What are the dental implant healing stages, and how long does each stage take to complete?
The most important thing you can do after having dental implant surgery is to take proper care of your oral health during the healing process. Knowing about the different healing stages, how long each of these stages last and what they require is going to help you recover faster and with better results.
With this in mind, this article is going to teach you everything you need to know about how to care for yourself and your teeth during each healing stage following your implant procedure.
The dental implant procedure and what it entails
Dental implant surgery sounds like a rather dramatic procedure, but the reality is that many technological and medical advances have coalesced into making it rather simple and practically pain-free.
You should pick an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) to carry out the implant procedure for optimal results. An OMS is a dental surgeon who is specially trained in the complexities of the skin, muscles, bone and nerve endings that are involved in the dental implant procedure.
Most of the effort involved in dental implant surgery takes place in advance of and during the procedure itself. Before installing dental implants, your OMS dentist will need to thoroughly examine and assess the condition and placement of your teeth and the structure of your jaw bone. This assessment typically includes the dentist taking X-ray scans and sometimes CT scans of your teeth and jaw in order to determine precisely how and where to place the implants in your mouth.
The dental implant surgery itself involves replacing natural tooth roots with metal screws in the gum tissue, and then replacing the damaged or missing tooth with dental implants that both look and function on par with real teeth. Dental implants are often the best option if you want to replace missing teeth, or if your natural teeth are damaged beyond repair. You may have just one or several tooth implants installed at a time.
Following your procedure, aftercare is usually very simple and straightforward. Many patients are surprised at how little discomfort they experience in the wake of dental implant surgery, as well as by how fast and frictionless the healing process is.
Having said that, dental implant surgery is still surgery, and a recovery period is inevitably going to be involved. After your dental implants are installed, it will be your responsibility to practice good oral hygiene and generally do what you can to avoid unnecessary pain, implant failure or other complications.
The healing process in stages
The full recovery process following dental implant surgery is 2-6 months, but the implant recovery time can and does vary from individual to individual. Here is the dental implant recovery timeline, from the moment you get out of the dentist’s chair to having fully healed.
The first few days following your dental implant procedure are the most important part of your entire recovery process.
It is during the first few days following your procedure that the artificial implant needs to take, so avoid damaging habits that may result in your gums rejecting the implant. Negative habits in this context include smoking, chewing tobacco, or drinking alcohol.
During the initial stage of recovery, you are likely to experience a bit of discomfort, as well as minor bleeding, bruising and swelling. In some cases, you may also experience dizziness, vomiting or fever, but any of these side-effects should quickly subside.
Depending on how physically demanding your work is, you may not need to take much or any time off work, and over-the-counter pain medications are likely to prove sufficient to address any discomfort. Rest as much as you can, stay hydrated and stick to a liquid and soft diet for the first few days of recovery. Brush your teeth (Including your new teeth!) carefully.
Three days (72 hours) into your dental implant recovery process any bruising or swelling should already be fading, and you can start carefully reintroducing harder foods into your diet again.
If you are a smoker and find it impossible to wait any longer, you can also reintroduce cigarettes – although, it has to be said, the longer you are able to wait the better for your dental implant recovery. Use nicotine patches to tide yourself over for as long as possible.
Seven to ten days after receiving dental implants, you should be able to get back to your usual diet and habits.
Of course, this depends on the severity of your dental surgery – let us say, for example, that you had several natural teeth roots and teeth replaced, and that your procedure involved bone grafting and perhaps sinus lifting. If this is your situation, eat soft foods only for up to six weeks following your procedure.
After six weeks, your new dental implants will have become a customary part of your smile and your mouth, and will no longer be causing you any discomfort.
At this stage, your new dental implants will have taken, and the rest of the healing process will take place all by itself, without you having to take any special precautions, other than doing what you should always be doing in the first place, namely taking great care of your health, i.e. eating well, resting well, and brushing and flossing your teeth every day.
Once the surgical site has fully healed, which can take up to six months, your new artificial tooth or teeth will have become an integrated part of your mouth – chances are, you will hardly ever think about the fact that you have an artificial tooth.
