How Painful are Dental Implants?

Pain is a common concern among individuals who are considering dental implants. As with any major dental procedure (or surgery in general), some discomfort is to be expected during the recovery process since it is a surgery that typically involves removing teeth, cutting gums, drilling into the jawbone and inserting a titanium post. It must be planned and executed carefully so complications, side effects and unnecessary pain can be avoided which is why finding a quality dentist is so important.

In This Guide

The procedure itself is not painful since it is performed with either general or local anesthesia to completely numb your mouth. If you’re anxious about the discomfort during the procedure and being aware of the drilling noises and forces being applied to your mouth, ask your dentist about the available sedative options and suggest that you be put to sleep.

Pain due to implantOnce the numbness wears off, however, pain is one of the first things you’ll notice. While a small number of patients experience a considerable amount of discomfort after the surgery (usually due to a complication or failed implant), most people find it and recovery not nearly as painful as they expected it to be. Depending on where it was placed, discomfort can also be felt in the chin, cheeks or underneath the eyes. Patients say that the aching they experience is roughly the same as after having a root canal done or getting a tooth pulled. Overall, patients report that the results are well worth the process.

What is the Procedure Like?

Dental surgery general anesthesiaThe procedure should be completely trouble-free, but there can be some discomfort. Your surgeon will perform the operation with local or general anesthesia so that your gums and jaw are completely numb. You might hear/feel the tools being used, but no agony should be experienced. Those who have a phobia of dental/surgical procedures can opt for general anesthesia (injected or inhaled), which allows them to be unconscious the entire time. Sedatives can help you relax if you are nervous about procedure. Also, it is important to have some way of communicating with the surgeon if the anesthetic wears off while they are being installed. While this is extremely rare, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Factors That Affect the Level of Discomfort

The complexity of the operation can impact the amount of soreness. Having a bone graft or sinus lift done before your surgery will typically cause additional tenderness afterwards. You may also experience side effects such as bruising, swelling and bleeding to a certain degree depending on your gum and bone health. The experience varies from person to person and so does how quickly they heal.

How to Prevent or Relieve it

There are a number of ways to minimize the soreness you experience during the 7 to 10 day healing period after.

  • Most importantly, find a dentist or surgeon who has extensive training and experience. I highly advise against choosing the dentist who offers the lowest prices.
  • Follow the post-procedure instructions that you are given carefully.
  • Your dentist will recommend that you take painkillers following the procedure to alleviate the discomfort. Ibuprofen is typically recommended. If you choose to take it, you should take around 600mg every eight hours or so. If this does not relieve your pain, tell the dentist so they can prescribe something stronger.
  • Used an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables) to reduce the swelling. Apply it to your cheek or lip as soon as you can after you get home.
  • Bathe (don’t swish or gargle) your gums in warm salt water.
  • Avoid solid/hard foods to prevent irritation. Cold and soft foods like ice cream, smoothies and yogurt are ideal.
  • Pay extra special attention to your oral hygiene.
  • If the pain gets worse, lasts longer than it should or is abnormally strong, contact a medical professional immediately to avoid serious problems.
  • Get plenty of rest and don’t do anything strenuous to let the healing process do its thing.

Ice Pack for Pain

Almost all of the swelling should be gone in the first 3-5 days after the surgery and the pain should be almost completely gone after 7-10 days.

Problems That Cause Additional Discomfort

There are a number of possible complications that can arise during and after surgery that can cause additional discomfort.

  • Loose healing cap – The small screw that is placed in the top of the implant while the gum is healing becomes loose. The cap must be removed, cleaned and re-fitted.
  • Loose implant – Insufficient bone volume, external pressures/forces and more can cause it to become loose. It must be removed in most cases.
  • Bone burn – In rare cases, the heat of the drill can damage the bone surrounding the post. The prosthetic and dead bone must be removed.
  • Infection – Gum or bone can become infected. This can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Nerve damage/pressure – A nerve is damaged by the drilling or the post is placed too close to it. Artificial tooth must be removed and redone if it is safe to do so.
  • Rejection – The patient’s body rejects the implant. Solutions include trying another type or an alternative solution.

If you notice any signs of swelling, infection or irritation after the timelines mentioned above, you should seek medical attention. They can check the implants and surrounding gum tissue and repair and minor problems. If these signs last for more than two or three weeks then something might be wrong with it.

With plenty of rest, painkillers, and ice packs, you should be able to minimize the amount of pain you experience after your surgery. A few days of pain and discomfort is a small price to pay for long-term dental health and a great looking smile.

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13 thoughts on “How Painful are Dental Implants?

