Although dental procedures have come a long way in recent years, there are still plenty of people who experience anxiety when visiting the dentist. Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience in the past or are nervous that their dental work will cause pain. Dental procedures aren’t the same as they were 20 – or even 10 – years ago. With the development of more advanced techniques and technologies such as the Solae laser, dentists are able to perform many procedures with little discomfort to the patient.
One common questions we hear in the office is, “Is a dental implant painful?” Our short answer – possibly. I know. It’s not what you were hoping to hear but let me explain.
A dental implant procedure is surgical. A titanium “screw” is surgically inserted into the jawbone, where it fuses with the bone and becomes a permanent part of the patient’s mouth. It functions like a tooth root and becomes nearly as strong as a natural tooth root.
The preparation for a dental implant sometimes involves procedures prior to the surgery itself. For example, sometimes removal of a damaged or decaying tooth is needed to prepare the area for implantation.
In most cases, the dental implant procedure is fairly straightforward. It is a common procedure, and most often involves the simple placement of the implant. In some more complex cases involving bone loss, however, a bone graft is needed.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the doctor may provide you with a local anesthetic, nitrous oxide, or oral conscious sedation to mange pain and anxiety during the procedure.
Local anesthetic is a very common way to numb the area around the implant site. Anesthesia is used in many medical procedures, both in dentistry and other branches of medicine. A local anesthetic is usually given in the form of a shot, so you may feel a prick of the needle in your gums, but after the initial prick, your mouth will become numb. Your dentist will check to make sure you are numb before the implantation. This means that you will feel no pain or sharpness during the dental implant procedure, although you may feel pushing, pulling, or the vibration of a drill. With the use of a local anesthetic, the dental implant procedure itself is nearly painless.
Nitrous oxide, sometimes referred to as “laughing gas” is an inhaled sedative. This does not numb or dull the pain like an anesthetic, rather it puts you at ease. Nitrous oxide is safe for patients of all ages and wears off quickly, so you can drive yourself home from the appointment if needed. Nitrous oxide is appropriate for shorter procedures like a typical less-complicated dental implant, and for patients who have less anxiety.
Oral sedation is given in the form of a pill and uses a prescription medication, such as Valium to help the patient relax during treatment. Depending on the dosage, this can provide you with a mild to moderate sedation. With mild sedation, you are fully awake, but relaxed. With a more moderate sedation, you remain conscious but may not fully remember the treatment. Oral sedatives take effect quickly and take a while to wear off, so you will need someone to drive you to and from the appointment. Oral sedatives are appropriate for longer procedures and for patients with higher levels of fear of anxiety.
In most cases, the dental implant procedure itself causes very little pain to the patient. Once the anesthetic wears off, however, patients often feel some level of discomfort. This, of course, varies from patient to patient, based on the level of pain tolerance and the complexity of the procedure. Some patients may be prescribed a pain medication such as Vicodin, Norco, or Lortab, but many patients can effectively manage pain with the help of over-the-counter drugs such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol. Your dentist will give you more specific instructions on how to manage pain after the procedure.
Possibly, but probably not too bad. It really depends on the complexity of the case and your level of pain tolerance. In most cases, the procedure is straightforward and simple, and should only cause a moderate level of discomfort in the healing phase. If you are at all concerned about pain management, talk with your dentist about what he or she recommends.
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