The supporting matrix
The first thing to remember when thinking of proper care of dental implants is that they are in important ways more like natural teeth than like dentures. This is because they depend on the jaw’s matrix of bone and gum for physical support. They are an inanimate addition to a living structure that needs proper care to do its job. So, caring for dental implants means caring for the bone and gum that supports them.
A successful implant has soft tissue (called the “permucosal seal”) that separates the connective tissues that surround the implant from its surrounding environment. This seal is keratinized tissue, and it protects the implant’s matrix from bacteria. The better this seal, the more successful the implant, so maintaining this seal in good shape is essential.
Implants are also physical appliances, so caring for them also means protecting them from damage, which in most cases can arise from tooth grinding, or bruxism.
So, the first order of business is caring for new dental implants. This starts with preparation of the mouth to receive the implants, and then involves careful cleaning and removal of plaque to facilitate healing.
Once the implants are placed, routine home-care maintenance is essential, as well as routine professional dental care.
Cleaning tools: Toothpastes and gels
Implants have improved over the years, most notably in a shift from a smooth titanium alloy surface to a rougher surface, which has been found to provide faster integration of the implant and the bone on which it seats. This knowledge informs the selection of home-care products. For example, toothpastes and gels should be low abrasion so as not to scratch the surface of the implant or any exposed metal. Avoid products with baking soda, stain removers, or smoker’s toothpastes. At the same time, cleaning remains important to reduce plaque bacteria to prevent gingivitis or other disease.
High fluoride toothpastes should also be avoided, as sodium fluoride in combination with mouth chemistry can corrode or etch anti-corrosion surfaces on the implants’ titanium.
Toothbrushes and other cleaning devices
Choosing between sonic, electric, or manual toothbrushes is less important than regular brushing, at least twice daily, and that the bristles be soft. Some practice might be needed to get used to the shape and position of the implants, but that is quickly achieved. Proxabrushes (without wires, to prevent scratching the implant) can also be helpful to clean hard-to-reach spots. It’s important to clean all around the implant and between implant crevices.
When flossing, use unwaxed floss or tape to protect the tissue that surrounds the implants. Special attention must be paid to flossing the entire circumference of the base of the implant.
Bruxism is a term that means tooth grinding or clenching. Often occurring during sleep, bruxism can be caused by stress, tooth misalignment, or missing teeth.
Bruxism can negatively affect the healing of new implants in the first months when implants are integrating with the bone structures that support them. Even once established, implants can be damaged by bruxism. Fortunately, however, those who might be grinding their teeth can have success with their implants if precautions are taken. Generally, a custom fitted mouth guard worn during sleep can keep bruxism under control.
In our Etobicoke dental office we design and make protective comfortable mouth guards.Visit our office for a consultation