Dental implants are one option to replace missing teeth. Dental implants act like replacements for tooth roots and your dentist can attach a cap (crown) or other tooth replacement restoration to replace one or more teeth. While dental implants cannot get tooth decay (cavities), they may experience gum disease and bone loss (or periimplantitis) if bacterial plaque builds up around implants. The bacteria in dental plaque can make toxins that cause inflammation in your gums and bone. This can lead to swelling, bleeding, gum recession, loss of the bone around implants, and even implant loosening or loss of the implant. In fact, dental implants may be more likely to experience gum and bone loss than your natural teeth! Because of this, it is important that you visit your dental office and receive regular maintenance cleanings and examinations to maintain implant health.
In good health and with diligent oral hygiene dental implants can last many years in health and function. However, in the absence of oral hygiene or in medically compromised patients such as diabetes, patients who are smokers, or have compromised immune systems leading to inflammation and bone loss will decrease the life of implants. Implants can develop a form of gum inflammation that is similar to gingivitis, called peri-implant mucositis. This is reversible, but it is harder to treat when compared to gingivitis around teeth. If peri-implant mucositis is left untreated, it can progress and lead to bone loss around the implants. This is called peri-implantitis and can lead to implant loss over time. To prevent the progression of gum disease around dental implants, your dental healthcare professional can use special tools and techniques in their office to make sure to remove bacterial plaque, tartar (calculus), or other debris on the dental implants. If your dental healthcare professional notices that you have developed bone loss around your implant (peri-implantitis), they may recommend more advanced treatment including: deep cleaning (scaling and root planing), laser therapy, placing antibiotics in between the implant and your gum tissues, or surgery to repair the area.
Generally, implants require maintenance cleaning and examinations more frequently than healthy teeth. If your implants are healthy, your dental team may recommend that you receive cleanings every 3 months for the first year after your restoration was attached to the implant and then every 4-6 months after that. For implants with gum disease, or if you have risk factors for gum and bone loss around implants, your dental team may recommend more frequent visits for the life of the implant.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are posts, or anchors, that are surgically implanted into the jawbone and fulfil the role that the root did in the original teeth. Once the dental implants are in place, false teeth are attached to them.
Tips to keep your implants healthy:
Ask your dental healthcare professional for specific cleaning recommendations and written instructions for how to care for your dental implants.
Make sure that you are cleaning around your implants at least twice daily as recommended by your dental team.
Consider using specialized cleaning tools to clean around dental implants because implants tend to be smaller and have a different shape than the teeth they are replacing.
Visit your dental team regularly so that they can evaluate the health and function of your dental implants and provide professional cleanings.