Even though an implant is not susceptible to decay as regular teeth would be, you should still take care of it in the same way that you take care of your natural teeth. After all, food particles and various bits can still get stuck in or between dental implants.
Whenever you see your dentist after your implant has fully healed, he or she is going to examine it along with your other teeth. In most cases, the dental screws used for implants can last a lifetime, but artificial teeth may have to be replaced every ten to fifteen years due to the wear and tear that comes from chewing, grinding your teeth and so on.
Factors influencing your recovery after dental implant surgery
There are so many different factors that can influence how quickly and effortlessly you are able to recover after having dental implants installed. Here they are – some of them you can influence, some of them are beyond your control.
The first and primary factor is the specific conditions of your dental implant surgery. This includes the total number and the locations of your implants, as well as whether a bone graft or a sinus lift is a necessary part of your procedure. If you are replacing a missing tooth, the length of time that the tooth was missing prior to being replaced by an artificial tooth can also have an effect on the recovery time frame.
It goes almost without saying that a single dental implant install, without bone grafts or sinus lifts tend to be synonymous with a much shorter recovery time than more complicated procedures.
The quality of your oral hygiene has a tremendous impact on how well your dental implants take, and on how quickly your gums heal.
Keeping on top of your oral hygiene is always important, but is particularly important while you are recovering from any type of oral surgery, including surgery to get dental implants installed. Brushing and flossing your teeth as recommended by your dentist is the best way to keep the surgery site clean and free from bacteria that may lead to gum infection or worse.
Habits and diet
As well as staying on top of your game in terms of your oral hygiene during your dental implant recovery, you should also be mindful of your habits and diet, as the things you ingest can have a huge impact on your recovery.
It is particularly important to avoid smoking, as smoking impairs healing and can prolong your recovery time, as well as leave the surgery site more vulnerable to infections. Alcohol has a similarly negative effect on the body’s ability to heal, so limit your alcohol consumption for the first few weeks or at the very least the first few days after getting your new dental implants installed.
As for positive habits, eating fresh, healthy (and initially soft) foods, drinking plenty of water and getting a solid night’s sleep every night is vital for a swift and effortless recovery.
Dental implant healing stages FAQ
How long does it take for a dental implant to heal?
Dental implant recovery time varies between individuals and depends on a number of influencing factors, including the number of implants, where inside the mouth they are placed, whether a bone graft was needed for the procedure, and so on.
How can I make my dental implant heal faster?
The most important thing you can do is to maintain excellent oral hygiene and health throughout your recovery time – we are taking brushing and flossing your teeth carefully every day. Other positive habits that can help the healing process progress quickly include drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy and initially soft diet, and getting a good amount of rest.
If at the same time, you are able to minimise negative habits such as smoking and alcohol use, you will already be well on your way to a lightning-fast recovery process.
How do you know if your body is rejecting a dental implant?
If your body is rejecting your implant, these are the signs to watch out for: Pain, bleeding, gum recession around the implant, discomfort while chewing, the implant feeling loose and shifting around in your mouth.
To minimise the risk of this happening, stay on top of your oral care and hygiene during the recovery process and avoid detrimental habits like smoking and drinking alcohol.
Getting dental implants installed is not at all a complicated or gruelling procedure, and the recovery process does not have to be complex and unpleasant either.
The first few days are the most important, in terms of your ability to ensure a smooth and easy healing process. Keeping on top of your oral hygiene and keeping the surgery site clean and free of damaging bacteria should be a priority, even if your mouth feels swollen and sore following your procedure. Once you have navigated the first few days with your new dental implants, the rest of the recovery process is much easier.
For the most part, ensuring a good outcome and a short recovery time-frame really comes down to looking after your health – getting plenty of rest, eating well, staying hydrated and brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis. And, let us not forget, avoiding negative habits is just as important as focusing on positive ones, and so cutting out smoking and drinking for the first few days following your procedure is going to take you a long way towards your goal of achieving fully healed dental implants in record time.