If you’re about to get dental implants, thinking about implant treatment, or caring for someone who just had dental implants placed, proper home care can impact how successful the procedure is. The right oral hygiene and home care routine will help you minimize discomfort, improve healing times, and help ensure your implants don’t get infected.
What to Expect After Dental Implant Surgery
The recovery time following dental implant placement will depend on the individual, the number of implants placed, and adjunctive services such as bone grafting, extractions, or sedation during implant treatment.
For a typical single-tooth implant treatment, you can generally manage the first day or so with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as Motrin or ibuprofen. Applying a cold compress on the side of your face will help reduce inflammation, which is usually the most common cause of post-operative discomfort.
If you are receiving multiple implants as well as grafts, or have also had teeth extracted, you will need a bit more time to recover. Take all medications as prescribed and stick to a soft diet for the first several days. Full mouth treatments typically involve a removable healing overdenture, which covers the teeth as they heal, to protect the gum tissue, so be sure to follow the surgeon’s instructions to promote proper healing. Your dentist will need to remove any non-dissolvable stitches within the next two weeks.
How Long Do Dental Implants Take to Heal?
Depending on the type of dental implant surgery, healing times may be minimal to several months. For instance, a simple single-tooth implant installation is relatively non-invasive with mild discomfort lasting one or two days. On the other hand, if you receive multiple bone grafts or full-arch endosteal implants, you may need up to three to six months before full integration and healing are complete.
While gum healing at your implant site is usually complete within a couple of weeks, the bone integration phase is what typically requires more time. Full integration for any dental implant can require four to six months. This means that until the bone and implant are fully bonded, the implants will not be able to support a fixed (permanent) restoration. In the meantime, your dentist can fit you with a temporary healing prosthesis, such as an overdenture or flipper.
How to Clean Dental Implants
Oral hygiene for dental implants is nearly identical to that for natural teeth. However, additional hygiene aids may be necessary to clean hard-to-reach spaces, such as under implant-supported bridges, All-on-4, or full arch implants. The key is to clean the implant restoration as well as the gums immediately adjacent to your tooth replacement.
Depending on the type of implant restoration you have, your dentist, hygienist, or specialist may recommend some or all of the following hygiene practices.
- Invest in a quality electric toothbrush and use it twice per day for two minutes at a time.
- Use an interdental brush or tufted floss (with a threader) to clean either side of the implant abutment.
- Upgrade to a water flosser to clean under fixed appliances and the gums around each implant.
- Rinse with an alcohol-free, antimicrobial mouth rinse once or twice per day.
Ultimately, the goal of your hygiene plan is to prevent gum inflammation, gingivitis, or peri-implantitis, which is the implant form of gum disease, from developing around your dental implants. Since peri-implantitis is one of the leading causes of implant failure, good oral hygiene is essential.
What Causes Infection After Dental Implants Placement?
Dental implant failure is usually attributed to risk factors like gum disease or poor placement techniques. Fortunately, you can take steps to avoid infection so that implant sites heal and integrate properly.
As many as one in 10 dental implant patients may develop an infection after their implants are installed. Data suggests that as many as two-thirds of those individuals will then experience total failure of their dental implant restoration. Factors such as smoking, existing periodontitis (gum disease), and infection all pose a risk.
By maintaining a healthy oral environment both before and after dental implant placement, patients can reduce their chances of infection or failure of their treatment investment.
Can Dental Implants Cause Dry Mouth?
While dental implants do not cause xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, it’s natural for some people to experience symptoms while taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, including pain relievers prescribed after an implant is installed.
Additionally, your mouth could potentially feel drier than normal after implant surgery due to having your mouth open for an extended period.
Dry mouth is also a common side effect of using alcohol-based mouth rinses, as alcohol is a natural drying agent.
Since xerostomia can contribute to tooth decay and gum infections, it’s best to identify the source of your dry mouth and take steps to manage symptoms. Otherwise, you may be at an increased risk of infection or gum irritation following dental implant surgery.
Care for Implants Like You Would Natural Teeth
One of the best things about enjoying dental implants once they’ve healed is that you can treat them like anatomical teeth. Daily brushing, flossing, swishing with an alcohol-free antimicrobial mouth rinse, and visiting your dentist for regular six-month checkups are typically all you need. With the right care, dental implant treatment is extremely comfortable and can last a lifetime.
Dr. Elizabeth Clary, D.M.D. is a member of the American Dental Association, Missouri Dental Association, Missouri Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Chicago Dental Society, Greater St. Louis Dental Society, and Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine Alumni Association.