Dental implants will last a lifetime if they are given the proper care, much the same as natural teeth. As with natural teeth, oral hygiene is extremely important in avoiding diseases and complications. A regime of regular home and professional maintenance will achieve this.
Implants when placed in the bone, become part of it (osseointegration) and in time the gums surrounding the implant, form a collar; the space between the implant and the bone is called sulcus and this should be pink in colour, painless and not swollen.
Implants are prone to the build up of bacterial plaque, in much the same way as natural teeth. It is therefore very important to regularly clean this film of bacteria from the gumline around the implants, before it turns into plaque and leads to inflammation and peri-implant mucositis disease.
Peri – implantitis
Failure to regularly clean and remove the plaque, results in this growing in the sulcus making it unreachable with conventional toothbrush; it then hardens with an irregular surface that is prone to further build up of more plaque. Plaque consists mainly of stubborn bacteria. Eventually the bone surrounding the implant starts to break down and the implant itself becomes loose resulting in peri – implantitis.
It is important to have regular checkups as peri – implantitis can often be missed as it is, at the beginning, painless. If allowed to continue the implant looses its bone support. The risk of developing peri – implantitis, are increased by poor hygiene, smoking and periodontitis on existing natural teeth.
Prevention and treatment
Poor oral hygiene is one of the main causes of peri – implant disease. The key to prevention are the maintenance of good oral hygiene by the patient, coupled with regular checkups and professional treatments to deep clean and remove the build up of plaque and tartar. As the symptoms are not always easy to recognise, it is important to watch out for the possible warning signs such as inflamed, swollen or bleeding and reddish gums, and to seek professional help to treat these before they develop into peri – implant disease and appropriate instructing of oral hygiene in general and implant care using specialised brushes and other instruments at home.