Dentist talking to patient about dental implants

Are Dental Implants Painful & How To Manage Pain After Surgery

Dental implants are an option for people with one or more missing teeth. It’s a safe and effective replacement option that provides a permanent and natural-looking alternative to dentures or bridges. 

Placing an implant is a process that requires multiple visits to the dental office. Once healed, implants feel and function like natural teeth.

This means you’re unlikely to have any pain if there are no complications and you don’t develop any further dental health issues. However, during the process of placing the implant, as well as the healing time after it’s in place, there might be some pain and discomfort.

Here’s what you should expect and some tips for managing tooth implant pain.

What Are Dental Implants?

A dental implant replaces a tooth root with metal posts that connect to artificial teeth that look and function like natural teeth. It’s an alternative to dentures or bridges that might not fit well and sometimes look unnatural.

The surgical procedure varies based on the status of your existing dental health. Because the metal implants must fuse with your jawbone, it takes some time for the procedure to heal and be fully operational. 

Implants are a safe and effective option for most adults, including anyone who:

  • Has one or more missing teeth
  • Have adequate bone to secure the implants or can undergo a grafting procedure
  • Has healthy oral tissue
  • Is in generally good health
  • Cannot wear dentures
  • Wants to improve their speech
  • Doesn’t smoke
  • Can commit to a several-month implantation process
Dental implant with post between real teeth

Risks of Dental Implant Surgery

Dental implant surgery is a relatively safe process, but as with any surgery, there are risks. These include:

  • Infection
  • Injury to surrounding teeth, blood vessels, or nerves
  • Sinus problems

The implantation process occurs in several steps, including:

  • Removal of damaged tooth or teeth
  • Jawbone preparation (grafting), if necessary
  • Implant placement
  • Bone growth and healing
  • Abutment placement
  • Artificial tooth placement

The entire process usually takes a few to several months, depending on the extent of damage and how quickly you heal. 

Are Dental Implants Painful?

It’s common to experience discomfort at one or more points during the dental implant procedure. Some of the most common occurrences include:

  • Swelling of the face and gums
  • Bruising of the face and gums
  • Pain at the implant site
  • Minor bleeding

Most people successfully manage pain with prescription pain medication or antibiotics. Your dentist will explain when you should be concerned about pain or other after-effects.

Additionally, you’ll likely need to temporarily limit your diet to soft foods only as the surgical site heals.

Managing Pain After Surgery

You should contact your dentist if the pain seems severe or unmanageable. In most cases, a few common remedies are enough to help you manage the pain. Many of these remedies also reduce inflammation, which helps with healing and reduces discomfort. 

The most important thing you can do to keep pain under control following dental implant surgery is to use the medication(s) prescribed by your dentist. Follow their guidelines precisely and discuss any questions or concerns with your dentist or staff. 

Ensure you understand the recommended dosage and frequency of use, which varies based on the patient and the medication.

Some patients find it helpful to set the alarm so they remember to take their medication, which in most cases, will begin working before the previous dosage wears off so there won’t be a painful lag between doses.

Remember not to skip a dose of medication even if you feel better. This is true for pain medication and antibiotics. You should use all medications given to you by your dentist/oral surgeon as directed.

Woman holding ice pack to her face after dental implant surgery

It also helps to apply ice packs to the affected area, especially in the first few hours or days after the procedure. This is a low-risk, natural, non-invasive option for treating pain.

Cold works by constricting the blood vessels in the affected area, which limits blood flow and reduces swelling. Ice also numbs the nerve endings, temporarily dulling the painful sensations immediately.

Your dentist will recommend how to use ice effectively in the area, but in general, you’ll want to apply an ice pack for at least 20 minutes every 24 hours after surgery.

It’s also helpful to elevate your head while you sleep. This minimizes blood flow to the area, helping to reduce swelling and ease pain while you sleep. In most cases, adding an extra pillow or two offers enough elevation.

The additional pillows can also help you feel more comfortable sleeping by preventing pressure on the area.

Avoid sleeping on the affected side if your implant procedure was done on the lower jaw. You’ll want to avoid back sleeping if the implant is in the upper jaw. It might take some time to find the best position that creates the least pressure on the affected area. Some people even find that sleeping in a semi-sitting position is most helpful.

You’ll want to avoid certain foods as you heal, but still, eat healthy and stay hydrated. This combination promotes healing and helps you avoid complications and pain. 

For many people, chewing is difficult for a few days or weeks after surgery. Consuming soft foods such as mashed potatoes, smoothies, yogurt, soup, scrambled eggs, and pureed foods helps.

Other ideas for healthy and easily chewable food options include bananas, apple sauce, baby food, canned fruits, and well-cooked pasta and vegetables.

You’ll want to drink plenty of water after surgery, but avoiding anything too hot or cold is best. Room temperature is your best bet for avoiding pain caused by sensitivity. It might also help to drink through a straw to prevent the liquid from contacting the affected area. 

Your dentist can help you make smart decisions about what and how to eat and drink in the days following your surgery as you recover.

Wondering if you’re a candidate for dental implants or have questions regarding the process? Let us help! Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.