  1. I had (2) single dental implants with bone grafting.
    It was #5 and the tooth exactly across from #5.
    I was not given antibiotics during teeth pulled and grafting.
    I then got an ear ache (that did not look red to doctors), but it was chronic on the right side. An ENT called me and said to “call your dental surgeon because I think your implant could be the problem.”
    He was right! 3 months later, #5 failed. The crown had been put on after it failed.
    IT HURTS LIKE HELL if you get bone grafting. If you get an earache, that does not “look red” to any doctor, then this could be a “red flag” for a possible failed grafting.
    I am so angry that he disregarded the agony I endured and my blood pressure was 145/110, and even that, did not concern him.
    I vomited on: amoxicillan and then clindamycin when the implants were drilled in. ( I had #5 redone the next year due to infection)
    Finally, three days after #5 was redone, Z-pack (3 day dose) stayed down, but I had gone 3 days, as the others made me puke.
    The dental surgeon said: ” it did not go very well, I really struggled”.
    If the second try also fails, he has no back up plan, and I am out $13,000.00 plus, over 18 months of pain and infections.
    We are not all the same. Those that have grafting, HAVE MORE PAIN.
    If their office does not like prescribing for people in this category, then tell us upfront, so we can go elsewhere. My surgeon said nothing and he knows I am allergic to all NSAIDS. He told me: “you could stop breathing”. Yeah if I take the whole bottle, maybe. Prescribing for a week, should not be a scary ordeal, so ask upfront.
    I would have never picked the person who I did, had I known he was so callous.
    The whole right side of my face, temple, and eye, throbbed, and my eye kept tearing. I became light sensitive, (like a migraine) for 10 long days and nights.
    My primary care doctor told me to get a new dentist.
    He only had “nitrous oxide” when he had to “redo” #5. Before that, IV sedation was required, as he has a traveling “IV” doctor come in. (a separate bill)
    I think IV sedation is necessary, because he told me, he gives a boost at the end of long lasting novocaine, that lasts up to 6 hours later.
    Once the “nitrous” was shut off, the pain was immediate and terrible.
    He never asked me, on a scale of 1-10, what is your pain level?
    Is that not the protocol?
    Our pain is ONLY managed while we are in the office and once we leave, too bad for you?
    If you do NOT need bone grafting, go for it. If you do need it, BEWARE of the worst pain ever.
    I had a 4 level cervical fusion from a prior drunk driver, so I fall into the “chronic pain” patient. The “IV sedation” doctor, TRIED relaying this to the surgeon, but he would not budge on giving someone allergic to NSAIDS, ANY pain narcotic pain medication.
    The “post op care” paperwork, says: “take your narcotic pain medication as directed”.
    I asked them, “why is that written if you do not prescribe anything?”
    “Oh it does say that doesn’t it”, was the response.
    Talk about fraudulent post of instructions.
    I consider them a CYA office. Its all about them, being comfortable, not you~

  2. If you are having implant surgery for attached or snap in dentures be prepared! A few hours after the surgery and all the drugs wore off it was the most excruciating pain and the longest recovery I have ever been through. Seriously, a heart attack was less painful! When I had my remaining 27 teeth removed I thought that was painful and complained when I was on soft food for 3 days! That was a walk in the park compared with implant surgery. With the implant surgery it was a week on a liquid diet and another week of super soft food. The amount of bone they have to remove on the lower jaw seems like a ton to get the bone nice and flat (I was horrified when I saw how much bone had to be removed), the excess tissue is removed including excess tissue under the tongue; so you have stitches not only on your gums, but along the bottom of your tongue too making moving your tongue painful.

    Be prepared to not wear dentures for 14 days during the initial healing and be prepared for your old dentures never fitting ever again. My old standard dentures (which are now a back-up pair for when my snap in ones need new metal sockets) have a cross bite under bite after implant surgery. Also be prepared to use your dentures only for eating and if you go out somewhere during the 4 months it takes for the bone to grow into the implant (don’t even think of going out to a restaurant either.)

    But is all the pain, the trouble, the time without dentures, the 4 months of wearing dentures only to eat while the implants and bone become one worth it? YES!!!!! To have snap in dentures that feel like you actually have natural teeth, to eat raw apples, to have dentures that are flat and don’t cover your gums nor the roof of your mouth, to have dentures that don’t need relines and adjustments every 3 months, to get rid of all that bulk in your mouth, to be able to talk like I don’t have marbles in my mouth all the time, and to taste food again is well worth the terrible agonizing pain!

    • Bryan I just had this done . I’m hoping it gets easier to snap dentures in and out. I think maybe the pain I’m going through might be one reason I have so much trouble.


  3. My implants were the easiest thing I’ve ever had done to my mouth other than cleaning of teeth. I wasn’t put to sleep and was not in a lot of pain if any. My procedure was done years ago and I’ve had no problems at all. As well I forgot whether there were pain or not. I was shocked to learn that some people are put to sleep and some have a lot of pain.

  4. I just had 6 upper teeth pulled and 6 implants put in. I am 8 days out and the pain is just now wearing diwn. I didn’t sleepfor 5 days and it was a nightmare.
    I know it will be worth it, but I don’t want to eat very soft food for 2-3 months. But that is the procedure during the healing phase. I have a temporary upper bridge screwed in but it is only for looks.
    I’m a 68 yr. old woman who should have done this years ago.

  5. I had two lower implants placed to relace a bridge.. Just local anesthetic used! It was easy i had really no discomfort or any issues! I had my husband do two implants one on 14 & 3 and ge was a baby! He had an IV sedation and sued thats the worst thing hes ever done! I think everyones situation and tolerence levels are vastly different! We both have great teeth and visit our hygienist regularly.

