People who have lost one or more teeth have several options available for replacing them. Many patients select dental implants. Those who decide to go this route should first consult with an oral surgeon, because not everyone is a strong candidate for dental implants. Implants are essentially anchored to the jawbone, and if a patient’s jawbone doesn’t have sufficient thickness or strength, then it won’t be able to support the implant. While oral surgeons can sometimes accommodate these patients by grafting bone from another part of the body onto the jaw, thus strengthening it enough to support dental implants, this is not always feasible. The right oral surgeon will be able to assess your overall condition and determine if this is an option for you.
Dental implants offer several benefits: They are tailor-made for each patient, matching the color and shape of their natural teeth perfectly. Additionally, implants function like natural teeth, thereby making it easier to chew and speak normally again. Perhaps most importantly, implants are durable. They truly can serve as permanent replacements for teeth—as long as patients care for them properly.
If you have dental implants, or if you’re considering getting them, keep the following tips in mind to ensure your implants stay in great shape for as long as possible:
Practice Basic Oral Hygiene.
Because an implant is essentially synthetic, some patients mistakenly believe they don’t need to pay as much attention to it when brushing and flossing. They assume that bacteria won’t damage the artificial material that comprises the implant.
Don’t fall prey to this misconception. Although bacteria may not directly eat away at the implant itself, it can eat away at the surrounding tissues that support it. You could lose your implant (and other teeth) if you develop gum disease because you neglected your oral hygiene needs.
If you have an implant, treat it like you would any other tooth. Brush and floss at least twice a day, and see your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning.
Monitor Your Gums.
The gums surrounding your implant can be a good indicator of its overall condition. Keep an eye on them when you brush and floss, and contact both your dentist and oral surgeon if you notice any swelling or changes in color.
Sometimes, patients notice their gums start to look darker around the area of an implant. This may be a sign of gum disease. As the gum tissue recedes, the metal portion of the implant starts to become visible. Getting treatment early is key to preventing future issues. It may still be possible to save the implant and surrounding teeth if you catch gum disease before it progresses beyond a certain point.
Again, dental implants are durable. They’re usually strong enough to function just as reliably as natural teeth for basic tasks like chewing.
However, you should pay attention to the condition of your dental implant when eating hard foods. Make a point of not using your teeth to open packages anymore as well. In rare instances, the implant can get damaged if you chew on something particularly hard. Try to avoid these foods whenever possible, and simply pay attention to the condition of your implant after eating them. Contact your oral surgeon if you think you might have damaged it.
Don’t be too Forceful.
Many people falsely believe that aggressive brushing and flossing is key to thoroughly cleaning their teeth and gums. This isn’t the case. In fact, using too much force can actually damage your oral tissue.
It is especially important to keep this in mind when you have dental implants. For instance, flossing too aggressively can create a gap in the seal connecting your implant to your gums. Unlike natural teeth, implants lack a connective ligament that would otherwise prevent this from happening. Although you’re unlikely to loosen the implant to the point that it falls out, this gap could easily let bacteria inside, where it will eat away at the area of your gums that supports the implant. Cleaning bacteria out of this small gap can be difficult once it gets inside.
Finally, feel free to ask your oral surgeon any questions you may have about dental implants. The process of installing them involves several appointments that generally take place over the course of several months. This timeline gives you many opportunities to address any issues you might encounter. By working with a professional and learning everything you can about dental implant maintenance, you’re more likely to enjoy the full benefits of this treatment option.