Headaches After Receiving A Dental Implant: A Cause For Concern?

Dental implants involve a small surgical procedure, and it's unrealistic to assume that you won't need any recovery time. The implantation of the titanium alloy screw in your jaw is a moderately demanding time for your body, and you'll need adequate time to recuperate. This involves a day or two of rest (requiring time off work, with no arduous physical activity). You can also expect some discomfort, swelling, and even light bruising. But what about headaches? 

Not Out of the Ordinary

A mild headache isn't out of the ordinary during your recovery. It's not a primary headache (originating in your actual head), but is a secondary headache—your body's reaction to the installation of the implant. You will already be taking pain relief during the healing process, and this should effectively manage your headache as well. Any headaches should taper off in their intensity, before fading away entirely as you recover. So why might your headaches be lingering after your implant surgery?

Postoperative Complication

Continuing (and worsening) headaches can indicate a problem that warrants further investigation by the dentist who installed your dental implant. When the headache is combined with discomfort (and inflammation) centered around the implant site, you may be experiencing a postoperative complication. Peri-implant mucositis affects the soft tissues around the implant, and can become more serious—disrupting the implant's connection with the underlying bone. The implant itself may need debridement to remove the bacteria causing the problem, and you will need to be very vigilant with your oral hygiene (your dentist can give you precise instructions, if there's any confusion). In this instance, the headache is secondary to your postoperative infection.

Sinus Irritation

But there may also be headaches that linger even when the implant itself appears to be healing well. An implant in your upper jaw (maxilla) may have irritated your sinus cavity, or even breached it. This can create nerve damage, experienced both as a headache and sinus discomfort. Any suspected damage to your sinus cavity must be urgently investigated, and may require implant removal. After assessment and any required healing, your dental implant can be replaced—possibly involving selection of a different form of implant to prevent the issue from bothering you again.

Teeth Grinding

Anyone who grinds their teeth may be at risk of worsening headaches after receiving a dental implant. Grinding (known as bruxism) can lead to severe headaches, and the addition of the implant may worsen matters. If you grind your teeth due to a misalignment of your jaw, the implant itself can ultimately correct this. However, you may need a lightweight overnight retainer to prevent you from physically grinding your teeth together (which will jeopardize the implant), and the situation will need to be monitored. 

Mild, fleeting headaches shouldn't come as a surprise after receiving a dental implant, but when they don't seem to be getting any better, it's a smart idea to be cautious, and discuss the issue with your dentist.