Ask Dr. Parker: How to Maintain a Dental Implant?

November 20, 2015

take care of implantsDental implants are the closest thing you can get to having real, permanent teeth. A popular alternative to removable bridges or dentures, dental implants (specifically the screw) are actually absorbed by your jawbone through a process called osseointegration. This means the implant (crown, titanium screw, and abutment) remains unmovable, just like a genuine tooth with a root.

Care of dental implants involves good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing, flossing, and using a fluoridated rinse, as well as seeing a dentist every six months for a checkup and professional, dental implant cleaning. How well you pursue maintenance of your dental implants essentially determines how long your implant will last.

How Important Is Dental Implant Cleaning?

Cleaning dental implants differs from the type of cleaning you receive for your real teeth because implant materials do not resemble tooth enamel (outer layer of the tooth). In addition, an implant is attached to your gums and jawbone differently than the way your teeth are attached to tissue and bone. For example, the lower part of the implant crown (tooth) and the abutment remain attached to your gums via an epithelial attachment — a specialized structure composed of cells that adhere to polished ceramic using tiny “suction pads.”

Unless thoroughly cleaned with special dental tools, your dental implant and the tissues it relies on for support will suffer bacteria and biofilm (plaque) buildup. If not removed, this biofilm may cause an inflammatory condition of the implant’s surrounding gum tissues called peri-implantitis. This is a serious infection that can lead to bone loss around the implant.

What Kind of Tools Are Used for a Professional Dental Implant Cleaning?

To avoid damaging your dental implant’s abutment and crown during in-office maintenance of dental implants, we use special dental tools called curettes and scalers, which are made from materials that cannot scratch implants. While we use metal instruments to clean your real teeth, dental implant cleaning tools are constructed of resins or plastic compounds that safely remove biofilm without damaging your dental implant.

 What Are the Signs of a Dental Implant Infection?

If you can see the root replacement part (implant body), this may indicate an ongoing infection has caused gum loss or possibly bone loss. Implant surfaces become exposed when fusion of the implant to the bone is compromised by infection, normally due to lack of proper dental implant cleaning.

Specialized dental brushes can remove biofilm of an implant’s exposed areas. If dental adhesive is found on the implant surface, we’ll also need to completely clean the surface before repairing the dental implant.

Although dental implants present a few cleaning challenges, they are highly successful as alternatives to bridges or dentures. With excellent care, you can expect your dental implant to last 20 years or more.

Contact Dr. Parker and AZ Family Dental to learn more about dental implant maintenance.

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