  6. I had 1 upper tooth implant and 2 lower teeth implant. For the upper implant I didnot feel any pain but for the lower implant i had a very bad pain feeling for 7 days. now it is getting better, but im so worried about it.. i dont know if the pain is normal or no?????

  7. I’m 25, pretty young for an implant, but my natural tooth decayed under a filling that I ignored the pain on for over a year. Even my dentist said she couldn’t see anything when I would ask. Anyway I had number 18 pulled in october, had dry socket occur which is not pleasant, but all healed just fine. Due to my age I was able the regenerate quite a bit of bone, but I still had to have a graft done when I went in for the implant on monday…3 days ago. I had general through an iv and really that’s the way to go, plus I had a jaw block injected I think because I wasn’t in pain at all for 24 hours. This is slightly more tender than the tooth pulling experience, more swollen, but not anywhere as bad as the blinding pain of dry socket. It feels like a tooth ache but it’s not getting in the way really. For me, since I am young, getting this done was worth it, I’ll have this tooth my whole life I hope. Currently as I write this I have no pain but it does come and go and I was given pain killers.

  8. I just had an implant done on #10 on February 9, 2016. I have 0 tolerance for pain, so Yes, I elected to have IV sedation. Best thing was, my oral surgeon, didn’t even charge for it! I had wisdom teeth removed last year and had to use IV sedation, I was charged for that, but for the implant, he DID NOT charge. Sweet!!! I experienced some bleeding due to my retainer pressing up against the area where my “newly” placed implant is. But, I went back for 1 week follow up appointment on February 15 and all is well. I’m not looking forward to the next step, he said it would be like a paper cut, but to me, that sounds like receiving a cut from a cesarean birth(I know, I’m being dramatic) but I don’t do well with pain!!! Can anyone tell me what to expect from the next level of my implant journey? Thanks in advance.

  9. I just had my first experience with a dental implant today. It was performed on my lower jaw; the tooth right next to where my wisdom tooth used to be. I also want to note that I did NOT need bone grafting. Let me just say that I do not handle dental procedures well. The anxiety of it all makes me cry, shake and just generally freak out. I was placed in a surgical room and my eyes were covered for protection. I was awake, and just had general anesthesia (where they just numb your gums, lip and cheek to the point where you feel like you lost a fight). ;) There was no pain and the entire procedure lasted no more than 10 minutes. All I felt throughout the procedure was a little bit of vibrating (no drilling sounds, and certainly nothing that sounded scary). There was nothing traumatic about the experience at all and I felt quite dumb for reacting the way I did prior to the procedure. They inserted the titanium rod into my jaw and placed the cap on top of it to aid the gums in healing properly around it. The cap is even with my gumline. I was given antibiotics and 800mg of Motrin. They suggest starting the pain meds before the numbness wears off and I made sure to do that. Keeping ice packs on your face helps too. In 4 months, I can start the procedure for getting my crown. It has been 7 hours since the procedure and 5 hours since I’ve taken Motrin. The numbness wore off about 3 hours ago and I am doing well. My jaw is slightly sore but I do not feel that I need another Motrin (yet). I have been at work all day after having this done at 7:30 this morning. Would I rather be in bed sleeping? Of course! But my point is, I made it thru the day just fine. In my opinion, this is much easier than a root canal and definitely nowhere near as traumatic as a tooth extraction! If you’re having any kind of anxiety about this particular procedure, I hope my experience has helped ease your mind a bit.

  10. I am due to get the 2nd part of my implants taken care of later this week. My gum has healed over top of the two implant posts. What kind of pain should I expect? I am mentally not thrilled knowing that my gum is going to be required to be ‘opened’ and/or cut.

    • Had 2 implants done 9 years ago in Costa Rica.

      Zero pain during the implant and bone process and almost zero for 8 hours after the operation and then nothing at all. I wanted to be knocked out but was told it’d be another $1,000. I told them “It’s OK I can do with a local” LOL.

      Went back 6 months later for the abutments and crowns (that’s how long it took for the bone grafts to “take” back then. Now I understand it’s a lot shorter (2-3 months)) .

      A little local and ZERO pain afterward.

  11. I just got back from Cancun. I had 19 teeth pulled and implants put in. I told the dentist that I didn’t want all my gums showing when I smiled so he cut into the gums and shaved the bone so you can’t see my gums when I smile.
    I did this on Monday and was there from 10AM until 6PM that night. I didn’t feel any pain at all. I went back on Wednesday and was there about the same amount of time no pain. I thought this is great . Then it hit me the pain is so bad that I can’t eat anything except liquid or mashed potatoes.The pain isn’t bad if I don’t do anything like eat or drink. I went in a total of 5 times. The teeth look great and I have never been taken care of like I was there they are amazing.
    I got there on the 20th of March started the 21st and got back home on the 29th. I read where someone wrote that it took him 16 weeks to not feel pain in his gums wow that’s scary.
    I just have to think about how good they look and so far went from 190lbs down to 182lbs I did do a lot of walking .
    I don’t care what you read think about what you want and understand that there will be a lot of pain but hey you’ll look good and loose weight.

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