Many people are anxious about getting a dental implant. Naturally, there is some fear, and the biggest question is about how painful the dental implant procedure is. Getting a dental implant sometimes involves multiple procedures, which are done in stages. The procedures alone are pain-free, due to modern dental practices and anesthetic. However, patients can experience some minor pain and discomfort at times during the lengthy healing process in between procedures. While the fear of pain is reasonable, today’s technologies and procedures have come a long way with dental implants.
Pain Management During a Dental Implant Surgery
In addressing how painful the dental implant procedure is, it’s best to get a good understanding of the procedure itself. In fact, a good dentist will make sure that you know what to expect. The truth is, every dental implant procedure is going to be different based on the individual patient.
If you lose a tooth, it needs to be replaced. Otherwise, there will be numerous problems that can develop. One option for tooth replacement is a dental implant. It’s certainly a personal decision, but there are a number of benefits over other options like dentures, bridges, and even crowns.
A dental implant procedure is surgical. A titanium “screw” is surgically inserted into the jawbone, where it fuses with the bone and becomes a permanent part of the patient’s mouth. It functions like a tooth root and becomes nearly as strong as a natural tooth root. The preparation for a dental implant sometimes involves procedures prior to the surgery itself. For example, sometimes removal of a damaged or decaying tooth is needed to prepare the area for implantation. In most cases, the dental implant procedure is fairly straightforward. It is a common procedure, and most often involves the simple placement of the implant. In some more complex cases involving bone loss, however, a bone graft is needed.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the doctor may provide you with a local anesthetic, nitrous oxide, or oral conscious sedation to manage pain and anxiety during the procedure.
Local anesthetic is a very common way to numb the area around the implant site. Anesthesia is used in many medical procedures, both in dentistry and other branches of medicine. A local anesthetic is usually given in the form of a shot, so you may feel a prick of the needle in your gums, but after the initial prick, your mouth will become numb. Your dentist will check to make sure you are numb before the implantation. This means that you will feel no pain or sharpness during the dental implant procedure, although you may feel pushing, pulling, or the vibration of a drill. With the use of a local anesthetic, the dental implant procedure itself is nearly painless.
Nitrous oxide, sometimes referred to as “laughing gas” is an inhaled sedative. This does not numb or dull the pain like an anesthetic, rather it puts you at ease. Nitrous oxide is safe for patients of all ages and wears off quickly, so you can drive yourself home from the appointment if needed. Nitrous oxide is appropriate for shorter procedures like a typical less-complicated dental implant, and for patients who have less anxiety.
Oral sedation is given in the form of a pill and uses a prescription medication, such as Valium to help the patient relax during treatment. Depending on the dosage, this can provide you with a mild to moderate sedation. With mild sedation, you are fully awake, but relaxed. With a more moderate sedation, you remain conscious but may not fully remember the treatment. Oral sedatives take effect quickly and take a while to wear off, so you will need someone to drive you to and from the appointment. Oral sedatives are appropriate for longer procedures and for patients with higher levels of fear of anxiety.
How Long Will The Pain Last?
It’s difficult to say how long the pain will last, as every patient is different from the next. In most cases, the dental implant procedure itself causes very little pain to the patient. Once the anesthetic wears off, however, patients often feel some level of discomfort. This, of course, varies from patient to patient, based on the level of pain tolerance and the complexity of the procedure.
It is common for patients to experience some pain after the dental implant procedure. Initially, the discomfort may last one to two days. However, some patients may continue to experience pain at the implant site for up to 10 days. While some pain is expected after the surgery, it shouldn’t last more than two weeks. Pain that persists longer than this should be a red flag, and consulting your prosthodontist is advisable. A dental implant patient could also ask: why do my dental implants hurt even after surgery?
Bruising of the gum around the implant site often causes this pain, not to forget whenever one is brushing around the implant site.
Besides the pain and the bruising of the gums, here’s what to expect after a dental implant procedure:
- Discomfort around the cheeks, chin, and underneath the eyes.
- Minor bleeding
- Swelling of the gumaround the implant site
Dental implant risks are rare, but they may occur just like with any other surgery. Such risks may be injury and infection at the implant site. Nerve damage and sinus issues may also occur, and the quick intervention of your prosthodontist may be vital to recovery. Your dentist will give you more specific instructions on how to manage pain after the procedure.
