If you have a dental implant, you have already discovered how lifelike and comfortable this type of tooth-replacement option can be. In fact, you may not even really be aware of your implant anymore; to you, it’s simply a tooth like any other. Still, it’s important to keep in mind a few things about implant care so the investment you have made in your smile will last as long as possible.
Once an implant is functioning properly in a person’s mouth, the biggest enemy is infection — in particular a bacterial infection known as peri-implantitis (“peri” – around; implant “itis” – inflammation). This infection can cause the supporting bone around your implant to deteriorate, which will eventually cause loss of the implant. The good news is this infection is pretty easy to avoid.
Working as a team, you and our dental hygienist can make sure your mouth stays healthy and your implant retains its attachment to the bone for a lifetime. The key is to prevent biofilm (plaque) from building up in your mouth. Your job is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine at home with daily brushing and flossing, and to come in to our office regularly for professional cleanings. The hygienist’s job is to remove any buildup of plaque and tartar (hardened deposits) beyond the reach of your brush and floss.
To do this, she will use special instruments that won’t scratch the crown on top of the implant or the abutment (connector) between implant and crown. This is important because a scratched surface can harbor bacteria. The metal instruments used to clean natural teeth are not appropriate for the highly polished surfaces of the crown and abutment. Power instruments can be used on implants with nylon or plastic sheaths on the tip and lots of water irrigation to clean and flush debris.
In spite of these cleaning challenges, implants are highly successful and, in fact, the best option for replacing teeth today. Studies have shown the success rate of dental implants to be over 95% — far greater than any other tooth-replacement method.