Dental implants are one of the most preferred ways of replacing missing teeth since they look and behave exactly like a natural tooth. These false teeth consist of a metal post that is inserted into the jaw bone, where it fuses in place. A false tooth, or crown, is then placed on top of the post. Although most implants last a lifetime, occasionally one may fail. Understanding why this occurs can help you prevent problems with your implants.
The Culprit: Perio-Implantitis
You have probably heard of periodontitis and gingivitis. These are diseases of the mouth that lead to both gum and bone loss. Perio-implantitis is the exact same thing, except it affects the tissue and bones around your implant.
An implant is not going to develop other forms of decay, such as cavities, but the same bacteria that can lead to decay is still able to build up around the gum line. From there it can begin eating away at the gum, or even get into the bone. If the bone becomes infected, bone loss occurs. You may then lose enough bone so that it can no longer support the implant post. The result is a failed dental implant.
Learn to Fight Back
The formula for avoiding perio-implantitis is the same as for avoiding any other forms of gum disease – good dental hygiene. Not only should you brush and floss twice daily, you should also have your teeth cleaned twice annually to ensure there is no plaque and tartar buildup. Plaque and tartar is where the disease-causing bacteria tend to live and feast on your perio tissues. If you have a history of periodontal diseases, your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings. They may also recommend the use of specific home care devices, such as water picks or electric toothbrushes.
Don't Overlook the Warning Signs
You should also be aware of some of the common signs of perio diseases, especially if you aren't seeing your dentist as often as recommended. Fortunately, the list of symptoms is short: red, inflamed gums and bleeding gums. You may also be able to see the plaque buildup on your teeth. If you have these symptoms, get into your dentist immediately. Perio diseases don't just go away, you need a professional cleaning and assessment.
What if the Implant Fails?
You have few options if perio-implantitis proceeds to the stage of failure. In some instances your dentist may be able to perform a bone graft to build the bone layer back up so another implant can be attempted. This can be a long process requiring multiple surgeries. Another option is to opt for a bridge or partial denture. These do require a bit more care than implants, especially dentures that must be removed.
If you are concerned about your implant, contact a dentist for more information.