Dental implants are often touted as a long-term solution to missing teeth, and for a good reason. When properly cared for, studies have shown that dental implants have a success rate of between 95% and 98% over the course of 50 years or more. For many patients, this spans the rest of their lifetime and exceeds the performance of other tooth replacement options.
There are a few factors that can cause a dental implant to fail, such as:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Incomplete fusion with the jawbone
- Peri-implantitis (gum disease around the implant site)
It is important to note that while the dental implant itself will likely never need to be replaced if well cared for, the crown attached to it might. Implants fuse with the jawbone and become part of the body, whereas crowns are exposed to daily wear and tear of eating and drinking.
Here are a few tips for maintaining dental implants following surgery:
1. Brush at least twice per day.
Just as you brush your natural teeth after meals, the same applies to your dental implant. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and make short strokes up and away from the gumline. This will help remove plaque, bacteria, and other particles from along the gums and reduce the risk of infection or irritation. It also decreases tartar buildup on the crown.
Use a soft-bristled brush and a non-abrasive toothpaste to avoid irritating your gums or the finish of your crown. You can also use an electric toothbrush if you prefer; just make sure to only apply gentle pressure.
2. Do not skip flossing.
You want to remove plaque from between your teeth to prevent infection, and this is achieved through flossing. Whether you prefer unwaxed floss, waxed floss, a floss holder, or a water flosser, they are all effective. A water flosser can enable you to clean more easily around your implant or implant-supported dentures.
Run the floss up, down, and around each tooth several times to loosen and remove plaque and food particles. If you are having trouble pushing the floss down between your teeth, a floss threader can help. This small tool allows you to thread the floss between your teeth closer to the gumline. You can also use a Proxabrush® to clean larger gaps or underneath a fixed bridge or dentures.
Daily brushing and flossing can help reduce the risk of developing peri-implantitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the tissue around an implant. If the bacteria is not removed, it can weaken the tissue and bone, increasing the possibility of implant failure.
3. Avoid chewing on non-food items.
Dental implants and crowns are durable, but they are not indestructible. Only use your teeth to chew on edible food, not other objects such as pen caps, pencils, or fingernails. Do not use your teeth to rip open bags or loosen bottle caps either, as this can damage the implant and increase the risk of failure or other complications. This is especially important in the first several months following implant surgery.
Another habit that can put your dental implants at risk is smoking. Tobacco use can negatively affect the fusion of the titanium implant with the bone and increase the risk of gum disease. Furthermore, it can lead to staining or discoloration of your teeth.
4. Follow post-operative instructions.
The first several months after dental implant surgery are crucial for the success of your implant. Follow your oral surgeon’s instructions to promote healing and prevent infection. This includes eating a soft food diet and gently cleaning around the implant site. If you have any concerns about your recovery, schedule an appointment to get further insight from your doctor.
5. Schedule bi-annual professional examinations and cleanings.
Have your dental implant examined and cleaned twice a year as you would for normal dental appointments. The dentist or hygienist has tools that can thoroughly clean around your dental implants and reduce the chance of peri-implantitis. They can identify and treat potential problems before they become more severe and put the long-term success of your implant at risk. This may include tightening or replacing a loose or damaged abutment.
In addition, they can supply feedback regarding your current care and maintenance routine and how you may be able to improve it. You want to make certain that you are doing everything right to protect your dental implant and promote good oral health between appointments.
Enhance the Longevity of Your Smile
Dental implants can empower you to maintain a full, beautiful, functional smile for a long while. To find out if dental implants are the right choice for you and learn more about proper maintenance, schedule a consultation at Clagett Dental Solutions.