Dental implants are considered to be a remarkable replacement for damaged or missing natural teeth. The implants are fitted and then essentially only you and your dentist will know that the implants are there—such is the natural appearance of the end result. While the aesthetic effect of implants is obvious, what about when it comes to eating? Can you simply have your implants fitted and then it will be as though your natural teeth have been restored? When it comes to eating with your new dental implants, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
The Three Parts of an Implant
Your implants are fitted in stages. A metal screw is inserted into your jaw, and then your bone fuses to this screw. Some time is required for this fusing process to take place, and the amount of time varies from person to person. Once the implant has fused with your jaw bone, a metal abutment is attached to the tip of the screw, and then the prosthetic tooth (which has been made during the healing process) is fitted. Eating can be somewhat problematic during the first stages of the implant, but there are ways around this.
In the days and weeks after the screw has been implanted, you will need to look after it as you would with any type of oral surgery. It might be slightly sore and swollen, but this will quickly subside. Avoid food and drink that is overly hot or cold. A piping hot cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream might make for an uncomfortable experience. You will be able to enjoy these items again as the tissues immediately around the implant heal. As you will have a section of exposed gum before the process has been completed, you might wish to clean the teeth around the site of the surgery with a soft toothbrush to minimise any discomfort.
Once the abutment and prosthetic tooth has been fitted, you will be able to enjoy all the hard foods that were previously difficult to eat—after a short waiting period. Your molars have a bite force of up to 122 kg. With dentures, this bite pressure is reduced to between one fourth and one fifth of the pressure possible with natural teeth, which is why dental implants are such an effective replacement for natural teeth. Dental implants will restore your bite pressure to that of natural teeth, but this effect might not be immediate. Even after the implant has been completed there might be a short waiting period while the entire unit (screw, abutment, prosthetic tooth) settles. Ask your dentist when your bite pressure will be returned to normal. You don't want to jeopardise your implants by placing too much pressure on them too soon.
When your natural bite pressure has been restored, you will be able to enjoy all those delicious foods that were once problematic. Flossing around the implant can take a little getting used to. While the prosthetic tooth has been constructed to be an exact replica of the tooth it's replacing, there might be a fraction of a difference in size. While you should still be able to floss around the prosthetic tooth, you might be working with a slightly decreased gap. The prosthetic tooth cannot decay, although food debris can still cause damage to your remaining natural teeth. If you find flossing to be difficult, you might wish to invest in a water flosser which sprays a jet of water between your teeth to dislodge any debris.
Eating with your implants (and keeping the area around them clean) is not going to pose any major difficulties. Having said that, it's important to eat appropriately after receiving the implants to ensure their longevity, as well as to spare you any discomfort.