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Dental Implant Care Basics 

Dr. Jonathan Richter

Dental implants are the ideal choice for the replacement of missing teeth for many reasons. There are high success rates with dental implants, ranging from 88 to 98 percent depending on the type and source of research. They also help preserve facial harmony by preventing resorption of the jaw bone, which is when the tooth structure is lost due to activation of the body’s innate capacity to remove mineralized tissue. Dental implants also provide a better quality of life by improving your ability to eat while looking and feeling almost identical to the natural tooth. But although they aren’t visually distinguishable from natural teeth, they need to be cared for in a slightly different manner.

Smaller Necks, Mean Bigger Gaps

It’s important to understand that there are anatomical differences between a natural tooth and a dental implant that need to be accounted for in a home maintenance practice. Natural teeth have a wider neck, while dental implants have a smaller neck. The difference in design is more apparent in molar teeth because natural molars have multiple roots, while dental implants only have one root or fixture. Since implants have a smaller circumference at the neck of the crown, the patient may experience the feeling of a wider space between teeth, especially near the molars. Patients that have a single implant next to natural teeth have an increased risk for caries on the opposing natural teeth if a proper home care routine is not established.

Calculus, an Implant’s Foe

The life expectancy or success of a dental implant can become jeopardized in the presence of inflammation or the periodontal infection known as implantitis, where the soft and hard tissues surrounding the dental implant become inflamed. The same destructive bacteria that cause periodontal infections in natural teeth can colonize dental implants. If left undisturbed, these bacteria can develop into calculus. Calculus is a rough, hard deposit that can destroy the supporting gum and bone that surround the implant and lock into the jaw.

How to Prevent Implant Failure

The trick to caring for dental implants is to properly maintain healthy gum tissue and supporting bone.

Brush your teeth for a full two minutes with a soft-bristled brush or, better yet, an electric brush.

Try a water pic, which have been shown to disrupt bacteria even in deep pockets.

Use a nonabrasive mouthwash that contains antimicrobial ingredients.

Consider a protective appliance that will protect your teeth from sports- or sleep-related grinding and clenching.

Avoid plastic or metal “picks” that you can buy over the counter that mimic professional instruments. Metal instruments can scratch the implant surface creating areas for bacteria to colonize.

And don’t forget routine professional maintenance appointments, which are imperative to maintaining dental implant health and ensuring longevity.

Source: Jonathan Richter, DDS, FAGD, of Cariodontal (310 E. Shore Rd., Ste. 101, Great Neck). For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 516-282-0310 or visit Cariodontal.com

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