While dental implants are life-changing for many people who lose their natural teeth, without proper care and maintenance, they too are susceptible to bacteria that can lead to gum disease and bone loss – just like natural teeth.
“We have seen patients now who have not come in for regular cleanings,” says Dr. Rob Wolanski, with Lakeside Dental Clinic and Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Implant Centre.
“The lucky ones have minimal bone loss around their implants. Some have have some bone loss but the implants are not at risk to being lost, while others have so much bone loss that the implants have to be removed.
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“This is especially disheartening for the patient. The bottom line is that regular cleaning and maintenance is crucial if you have dental implants,” explains Dr. Wolanski, who has been placing dental implants surgically since 1992.
Here’s why regular care matters: Dental implants can actually be more susceptible to dental infections in the mouth than natural teeth. And, just like gum disease on natural teeth, some people are more susceptible to bone loss around the dental implant than others.
Solutions are possible: If bone loss is minimal, techniques can be used to slow and even stop the bone loss. Because exposed implant threads attract and harbour the bacteria that cause gum disease – a condition called peri-implantitis, which can damage the bone – Implantoplasty may be done to polish the exposed threads and rough surfaces to make them smooth.
This technique sometimes requires the surgical exposure of the top of the implant and may require sutures to allow for the optimal healing of the tissues. The polishing of the implant surface is often done through high magnification – typically using a microscope to optimize results.
Prevention is the best medicine: Just like traditional dental care, regular implant maintenance includes visual and radiographic inspection of the dental implants by a dentist and dental hygienist. In most cases, the teeth attached to the implants do not have to be removed at every cleaning appointment.
Full dentures that are retained by dental implants permanently with screws should be removed at intervals determined by the uniqueness of the patient. Full dentures that are snap in and snap out are very easy to maintain.
“We typically advise patients with implants to come in every three to six months for regular cleanings to protect their investment and their health,” Dr. Wolanski says.