A Few Pointers: How to Take Care of Yourself After Dental Implant Surgery
I’ve known since I was pretty young that I wanted to be a dentist. It stemmed from my desire to help people. What better way to do that than to help restore their smile? It breaks my heart that there are so many people today that could benefit from implant surgery, and for various reasons never take advantage of it. I sometimes wish there were a way to make it available to everyone who needed it.
I love to see someone who comes into our office with damaged or missing teeth, or even no teeth at all, leave with a beautiful smile. The confidence that a smile can bring to them and the change in their whole demeanor is something you just have to see to understand. I want the very best outcome for you and for all my patients.
So, let’s talk about what happens after the surgery. What are some things you can do to best take care of yourself at home? Depending on your situation, you may have medications to take depending on the amount of pain you experience (none, a little, or a little more).
#1. Don’t hesitate to call with questions or concerns.
Probably the most important tip is this: If you experience any unusual pain or bleeding, please don’t hesitate to give the surgeon a call. We’d rather get a chance to tell you things are okay than have you face a real problem such as an infection. In other words, don’t try to be a hero. You know your body best. After all, you’ve lived in it for quite a while.
#2. The first hour after implant surgery.
The first hour or so after surgery is probably the most uncomfortable. Bite down on the gauze that will be packed in the surgical area. You can carefully change the gauze as needed. Moistening the gauze helps on that score. Oozing and bleeding are generally normal. Black tea bags that have been steeped in warm water and squeezed gently can replace the gauze and be left in place for about half an hour. The tannic acid in the tea will promote blood clotting. As mentioned above, if either the bleeding or pain gets out of hand, call us.
#3. Watch your liquids.
Don’t rinse your mouth for the first 24 hours after the operation. After that, try to keep hydrated, drinking at least 8 glasses of water or juice per day. DO NOT use a straw for at least the first few days. Don’t poke at your mouth. This could exacerbate any bleeding and cause more problems.
#4. Use an ice pack.
An ice pack, such as a bag of peas, can be placed on your jaw to help reduce pain and swelling (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.) You can also expect there to be bruising and discoloration. This will fade in time but may peak by the third or fourth day. The nice thing about the ice pack is that it can also help relieve any stiffness in your jaw.
#5. Enjoy soft foods.
Try to keep food away from the surgical area for as long as possible. There is no hard and fast rule on this one, and it depends on your comfort level and individual instructions. You may find you don’t really feel much like eating for the first day after surgery anyway. Don’t worry, as this is not all that uncommon. Follow a liquid diet for the first day or so; broths and soups work well. Then limit your diet to soft foods (soups, purees, etc.) for up to two weeks following the procedure. Again, this advice will be subject to your individual situation.
#6. Be smoke-free.
Smoking is one of the major reasons dental implants fail. Various studies have shown that dental implants are about 11 times more likely to fail if you smoke. If you smoke, we can direct you to resources to help you cease. The good news—it takes only about a month of being smoke-free before we can start the implant process!
If someone had asked me when I was studying at Austin or Baylor or doing my advanced work on occlusion studies whether I thought all the hard work and late nights were worth it, I guarantee I would have said, “Absolutely, yes!” And today, I’d answer that exact same way.
I hope you will book an appointment with our office soon. I look forward to meeting you.
Dr. Jana Harrison, DDS
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