How to Care for Your Dental Implant
A dental implant has one of the highest long-term success rates of all dental restorations. More than ninety percent of implants are functioning well at ten years after placement! While dental implants cannot get cavities like natural teeth can, there is some important maintenance and care essential to an implant’s long-term success.
The two most common causes of dental implant failure after initial success (meaning that we are not including a failure to attach to the jawbone) are peri-implantitis and loss of attachment due to bite problems. These are both largely preventable!
Great Oral Hygiene Prevents Peri-Implantitis
Peri-implantitis is the implant version of gum disease, which we typically refer to as periodontal disease or periodontitis. It simply means destruction of the tissues surrounding a dental implant by infection and inflammation. The disease process is almost the same around a tooth as it is around an implant.
Bacteria present in dental plaque produce toxins, which penetrate the surrounding tissues of both teeth and implants. The body’s defense against these toxins is inflammation. Acute inflammation is good because it causes noticeable symptoms to alert you that there is a problem. Acute inflammation involves redness, swelling, bleeding and tenderness. When no treatment intervenes in the inflammatory process, acute inflammation transitions into chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is bad! It causes no major symptoms, and it is destructive in nature. Most patients with peri-implantitis are completely unaware of the problem.
Your dentist or dental hygienist can catch a loss of attachment through gum measurements and dental x-rays.
We prevent peri-implantitis in the same way that we prevent periodontal disease: with great oral hygiene! If you are successfully removing dental plaque from your teeth (and your dental implants) every day, you are protecting your implant against this disease.
Because of the difference in shape between a tooth’s roots and a dental implant, it may be necessary to add some specialized tools to your oral hygiene regimen, like Gum SoftPicks or other interdental cleaners. Your dentist and dental hygienist will make customized recommendations based on your unique situation.
Consistent Follow-Up Visits Prevent Bite Problems
There is an important difference between natural teeth and dental implants that involves the bite. Natural teeth connect to the jawbone through a ligament, called the periodontal ligament. It acts as a sort of shock absorber and accounts for tiny movements of the teeth. A dental implant does not have the ligament between it and the jawbone. The implant connects directly to the jawbone with no spacer or shock absorber. Because teeth shift slightly and implants do not, the amount and direction of biting forces can change over time. Teeth will usually adapt to the minor movements, but a dental implant will not.
If an implant receives too much biting force or force from an improper angle, it can break the attachment between the implant and bone. For this reason, we recommend consistent follow-up visits with your dentist after restoring a missing tooth with a dental implant.
An important part of your follow-up maintenance on a dental implant is evaluating and adjusting the bite forces as needed. This can usually be accomplished during your professional teeth cleaning visits.
If you notice any changes in the way the teeth or dental implant bite together, make sure to inform Dr. Chowning. He can make important changes to the bite to protect that connection between the implant and bone.
More Questions About Keeping Your Dental Implant as Long as Possible?
Call Timberlake Dental 940-382-1750 today to schedule an implant consultation with Dr. Chowning. He is a dental implant expert and can answer any questions you have about dental implants in general or assess your specific situation.
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