Recovering From A Dental Implant? What's Normal—And What's Not

If you've recently had one or more dental implants installed, you may be unsure what to expect from the healing process. Recovering from dental work is never a walk in the park, but because dental implants require a small hole to be drilled in the jaw for each tooth implanted, this recovery can be a bit more complex. Read on to learn more about some of the normal parts of recovery you can expect from this surgery, as well as a few relatively uncommon side effects that should prompt you to call a doctor. 

What side effects are normal after a dental implant?

Dental implants are different from other types of dental procedures as they involve the implantation of a small titanium rod into the bone of your jaw. As this small hole heals, the titanium rod integrates into the surrounding bone (this process is called "osseointegration"). After healing has completed, the tooth that is implanted to this rod is just as strong and durable as your natural tooth due to its connection with your jawbone.

Most dental implants are put on in two stages. First, the titanium rod will be implanted and be permitted to heal for a few months while a false tooth or bridge is used as a placeholder. Next, the false tooth will be carefully threaded onto the titanium rod and filed down until it fits well. 

The latter part of this process is fairly quick and shouldn't require sedation or local anesthetic, but the implantation procedure is comparable to minor surgery. And as with other types of surgery, some soreness, achiness, and bleeding is normal for the days following your implantation. You'll likely be prescribed pain relievers. It's important to take these as scheduled to prevent the pain from becoming severe. 

Other side effects can include a headache (particularly if your implants included upper teeth, as the installation of the titanium rods can irritate the sinuses) and fatigue. It's important to get plenty of rest, hydration, and nutritious foods during your healing, as fortifying your body will allow your bone to heal more quickly.

When should you call your dentist or endodontist?

There are a few side effects that could indicate problems with your healing. If you're having severe pain in your jaw, you may be suffering dry socket or an infection of the bone or surrounding tissue. It's important to visit your dentist as soon as possible so that this infection can be flushed out and treated with antibiotics before it can spread. You could also notice that the titanium rod feels loose -- it may touch the top of your bridge or temporary crown when you bite down. If this is the case, your bone may be rejecting the implant and forcing it out of your jaw. Your dentist may opt to re-implant the titanium rod or use another type of anchor to set your implant.