For many people who have had their natural teeth removed, dental implants can serve as stable replacements. Mild discomfort is a normal part of implant placement, but severe pain combined with other symptoms may mean something is amiss. The following information — along with a visit to your dentist's office — can help you determine if your dental implant pain is a sign of something more serious.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is made of several parts, including a metal post that is surgically inserted into the jawbone. This post serves as the foundation on which your dentist can mount a replacement tooth, such as a dental crown. Implants can be an effective tooth replacement option because they usually remain fixed in your jawbone and do not decay like natural teeth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A dental professional will usually perform the implant surgery in stages, allotting for healing time between procedures. The first part of the process typically includes removing the damaged tooth and prepping the jawbone underneath. Once the site is ready, the dentist surgically implants the metal post. Then, after the bone has had several months to heal, the dentist will place an abutment on the post, which connects the implant to the artificial tooth top.
How Much Pain Is Normal?
The entire implant process can take several months from start to finish, but whether you have your dental implant surgery in one or multiple stages, it's normal to experience some mild symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, typical discomforts may include:
- Swelling of the face and gums
- Bruising of the skin and gums
- Minor bleeding
Your dentist may give you pain medications to manage your symptoms as you recover.
Warning Signs of an Underlying Issue
If your symptoms get worse in the days following the implant procedure, contact your dentist. A case report in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) explains that persistent pain following dental implant placement can be a sign of an injured nerve, which can happen if the implant touches the nerve running underneath the teeth. Symptoms of this issue may include pain when touching the area around the implant or an unpleasant feeling in the lips.
Women and younger patients tend to have a higher risk for nerve injury after implant placement, according to the JADA case report. Additionally, those who experience preoperative pain, anxiety or depression may be more likely to experience nerve injury. Your anatomy may also present a risk factor, which is why your dentist will assess your unique situation prior to conducting surgery.
Another complication associated with dental implants is peri-implantitis. This condition involves chronic inflammation of the implant site due to bacteria buildup around the gums, according to an article in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
The American Academy of Periodontology explains that you may have peri-implantitis if you experience these symptoms:
- Painful, red or tender gums
- Bleeding when brushing
Factors such as smoking or diabetes may increase your risk of developing this condition. Over time, peri-implantitis can cause the gum tissues and bone to break down.
Treatment for Dental Implant Complications
If you have severe nerve pain immediately after having an implant placed, notify your dentist so they can determine the cause. You have the highest chances of successful treatment if you see a dental professional within 36 hours, according to a study in the Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Research. If your dentist confirms the pain is nerve-related, they may remove the implant and prescribe oral steroids to reduce inflammation and allow the nerve to heal, as the JADA case report advises. High-dose anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications may also help manage symptoms.
Peri-implantitis can be managed by maintaining good oral hygiene and having your dentist thoroughly clean the implant site. More serious cases may require surgery, removal of the implant or an alternative tooth replacement method, according to an article in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association.
Dental implants can be effective, long-term solutions to replace missing teeth, but they present some risks. To improve your odds of having a successful, lasting implant, be diligent with your oral care routine and visit your dentist as recommended. If you experience severe dental implant pain or swelling, contact your dentist promptly.