Dental implants can be an excellent tooth replacement option. Providing you care for them well, as you should for your natural teeth.
Some people mistakenly think that they don’t need the same level of care as natural teeth. While it’s true that implants don’t decay, plaque (bacterial biofilm) can still form on them, leading to gum disease— just like it does on real teeth.
If dental plaque is left untreated, it can lead to inflammation around the implant. Known as peri-implantitis, this damages the supporting structures of the dental implants. This can result in implant failure or loss.
So, as you can see, dental implant care and maintenance is essential, but it needn’t be difficult. Here’s a practical guide to taking great care of your dental implants.
If you’ve invested in dental implants, you already know how they can benefit your oral health and quality of life. Your dentist or periodontist will have provided you with initial aftercare advice. Adhering to these instructions will support healing and the success of the implants.
But ultimately, the longevity of your implants comes down to good at-home oral hygiene habits.
Common areas for plaque to form include between the teeth, along the gumline, in the grooves on the roots of teeth, and on the edges of fillings and crowns. In much the same way as plaque accumulates on natural teeth, it can build up below and around the implant post and crown.
Dental implant restorations (such as bridges or single crowns) tend to have multiple parts. This means greater opportunity for plaque to build up. Extra care is needed to remove all the plaque from an implant, compared to a natural tooth. This includes:
Brushing teeth twice a day — Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the tooth enamel and protect against decay. Make sure you brush around the implant crown (pay special attention to the sides) and along the gum line.
Cleaning between the teeth — Flossing daily or using interdental brushes helps to remove plaque and other debris left between teeth and around the dental implant. This can reduce the chance of gum disease.
Alongside regular brushing and interdental cleaning, you may choose to use a mouthwash. Antimicrobial mouth rinses can help reduce bacteria and maintain a healthy oral environment around the implants. Yet, it’s not a substitute for brushing your teeth.
Usually, people need to be shown how to clean their teeth correctly—for the best results. The same goes for dental implants. Ask your dentist or periodontist to show you how to clean around your dental implant.
Book regular dental visits and hygienist appointments. Even if your at-home care is excellent, you can still benefit from professional cleaning. Your hygienist will have a range of specialised skills to effectively clean the implant and remove any plaque biofilm from hard-to-reach areas.
Regular dental appointments will also address any potential issues early. Plus, having your at-home cleaning technique assessed from time to time will ensure you’re doing a great job. After all, it is not easy to clean something you can’t see and there are many different tools to clean teeth and implants alike. Success is not usually based on what device you choose, but how you use it.
Alongside diligent daily cleaning, it’s important to consider healthy lifestyle choices.
If you smoke, it’s likely you’ll be advised to quit before dental implant surgery. Smoking reduces blood flow and affects inflammation. Both of which can interfere with the healing process. This can lead to implant failure.
Even after your implants have healed, smoking is best avoided, as it’s a leading contributor of gum disease. And the truth is, treating gum disease with implants is harder than with natural teeth.
Although (like teeth) implants are very strong, if you place too much force or pressure on them, they can break. So, it’s important to use your implants for what they’re intended—chewing food.
Your dentist should design the implant restoration in such a way that reduces the risk of overloading as much as possible. This means you should be able to chew whatever you want (within reason). Nonetheless, bad chewing habits, teeth grinding (bruxism), and even some sports, can have an impact on your dental implants. In this case, consider a customised mouthguard to protect the teeth and implants from trauma.
Dental implants can be a wonderful option for replacing missing teeth. They can restore the function of the teeth, as well as your smile confidence. However, proper dental implant maintenance is essential to prevent infection and prolong their lifespan.
Practicing good daily oral hygiene and regular dentist visits are paramount. This will help ensure your implants and surrounding teeth remain healthy and strong for many years to come.
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