Dental implant maintenance refers to the scheduled, in-office care for your dental implant(s). When done in conjunction with regular, at-home oral health care, dental implant maintenance ensures that your implant is in good working condition. A dental implant checkup also gives your periodontist or prosthetic dentist the opportunity to spot and address any potential issues that may cause problems in the future.
For many patients, dental implants offer a fresh start – one that restores the ability to smile, talk, and chew with confidence.
With proper care, implants can be a permanent solution to common as well as complex periodontal diseases and disorders alike. However, even though regular brushing and flossing are part of the oral health care routine, implant patients should also schedule regular maintenance appointments with their doctor.
Like any other regularly scheduled dental appointment, your dental implant checkup will begin with a thorough exam of your mouth, with particular attention to the implant and surrounding bone and tissue.
During the exam, your doctor and dental hygienist will look for notable changes around your implant, such as development of gum pockets, bleeding, infection, improper alignment, shifting, or loose fitting. They will also check in general for signs of periodontal or peri-implant diseases or other oral health concerns, including tooth wear, gum recession, or oral cancer. Additionally, if signs or symptoms of excess tooth wear are noted, your doctor may recommend an occlusal guard or “night guard”. This guard is routinely made of a hard or semi-hard acrylic material, made for one arch (jaw), fits securely to the teeth, and has a flat surface. It’s purpose is to prevent teeth from being in contact while sleeping, which decreases muscle strain and prevents tooth or implant fracture or bone loss which can lead to tooth or implant loss.
During your appointment, your doctor may also take radiographs, a type of x-ray that allows them to examine the structure and integrity of your implant below the gumline. These are also commonly used to identify shifts or other changes that may occur between appointments.
Regular home care and scheduled dental implant maintenance go hand in hand in keeping your dental implant intact and your mouth healthy. Your periodontist and dental hygienist will use specific tools, like those mentioned above, to care for, clean, and examine your mouth.
While at home, use these tips to ensure proper care:
- Use the right toothbrush: Avoid using a hard-bristle toothbrush, as they can scratch and damage your teeth or implant. Instead, look for a nylon brush with soft, pliable bristles. If you’re unsure whether your toothbrush is appropriate, consult your doctor.
- Floss regularly. Flossing, or use of special “inter-tooth brushes”, should be part of any oral health care regiment, but it is even more important for dental implant patients. Food particles and plaque that get stuck in or around your implant can cause gum disease and reduce the longevity of your implants.
- Choose basic fluoride based or sensitive oral health care solutions: When choosing toothpaste and mouthwash, look for products with stannous or sodium fluoride or those designated as “sensitive” when possible. Other products may contain chemicals that are harsh on your teeth or implant.
- Avoid problem foods. Hard and sticky foods, like gummy candies and chips, can damage your implants. That doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to your favorite snacks forever, but it’s important to limit them and eat with caution.
The short and long-term effects of dental implant maintenance are clear: a healthy mouth and an implant that maintains function and integrity for years to come.
When you don’t follow a regular implant maintenance schedule, the consequences are often oral health issues that can have immediate and long-lasting effects on your implant as well as your entire mouth.
In the short term, poor care can lead to implant related gum disease (mucositis), a condition resulting in sore, inflamed, or bleeding gums around the implant. If left untreated, the mucositis can lead to bone and tissue loss (peri-implantitis) and eventually implant removal.
Your best bet at preserving the integrity of your implant and oral health is to schedule maintenance appointments. If you experience any issues, like bleeding or discomfort, between visits, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment. Early intervention and regular maintenance are the keys to long-term dental implant health.
Dental implants have high success rates and can help patients restore and maintain their oral health, but only if the implants are maintained properly. While a dentist can successfully perform regular maintenance on your teeth and high-level care for your implant, periodontists are expertly-trained to care for implants. They can easily spot and effectively address issues with the implant or the soft and hard tissue surrounding it.
Regular maintenance appointments are an integral to your health and the longevity of your oral health. If you have dental implants, you ideally should visit your periodontist every three to four months or follow the maintenance schedule recommended by your doctor. If you haven’t had a maintenance appointment but have implant, it’s important to schedule one as soon as possible.
Dr. Bonacci and his team can work with you to ensure that your dental implant and the surrounding issue remains healthy and that your oral health investment serves you for years to come. Call today to schedule a maintenance appointment.