When thinking about dental implants, you might assume they’re just like your other teeth. But in the dental world, we treat implants quite differently from your natural teeth, especially in terms of hygiene and care needed. Today we’d like to share with you the differences between natural teeth and implants, and mention a few tools that can help you take better care of your dental implants.
Most implants are made of titanium. This matters because titanium is a uniquely osteophilic material, meaning that it is “bone-loving.” For us, that is important because it means the implant is able to fuse with the bone to which it ultimately attaches, setting up the makeshift “root” of the implant tooth.
Now here’s where implants differ from natural teeth. The gum tissue surrounding implants cannot attach itself to implants as it would to natural teeth. Instead, they attach themselves to the gums by way of an epithelial attachment, aka special cells that attach themselves to the implant, like a microscopic suction pad would. Your teeth have fibers called periodontal ligaments that connect the tooth to the gums surrounding it, but an implant does not.
This difference is the main reason your implant needs special care. Natural teeth and implants both require routine brushing, flossing, and teeth cleanings, but with implants you need to go a step further to ensure the longevity of the implant. As with natural teeth, we want to prevent infection of gums and bones, which means also protecting the implant housed within them.
The bottom line is that plaque must be removed from your implants daily. If plaque isn’t cleaned away daily, you run the risk of developing peri-implantitis, which means that tissues surrounding the implant become infected, resulting in the loss of the delicate gum-bone attachment. If infection spreads to the bone it can be devastating to oral health, possibly progressing to loss of bone or loss of the entire implant.
Rest assured however, there are a number of tools available to keep your implant healthy. Some good tools to supplement our regular cleanings include tiny brushes known as interproximal brushes, as well as implant-specific floss, both of which can be very effective when fitting into the crevices surrounding your implant. There are also small, angled toothbrushes designed to better reach implant surfaces. Water irrigation tools like the Waterpik may also be used to clean implants as well.
Which tools you should use depends on a number of factors, so please give us a call to schedule an appointment for a cleaning and to establish your dental implant’s care regimen with our team!