Clean and Maintain Dental Implants

A dental implant is a long-term solution for replacing a missing tooth. Dental implants are metal or ceramic posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone. This secure placement means implants are designed to act like the root of a natural tooth supporting an artificial crown attached on top. Due to the stability and durability they offer, dental implants have become increasingly popular among adults in the United States. Another added benefit that is less often considered or discussed about dental implants is the low maintenance that is required compared to alternative tooth replacement options. Below is more information on dental implant maintenance and cleaning.

Taking Care of Implants

Cleaning dental implants is just as important as cleaning your natural teeth. Bacterial biofilm, called plaque, collects on implant crowns just like it does on natural teeth. The goal of daily brushing and flossing is to remove this plaque on a daily basis at home. Without a daily hygiene practice, infection can develop and quickly lead to bone loss around an affected implant. Bone loss can progress to implant complication and failure.
To avoid problems after dental surgery and ensure the success of a dental implant, it is critical to follow post-surgery instructions. After being surgically placed in the jawbone, dental implants and the tissues surrounding the implant require the same regular cleaning as natural teeth. Additionally, it is important to maintain routine dental check-ups and professional dental cleanings.

Professional Cleaning of Dental Implants

Even though dental implants provide a replacement that looks just like a natural tooth, and that you can treat like a natural tooth, a professional cleaning for a dental implant will be a bit different. Cleaning around dental implants is different from cleaning around natural teeth for two reasons:

  1. Implants and teeth attach to surrounding bone and gums in a very different way
  2. Implants are made from different materials than natural teeth

During the professional dental cleaning, the dental hygienist has an important role in keeping dental implants infection-free. Often this means the dental hygienist will use different tools to clean the implant than they will the natural teeth. The factors they will consider in selecting tools include:

  • the nature of the debris around the implant, meaning whether it is soft (biofilm, foods) or hard (calculus or tartar)
  • the location of the plaque or buildup
  • the type of surface on which the plaque is accumulating
  • how stuck or difficult to remove the buildup is

Your dental hygienist will use care in selecting instruments that will not damage the crown, abutment, or the implant itself. Also, maintaining the highly polished, smooth surface of the abutment and crown is critical, not just for appearance, but also for the prevention of infection. A scratched crown will attract and collect bacteria. Natural teeth don't scratch in the same way as crowns, so different tools can be used on natural teeth. There are a number of ultrasonic instruments with nylon or plastic sheaths or tips to reduce the risk of damaging or scratching the implant. These tools clean the implant using high-frequency vibration, which may also help to remove large quantities of debris.

In general, dental implants require little additional maintenance and cleaning. To keep your dental implants clean, daily brushing and flossing are a must as are regular professional dental cleanings.

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