Dental Implant Pain Timeline
Here’s a general timeline of what to expect in terms of pain during your recovery period:
Dental Implant Pain After One Week
It’s normal to still have some pain at this point. Continue with your dentist’s recovery instructions. This period can last up to 10 days.
Dental Implant Pain After Two Weeks
At this point, the pain should have subsided. Contact your dentist right away — you may have an infection.
Dental Implant Pain After 3-4 Months
Pain at this stage is most likely due to one of these causes:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Poor blood supply
- Interactions with other medications
- Poor overall health
- An infection,
- A complication called overloading
- Your body’s rejection of the implant
- Allergic reaction
- Nerve or tissue damage
In each of these cases, you should contact your dentist immediately.
Dental Implant Pain After One Year Or Longer
If you start experiencing pain a year or several years after your procedure, this could be due to one or more issues:
- Continual smoking
- Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)
- Poor oral hygiene
- Lack of gumtissue in the area
- Radiation to the head or neck
- Lack of bone in the jaw
Factors That Can Cause Additional Pain
Aside from typical pain from a complication-free procedure, there can be other issues that lead to more discomfort and pain.
Loose Healing Cap
Sometimes the small screw inside the top of the implant becomes loose during the healing process. In this case, the dentist will need to remove the cap, clean it, and refit it. Until then, it could cause you some discomfort.
If the jaw does not have enough bone mass, the dental implant can become loosened. This can cause discomfort and sometimes pain. In most cases, the dentist will need to remove and replace the implant.
Any type of gum infection can cause pain as well. If caught early, it might be treatable.
Rejection Of The Implant
Sometimes, a dental implant will not integrate with the patient’s bone and the body will reject it, also known as a failed implant. If this happens to you, it can cause the implant to become loose, therefore causing pain.
This is not a common complication, but it has happened. Sometimes the heat of the dentist’s drill can damage the bone around the surgical site. This will cause a good amount of pain and discomfort. If this happens, the dentist will need to remove the implant and any affected bone.
This one is also rare. If the dentist damages a nerve via their drill or by placing the implant to close to the nerve, this will cause pain. The implant will need to be removed and replaced.
Dental Implant Pain Management Tips
There are plenty of things you can do to help manage and minimize the pain you may experience from dental implant surgery. If you call your dentist about the pain, they will probably suggest one or some of these options.
Choose The Right Dentist
Although choosing the dentist with the lowest prices seems appealing, it’s not a good idea. That typically means the quality of their work matches the price they charge. This means that if you do call them complaining of pain, they may not have as helpful of advice as a more seasoned professional.
Follow The Post-Procedure Instructions
Whatever your dentist tells you to do after the procedure, make sure you follow those instructions. It’s crucial to the health of your mouth and your whole body that you follow the given steps to the letter.
Your dentist might recommend you take painkillers after the procedure to help with the discomfort, usually Ibuprofen. If the recommended dose is not relieving the pain, contact your dentist to talk about increasing the dose or considering alternative medications.
Within the first couple of days — and especially on the first day — you can use ice to numb the pain and cut down on the swelling. Applying it to your cheek over the sensitive areas will help, either in the form of ice packs or frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth.
Gently rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can help with the pain and fight infection-causing bacteria. It may burn as you rinse, but it will help overall during the recovery period.
Cold And Soft Foods
Avoid hard foods and candies during your recovery and stick with mainly cold and soft foods. This includes smoothies, yogurt, and anything pureed.
Maintain Oral Hygiene
Brushing and flossing every day 2-3 times a day is recommended. This tip is very important and you should always follow it, but your dentist might recommend avoiding brushing the area of surgery.
Make sure you give your body and jaw plenty of rest. Don’t do any strenuous activity or lift heavy objects. Let your body use as much energy as it needs to heal your mouth.
So, Is a Dental Implant Painful?
Possibly, but probably not too bad. It really depends on the complexity of the case and your level of pain tolerance. In most cases, the procedure is straightforward and simple, and should only cause a moderate level of discomfort in the healing phase. If you are at all concerned about pain management, talk with your dentist about what he or she recommends.