Dental implants often less painful than extraction

Question: Dental implants have become a very popular option for replacing missing or badly damaged teeth. Implants are a great option because they feel and function like a natural tooth, allowing people to regain the smile and confidence they may have lost. Oftentimes patients considering dental implants are concerned about pain that might be associated with implants. One of their initial questions is often: “Is there pain with the dental implant process?”

Answer: From my experience, most patients who have gone through the process of getting a dental implant report that pain and discomfort is very minimal and the actual process of having the implant placed was pain free. This is primarily due to our commitment to helping people manage their pain with a solid pre- and post-surgical protocol. The three elements of pain that need to be managed include:

  1. Inflammation
  2. Swelling
  3. Infection

During the pre-surgery consultation with your dentist, you should review and understand your dentist’s pain protocol and feel assured that it addresses each of the key components in managing your pain. Committing to following the protocol both pre- and post-surgery will improve the likelihood that you have a surgical implant experience which has minimal pain or is pain free.

Patients specifically wonder about pain during phases of the procedure. Let’s start by helping you to understand the implant process. Having an implant placed is a process that can require time and patience from the recipient.

  1. If the damaged or hopeless tooth has not already been removed, the tooth will have to be extracted.
  2. At that same visit as the extraction, a bone grafting procedure is done. Some stiches are placed and the area is allowed to heal for 3-6 months. During that time the patient’s body incorporates the bone graft into the jawbone. If the tooth has been missing for some time and the bone has healed and the dentist finds the bone adequate to accommodate an implant then a bone graft may not be necessary.
  3. After sufficient bone has been established, the patient returns and a small incision is made in the gums where the implant is placed into the jawbone followed by a few stiches. The area is again allowed to heal for 4-6 months. During this time the bone integrates around the implant and the implant is fused to the jawbone.
  4. Once the implant has healed, an impression is taken of the location of the implant and an abutment and crown are custom made for the person. The abutment is an extension of the implant and the foundation for the new crown.
  5. The final step is to have the abutment and crown placed onto the implant and the patient can again begin to enjoy the foods and the smile they have been missing!

A specific question that is often asked is “Will it hurt while the implant is placed?”

Many people are concerned about the amount of pain which may occur while incisions are made in the gum and during drilling into the bone. Many patients have stated that there is less discomfort and pain from the implant placement appointment than during the tooth extraction process. Most people have their implants placed under local anesthetic which is the same amount of numbness as when a filling is done. Also, the bone where the implant is placed has very few nerves that sense pain. For patients with a higher level of anxiety the dentist can prescribe or sometimes even administer certain medications to help patients relax during the surgical procedure.

Many also wonder, “How much will it hurt after getting the dental implant?”

As the anesthetic wears, off patients often feel some discomfort. There will be some pain in the area where the implant was placed and there may be mild bleeding. It must be kept in mind that a major dental surgery did just take place. Also, it is important to follow the pain management protocol given by the dentist as to when to take the pain medications. Oftentimes as part of the post-surgical protocol, a combination of over-the-counter Ibuprofen and Tylenol is all that is needed to keep pain to a minimum. In some cases, where a sinus lift was needed or a more invasive surgery took place, a heavier duty pain reliever can be prescribed. It is normal to have bruising of the cheeks, gums and below the eyes to take place. Icepacks can be placed in the area where the implant was placed to reduce the swelling and thereby reduce the pain. Soft foods are recommended as is chewing on the opposite side of the mouth for 10 to 14 days. An antibacterial mouthwash or warm salt water can be prescribed to the patient to rinse with for the next week.

Each person heals at different speeds, but on average, any pain or discomfort will dissipate within the first week after surgery. If pain persists or is extreme, your dentist should be contacted, as this can be a sign of an infection that needs to be addressed. Many people have been able to take advantage of dental implants, with minimal pain, allowing them to enjoy their new smile and elevated confidence!

Learn more about dental implants, other dental services and our FREE dental educational seminars offered at Jason C. Campbell, D.D.S., Cosmetic & Family Dentistry at Call our office to schedule your appointment at 928-776-1208. If you have a question you would like Dr. Farnsworth to address in a future column, please email the question(s) to Dr. Farnsworth at