Getting dental implants can feel like a fresh start. After losing your natural teeth, implant-supported replacements can restore your smile and confidence. With proper maintenance, your implants should serve you well for years to come. But just because they’re not your real teeth doesn’t mean you can take them for granted. According to studies, up to 19% of dental implants fail within 10 years when patients don’t follow recommended maintenance practices.
As with your natural teeth, dental implants need proper maintenance to keep them in optimal shape. Fortunately, with consistent home care and professional cleanings, these prostheses can mimic the function and longevity of natural teeth. This article will cover the essential maintenance tips you need to know to protect your investment and keep your implants flawless.
- Practice thorough brushing and flossing
When cleaning your dental implants, you need to be meticulous. Utilize a soft toothbrush and gently brush the implant’s surface, under the crown, around the implant post, as well as the gumline. Going over each area removes plaque before it can harden into tartar.
Flossing is also critical for your dental implants. Gently work the floss between the implant crowns, under the gum line, and between any neighboring natural teeth. If you’re having trouble with this process, ask your dentist about using a water flosser.
- Get regular dental checkups and cleanings
Just because you have implants now doesn’t mean you can skip your usual dental cleanings. In fact, it’s even more essential to visit your dentist regularly now that you have implants. So, schedule your professional dental cleanings at least twice a year. The hygienist can remove hardened tartar from your implants and give them a thorough cleaning.
Your dentist will also inspect the implants at each visit. They’ll check that the crown is secured firmly and examine the surrounding bone and gums. If they notice any loosening, inflammation, or other changes, they can address it right away before it worsens.
- Avoid damage to implant crowns
The crowns on your dental implants can chip or fracture if subjected to heavy biting force. That said, avoid crunching down on hard foods like ice, nuts, and hard candy. Those tough treats can potentially crack the porcelain. Also, watch out for sticky foods like chewing gum that could pull crowns if they aren’t secured properly. As per studies, between 4% and 9.5% of dental implant crowns fail due to fracture and chipping.
Additionally, protect your implant crowns during recreational activities. An accidental elbow or ball to the mouth can severely damage dental work. So, wear a sports mouthguard if you play soccer, basketball, or other sports where your face could get hit. Take precautions because repairing or replacing an implant crown costs time and money.
- Quit smoking for implant success
If you’re a smoker, it’s important to kick the habit for the sake of your dental implants. The chemicals in cigarettes restrict blood flow, which can impair healing after implant surgery. Smoking also raises the risk of implant failure by up to 140.2%, as per research. It can also lead to issues like peri-implantitis down the road.
Refrain from smoking during the entire three to six months of the healing period. The last thing you want is your implant failing because you couldn’t put down the cigarettes temporarily. You can talk to your dentist about smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches or gum. Kicking the habit is one of the best things you can do not only for your oral health but for your overall wellness.
- Practice good oral hygiene habits
Brushing and flossing properly is essential, but excellent oral hygiene goes beyond that. Use an antiseptic mouthwash to reach bacteria that brushing may miss. If you wear dentures or a night guard, disinfect them daily. Also, be mindful of your diet, as excess sugar feeds the bacteria that can inflame gum tissues. Developing strong oral care habits will help your implants mimic natural teeth in comfort and function.
- Watch for signs of peri-implantitis
Peri-implantitis is a common dental implant complication caused by infection and inflammation around the implant. Be on the lookout for symptoms like unusually bad breath, swelling, redness, bleeding, or receding gums around an implant. You may also notice pain, loose crowns, or pus.
If you observe any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away. Catching this condition early on gives you the best chance of saving the implant.
- Avoid clenching and grinding
Some people unknowingly clench or grind their teeth, especially during sleep. This puts immense pressure on dental implants that can damage the crowns and components over time. To counter this, wear a custom night guard provided by your dentist.
The bottom line
Caring for your dental implants takes some extra effort, but it’s a small price to pay for an improved smile and quality of life. Remember, your implants are uniquely yours, so tailor your home care and lifestyle to support them, with the help of these care tips.