Dental implants have become increasingly popular because of their durability in comparison to alternatives such as a bridge or dentures. Plus they look and feel like real teeth! But implants require surgery, and surgeries usually involve pain. How much do dental implants hurt, and for how long? And when should patients consult their surgeon about pain after dental implant surgery?
What are Dental Implants?
Millions of Americans are missing teeth. Before 1965, their only options to replace them were a dental bridge or dentures. Dental implants last many years longer than either of these options, and they look more like patients’ real teeth. Plus they are permanent and easier to care for. Implants can be used to replace individual teeth, several missing teeth, or the entire dental arch on the top or bottom of the mouth.
Dental implants consist of a titanium post surgically placed in the jaw. An abutment is attached to the top of the titanium post. Once the jaw heals and the gum tissue fuses with the implant, a customized crown is placed on top of the abutment. It’s not really surprising that a procedure consisting of cutting flaps in the gum and drilling into the jawbone would cause some pain.
What is Involved in Implant Surgery?
Dental implant surgery consists of a few basic steps, though in some cases more prep work may be necessary depending on the health of the patient’s jaw:
- The first stage is preparatory. Preparing for the surgery means taking x-rays and carefully discussing the procedure. If the teeth to be replaced are still there, they’ll be extracted.
- If there is insufficient bone and gum tissue to anchor the implant, the oral surgeon will reconstruct it using bone grafts. This will lengthen the overall recovery time since it adds a preliminary surgical procedure to the process.
- First, the surgeon cuts away the flap of gum tissue to expose the bone. Next, he or she drills into the bone and screws a titanium post directly into the hole in the jawbone. The implanted post serves as an anchor for the crown.
- A temporary crown is either placed right away or after the gum fuses to the implant and heals. Healing usually takes 3 to 6 months.
- Once the post and abutment are in place, a permanent crown is made and set on each implant. From beginning to end the entire process typically lasts from 6 to 8 months, though experts are working hard to streamline the process.
Of course, some pain will result from this surgical procedure. But pain that lasts longer than a few days post-surgery usually indicates that something is wrong.
Is My Dental Implant Pain “Normal”?
Patients can expect some pain after surgery, especially during the recovery process, as the gum tissue fuses with the implant and secures it in place naturally:
- Patients shouldn’t feel any pain during the surgery itself, since they have been administered either a local or general anaesthetic that numbs the affected area.
- Some pain is to be expected as the numbness subsides after surgery. This pain is usually mild to moderate, with patients reporting that it is comparable to the pain caused by a tooth extraction.
- The area of the implant will be tender for a period after the surgery. Additionally, patients sometimes report aches in other parts of their mouth or face during the recovery process. Post-surgery discomfort and swelling should subside in 2-3 days.
Even though the mouth can take several months to heal after surgery, the pain should abate within several days after the procedure. Of course, everyone heals at different rates. Generally, patients report that pain subsides 24 to 48 hours after surgery. During this time, patients can use over-the-counter pain medications as directed. Oral surgeons may also prescribe something for the pain.
Dentists may have specific instructions such as avoiding straws for 24 hours after surgery or sticking to a liquid diet for 48 hours. Smokers should avoid smoking for 3 days after surgery. Follow these recommendations, as they will help you dental implants hurt less.
Can Dental Implants Hurt Too Much?
Extended periods of pain beyond a few days may indicate that something is wrong. As a precautionary measure patients should contact the dental or oral surgeon if post-surgery pain lasts for longer than a few days or if the pain gets worse after the surgery.
Mild to moderate pain is normal in the days following surgery and is part of the healing process. However, more intense pain could indicate that something is wrong and that your implant could be failing:
- Intense, sharp pain radiating from the surgery site throughout the face.
- Swelling that does not go away after a few days.
- Trouble chewing.
These symptoms could indicate something more serious involving the failure of the implant, and patients should contact their dentist immediately.
Dental Implant Failure
Implants can fail for a variety of reasons. The patient’s body may be rejecting the implant. This can happen early or later in the healing process. Early rejection occurs when a patient’s body is sensitive to a foreign object, in this case, the titanium screw. Rarely, an allergy is the reason for the rejection of the implant.
If rejection occurs after the bone has healed, it may be due to poor oral hygiene or trauma in the area of the implant. Implants don’t decay like natural teeth, but the area around the implant can become infected. Implants also eventually wear out. If the implant is more than ten years old, the pain may be because the implant has failed.
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Regular checkups and good oral health are key to the longevity of dental implants. Regular visits to the dentist’s office for cleanings and exams will allow the dental staff to keep track of the patient’s implants and help avoid unnecessary pain and suffering if they fail. Proper care is the key to whether or not dental implants hurt.
Resolving Dental Implant Pain
Some pain is normal after an implant. Intense pain that lasts longer than a few days after the procedure may indicate that something is wrong. Be sure to contact your dentist if you are experiencing prolonged pain after surgery or if you begin to feel pain where you hadn’t felt any before.
If you are experiencing dental implant pain beyond the normal post-surgery pain and you would like to consult one of our dentists, please use our handy online search tool to schedule an appointment today.