Clean & Maintain Dental Implants
The look and function of dental implants may mimic your natural teeth, but their cleaning and maintenance needs are different. Natural teeth and dental implants connect to your jaw bone and gum tissue differently and each is made from different materials.
The titanium or zirconium post keep the dental implants in place in your jaw instead of the natural tooth root. The replacement teeth or the artificial crowns are attached to the implanted posts with an abutment instead of one continuous piece of tooth. The multiple pieces and places where they are attached present opportunities for bacteria and infections to grow. A natural tooth is held in its socket by a periodontal ligament which is connected to the tooth on one side and to the jaw bone on the other. The ligament is another means of protecting your tooth and its root from infection that the dental implant does not have.
Infection Is The Enemy
Regardless if the tooth is natural or is an implant supported tooth replacement, the necessity of cleaning does not change. In order for both to remain in place, the tissue surrounding the implant and the tooth root need to be healthy. Plaque can build up on crowns just as easily as it builds up on natural teeth so it needs to be removed every day. Without removing the bacterial biofilm infection can develop and turn into periodontitis or peri-implantitis, depending on the type of attachment to bone. If the tissue around the dental implant becomes infected, the implant will not remain in place and can cause further damage to the jaw bone.
When you are at the dental office for your twice-yearly appointments for cleaning, the dental hygienist takes special care to remove any infection and prevent any future infections. Depending if the plaque has calcified and hardened or if it still a biofilm, the hygienist will select different tools. The location of the debris, the actual surface where the debris and how attached the debris is to the tooth or replacement will also help determine the best tool for cleaning.
Taking care to remove the debris and ensuring the crown, the abutment, or the implant is not damaged are equally important considerations. Scratches to the surfaces, even small ones, can offer places for the bacteria to grow. Tools made from plastics and resins are effective ways to protect and clean the dental implant. Ultrasonic instruments can disrupt the plaque growth with the high frequency vibrations. When they are combined with water irrigation, the plaque is removed and flushed away to restore the implant to a healthy state.
If your implant has any exposed areas, the best way to clean them is with a brush to prevent scratching or damaging any of those surfaces. If the dental hygienist notes any build up or excess dental cement on the implant surface, then a specific tool will be chosen to clean it.
While it may seem that dental implants are more difficult to care for at home and for professional cleanings, implants have proven long term success. Just as preventing gum disease is important to maintaining good oral health, preventing peri-implant disease is important to maintaining the success rates over 95%.