August 11, 2023
Dental implants are an excellent way to repair an incomplete smile because they look and function just like real teeth, but they need a strong jawbone to serve as a sturdy foundation. While many patients with thin or atrophied jawbones might not be able to receive dental implants immediately, bone grafting procedures can reinforce the jaw so that it can provide a robust grip on the implant that can last for life. However, bone grafting comes with a few months of recovery, so here’s what you can expect during that time and some tips for helping it go by smoothly.
How Do Bone Grafts Work with Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a titanium post surgically placed in the jawbone with an artificial tooth attached to it above the gumline. In order to remain secure in the mouth, the implant needs enough bone structure to keep it stable. The titanium and the bone will fuse together in a natural process called osseointegration, providing the strong bond needed to keep the implant healthy. Unfortunately, there is not always enough bone tissue in the jaw for this procedure to be successful.
A bone graft can fix this by placing donated bone tissue along the part of the jaw being treated. This donated bone stabilizes and reinforces the existing structure as it integrates with it. Afterward, a dental implant can be securely and confidently placed in the jaw.
What Can I Expect Immediately After Bone Grafting?
After undergoing bone grafting, your oral surgeon will secure gauze pads to the surgical site to control bleeding. They will then provide you with post-surgery care procedures and protocols that will explain what you can expect and when to seek an emergency consultation for complications. You can expect to experience some temporary numbness and sensitivity at the site, and a slight shift in body temperature is not unheard of. If your temperature remains elevated for an extended period of time, contact your dentist immediately.
What Can I Expect During the Recovery?
After the bone grafting procedure, the treated skeletal structure will regenerate and reinforce itself. You will be prescribed antibiotics and pain management medication. The recovery takes several months and comes in two phases:
The surgery will expose the tissues of your inner jaws, leaving them sensitive and vulnerable to bleeding and infections. Solid foods and acidic drinks are off-limits during your first day of recovery. Soups and smoothies are the go-to sources of nutrition, but using a straw is absolutely prohibited because the sucking movement can strain the surgical wounds and complicate the healing process.
After a few weeks, you can begin to reintroduce solid foods into your diet, but you should ask your dentist for permission first. It is advisable to be gentle when practicing oral hygiene during recovery, especially around the wound. The better care the patient takes of the surgical site, the less pain they will experience overall during recovery. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with any lingering discomfort or inflammation.
About the Author
Dr. David Earnest earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center and has operated his own practice in San Marcos, TX since 2013. He serves as a member of several prestigious dental organizations including the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, the Academy of Osseointegration, and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. His practice offers dentures, dental implants, and bone grafting treatments. For more information on recovering from bone grafting, contact his office online or dial (512) 392-1214.
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