What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a permanent surgical solution to replace missing teeth by anchoring a false tooth to the jaw bone by use of metal posts that resemble screws. These posts act as the roots of absent tooth. Approximately 100,000-300,000 dental implants are placed every year (NIH, 2014), making them a common alternative when dentures or bridgework is not an option, or is not preferred by the patient.
If a patient is interested in dental implants, they will have to discuss the possibility with their dentist. Depending on multiple factors, the patient may not be an ideal candidate. While the benefits of dental implants are wide, such as permanency and stability, the healing process can take longer than many alternative procedures, so be sure to discuss the best option with your dentist based on your oral and skeletal health. It is also important that the patient has physically matured enough that their jawbone is strong enough to anchor the implants.
Why Get Dental Implants?
If you have lost one or multiple teeth or have damaged teeth that should be pulled and replaced, dental implants may be your best option. While dental implants solve the obvious cosmetic issues that come with a hole in your smile, they also are important for maintaining the positioning of your teeth. Having gaps in your mouth may cause your remaining teeth to shift over time, which may result in crooked, angled, or painful teeth. Dental implants allow for a more-secure fit of a crown than what bridgework or dentures might, and will not move or cause bone damage.
Risks & Side Effects of Dental Implants
Any surgery poses risk, but fortunately dental surgery is generally quite safe. While rare, there is always the risk of possible complications during dental implant surgery, such as an allergic reaction to the anesthesia (very rare), injury to the surrounding teeth, tissue, or sinus cavities, infection at the surgical site, or nerve damage that results in pain, numbness, or tingling in your teeth, gums, lips, or chin. The main drawback when choosing dental implants over bridgework and dentures is that the recovery period is significantly longer and can take several months to fully heal. Dental implants problems are not common, but be sure to express any concerns or fears to your oral surgeon during your consultation.
As with any surgery, a dental implant procedure comes with a set of specific rules to follow before and after your surgery. Talk to your oral surgeon for further details and instructions, and never hesitate to call with any questions or concerns!
If you are undergoing the procedure via intravenous sedation (the most effective form of conscious sedation), it is important that you do not eat or drink anything at least 6 hours before your procedure. For those patients that are not able to accept IV sedation, whether for personal or medical reasons, they may opt to have oral sedation. This process involves taking a pill about an hour before your surgery. As such, you cannot drive yourself to the appointment, so make sure that you have a responsible driver to bring you both to and from your surgery. If you must take medications, you may do so with small sips of water, but only with permission from your dentist. Be sure to discuss your medications with the surgeon before, as some may interact with the sedation or the drugs given post-operatively for pain management.
Make sure that you wear comfortable, loose clothing on the day of your procedure. It is important that your shirt can be rolled up past your elbow, as the IV will be inserted in the crook of your arm. Wear shoes that will not fall off or cause you to trip when recovering after the surgery (sneakers are best).
Pick out a designated driver to accompany you to and from your surgery. After sedation, you will not be able to drive, and will need to have adequate transportation from the office, as well as a chaperone to assist you during your initial recovery period at home. While you will most likely spend your first few hours after the surgery sleeping, you should still have someone around to help you. Keeping track of your medications is a chore in itself – and a very important one at that, as after surgery it can be easy to accidentally overdose or mix medications that have negative interactions. It is highly recommended to create a medication chart to keep track of each medication dosage and the time at which you took it. Your helper may need to keep track of this for you during the first day, as you may be feeling too woozy to fully concentrate.
If you are opting for local anesthesia only (Novocain), then you will not require a fasting period, as well as a driver and home-aide. Consult with your dentist to determine which pain management is best for you during your surgical procedure.
Immediately after your surgery, your surgeon will inform you of how the procedure went. If any complications arose, he/she will let you know, as well as give you any special instructions for the proper care of your surgical sites. It is recommended to take 800mg of ibuprofen (Advil) immediately after surgery in order to get ahead of the pain and swelling. This dosage can be repeated every 8 hours as needed, but it is vital that you do not mix this with any other NSAIDs or aspirin. NSAIDs are the preferable OTC (over the counter) pain management treatment, as they reduce swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also be alternated with these dosages, per your surgeon’s instructions. If these OTC options are proving to not be strong enough, your surgeon may recommend and prescribe pain medication such as Vicodin. Be sure to take these doses with food, as both ibuprofen and narcotics can irritate the stomach, resulting in nausea and/or vomiting.
Take extra care during the first few days following your surgery to avoid disturbing the surgical site with actions such as chewing on/near the location, spitting, rinsing/gargling, or sipping through a straw, as this can delay healing and cause painful complications. Minor bleeding and oozing is normal during the first few hours and may even last throughout the first day. Follow your dentist’s instructions with the gauze applications and change them out accordingly. If you continue to bleed beyond this time period, or if the bleeding on the first day is more than “minor,” please call up your dentist right away. Be sure to rest up during the first 48 hours. Physical activity may cause your surgical site to bleed more than it should.
Pain is normal to expect, but there are many ways to manage your pain, as listed above. Expect some pain and discomfort over the first 24 – 48 hours especially. If you are finding this pain difficult or impossible to manage, or if your pain is lasting beyond the usual 3 – 4 day initial recovery time, please contact your oral surgeon concerning these symptoms. While this could simply mean that your body is healing at a below-average rate, it could also indicate that complications have occurred, such as dry socket or infection.
Your diet will need to be altered for approximately 1 to 2 weeks after your procedure. Drink lots of fluids (preferably water) to promote healthy tissue regeneration, and only consume soft foods. Common examples are ice cream (without chunks or hard pieces), yogurt, mashed potatoes, mac-and-cheese, apple sauce, pudding, Jell-O, and soup. Do not eat anything that is particularly hot (both in terms of temperature and spiciness), as heat will aggravate any inflammation around the surgical site. Be sure to stay on top of taking your antibiotics, and after the threat of dislodging the blood clot is gone, keep the surgical site clean by gently swishing with salt water or hydrogen peroxide. Do not smoke in this time period, as smoking has been proven to slow down the healing process and may cause the painful condition of dry socket.
If you follow your post-op care instructions well, follow-up with your dentist, and continue to practice proper oral hygiene after your surgery and throughout your lifetime, most dental implant surgeries have great success and will improve your lifestyle and your smile!
Think dental implants may be right for you? Contact us here at Diamond Dental Clinics in Toronto, Ontario. We can schedule you in for a consultation appointment, and after studying your X-rays and having a thorough oral evaluation we can decide on the best course of action for you and your dental health! We can discuss the different types of dental implants and what these dental implants will cost you, and devise a custom dental plan for you. Find our contact information here – we’d love to help you!