keep in mind your oral hygiene as you must always do—with or without undergoing dental implant operation. Mainly mouthwashing. It will help avoid any infection that could jeopardize the implant integration.
  • Have some rest—you need it to recuperate fast and to facilitate faster healing of your incision and implant. So what would I do ? Watch my favorite tv series with a big bowl of chocolate chip ice cream ? or simply go to bed.

Other Causes of dental implants pain

Aside from the expected side effects of dental operation, there might be other instances related to implants when you might feel pain and discomfort. These are the depressing cases… which are pretty rare or easy to solve with experienced and skilled dentists.

  • Unfastened healing cap. To protect your gum after the implant, a healing cap can be placed on top of it. When the cap or screw is loose, it can cause discomfort or even pain. You will need to go to your dentist to have it taken off, cleansed, and re-positioned.
  • Loose implant. An implant that does not adhere to the surrounding bone can also cause pain and discomfort. Loose implant can be caused by too much pressure exerted on the implant or insufficient bone density to support the implant. In both cases, the implant needs to be taken off.
  • Infection. You may become susceptible to infection because of the surgical wound and your gum or bone or both can be affected. Antibiotics can be used to treat infection, but in some severe cases the implant must also be removed.
  • Nerve pressure or damage. If a nerve in the gum is hit during the drilling or if the implant is placed very near a nerve, nerve damage may happen. Depending on the severity, the implant can be removed and replaced.
  • Rejection. Fortunately, this is a pretty rare scenario, but like in any operation where foreign object is inserted to the body, there is always a possibility that it will be rejected and the implant will not be successful.
  • Drilling causes friction, thereby generating heat. This leads to scorching of the bone part that is in contact with the drill bit. Sometimes, the heat is intense enough that you can feel it radiating to your gums.

What you need to keep in mind is : it is very important that you maintain a regular check up schedule with your dental specialist so that the progress of your dental implant can be monitored. Even with a regular schedule, you must see your specialist if you feel any discomfort beyond the expected times.

Any abnormal issues or feelings that you observe or feel must also be reported to your specialist immediately. Don’t be afraid to « bother » your dentist. Prevention is better than the cure.

As I told you the sooner you contact your dentist, the sooner you can get proper medical treatment which will help avoid complications that would cause failure of your dental implant procedure.

The combination of rest, pain medications, ice pack, and proper oral hygiene will help you survive the first few days after the operation. Regular check-ups and proper care will eventually result to getting a permanent dental substitute that can make you smile radiantly again. Yeah keep in mind the final result, that will be worth it. (And in the meantime enjoy the ice cream…)

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