In the past, if you experienced dental issues where one or more of your teeth fell out, there were few options available to fully replace those teeth. Until relatively recently, the only choice was to either obtain a bridge, partial dentures, or full set of dentures to address the dental situation. Unfortunately, all of these options allow your jawbone to continually deteriorate from lack of use. After the bone material deteriorates, buildup can only be performed through surgical bone restoration procedures.
Amazingly, modern dental procedures now allow for the installation of dental implants that act just like natural teeth. With these dental prosthetics installed, your jawbone density remains healthy, and the implants effectively support your natural ability to chew and talk. Although the implants don’t decay like natural teeth, they do require regular care to remain in optimal condition over the years.
Differences from Natural Teeth
The main difference between dental implants and natural teeth is the material used for their construction. Natural teeth are bony growths while implants consist of metal materials. The use of metal for the implants means the material cannot decay and develop cavities. These metal teeth don’t wear down like regular teeth can.
Researchers experimented with several materials to create these dental implants before settling on the ones used today. Vitreous carbon and pure titanium were initially considered to be the frontrunners for implant construction. Unfortunately, these materials were found to be too brittle or too soft, respectively, to adequately function under the demands of natural teeth.
Instead, researchers switched to incredibly strong and stable titanium alloy, which is often used for joint replacement surgeries due to its low risk of rejection. For individuals seeking an alternative material option, it is possible to find zirconium implants that share properties with ceramic, but without the brittle structure. Both titanium and zirconium implants easily fuse with bone material to become a permanent piece of your jawbone over time. There are plenty of different dental implant options available to suit your personal needs.
Despite resistance to cavities, it is still important to brush and floss your dental implants every day. You may need to use an electric toothbrush to deep clean the metal surface and restore its beautiful finish. Otherwise, the plaque buildup could calcify, changing the texture and color of your implants. If you still have natural teeth in your mouth, you should continue using toothpaste with fluoride, as it will not damage the implant materials. The fluoride will help keep your natural teeth from developing harmful cavities.
You will also want to use interproximal brushes to clean between your implants and your natural teeth on a nightly basis. These small brushes reach into deep crevices to keep food and plaque buildup from impacting the overall health and appearance of your mouth. Flossing keeps your gums healthy and removes the food buildup that can cause bad breath. You should floss deep into the gum line to also minimize the chances of developing gum disease. You can also use individual flossers after meals to keep your breath smelling fresh.
Switch to an oral irrigation system if you cannot easily work the floss between your teeth and beneath your gum line. The oral irrigation system shoots a pressurized stream of water around your gums to remove the same debris as regular floss. This tool allows you to access even the most difficult spots.
Even after acquiring a full set of dental implants, you must continue professional teeth cleanings twice a year. Your dental hygienist will thoroughly polish the implant surfaces to remove any plaque buildup missed during home brushing and flossing sessions. At this appointment, your dentist will perform an examination to verify the health of your gums and the condition of your implants. If any problems are noted, you can discuss a suitable treatment plan at that time.
More than 95 percent of dental implants are successful – as implant rejection or other types of surgical failures are exceeding rare. Most complications appear during the recovery period – well after the implant procedure. Possible complications may include the following.
- Nerve damage
- Sinus problems
- Adjacent tooth instability
- Implant gingivitis
Upon making a full recovery from the implant procedure, lingering risks and complications can stem from a lack of proper implant care. Although the implants are made from metal, you still have to consider the health and wellbeing of your gums and bone material when adhering to a cleaning regimen.
Peri-implantitis, in particular, is an infection of the gums and jawbone that can destroy the natural tissues holding the implant in place. This condition can occur well after the implants fuse with the jawbone, so strict oral care routines remain incredibly important throughout your entire life.
The initial warning sign that an infection is developing around the implant is pain and inflammation of the gums. You may notice your gums look red and inflamed at first. Pain may only be noticeable when you touch the soft tissues with your finger or tongue. Eventually, you may notice increased pain while eating, especially with chewy or hard foods.
As the infection continues to worsen, it may start to deteriorate the jawbone. Since the jawbone anchors the implant in place, the deterioration could cause the implant to loosen. Without treatment from a dentist, the infection could lead to loss of the implant. Severe infections also have the chance of moving into the brain tissue or bloodstream.
Unlike periodontitis, a similar infection of the gums, it is not possible to resolve the condition by deep cleaning the teeth or gums. Furthermore, attempts to eradicate the infectious material using air or laser abrasion tools have proven ineffective.
Instead, dentists have to perform surgical therapy to introduce antimicrobial treatments below the gum line. By targeting the infection directly, your dentist has the best chance at reversing the condition and saving your implants. These surgical repairs may need to be repeated more than once to fully eliminate the infectious material and restore the health of your gums and jawbone.
By properly caring for your dental implants, you can rest assured they will remain in excellent condition for years to come. For more information about what implant options are available to you, make an appointment with your board certified maxillofacial surgeon today. A well-qualified dentist can help develop a customized treatment plan for you today.