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Peri-Implantitis and Protecting Your Dental Implants

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

With a success rate of 90-95 percent, dental implants provide reliable replacements for one or more missing teeth, according to the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP). However, just like your natural teeth, implants require care to ensure they last a long time. Complications such as peri-implantitis, an infection in the tissues around an implant, can develop without the proper care dental implants need.

Dental Implants

Designed to replace a missing tooth, a dental implant has several parts, including a titanium artificial root and a crown attached to the top. Increasingly a popular dental prosthetic choice, the advantages of dental implants include:

  • Providing you with a functional bite and the ability to chew
  • Never coming loose or slipping, like dentures
  • Looking like your natural tooth while never developing cavities

However, dental implants aren't immune to plaque buildup. In fact, bacterial plaque accumulation at the base of the implant can cause peri-implantitis. The American Academy of Periodontology defines peri-implantitis as gum inflammation around the implant, causing deterioration in the tissue and bone supporting the dental implant.

How common is peri-implantitis? Research published in the journal Antibiotics notes studies estimating that around 40 percent or more of five-year-old implants could be vulnerable to peri-implantitis. If left untreated, the infection can lead to the loss of the implant.

How to Care for Your Dental Implant

The payoff for taking care of your implant is that it can last you several years – plus save you the disruption and the expense of dealing with such conditions as peri-implantitis. To prevent implant plaque buildup leading to peri-implantitis, step up your oral hygiene routine:

  • Brush twice daily and floss once a day.
  • Depending on the location and number of implants you have, consider using other oral hygiene aids, such as water flossers or interdental brushes.
  • See your dentist routinely to ensure your gums and bone are healthy.
  • Give up smoking, as the habit might increase your risk of implant failure.

If you have a history of periodontal (gum) disease or diabetes, you might be more at risk of developing peri-implantitis. Talk to your dental and medical professionals about any additional steps you need to take.

Bonus: Steps to prevent peri-implantitis can also prevent tooth decay on your natural teeth!

Symptoms of an Implant Infection

You'll notice these signs if you start developing peri-implantitis:

  • Your gums might feel tender or appear inflamed.
  • Your gums might bleed when flossing or brushing.

It's important to talk to your dental provider about any concerns you have regarding your implant. Be sure to report any changes you notice between dental visits.

Treating Peri-Implantitis

If you develop peri-implantitis symptoms, don't hesitate to contact your dental professional to help resolve the infection and avoid implant failure. Peri-implantitis treatments vary depending on the person being treated, the type of implant, and the severity of the peri-implantitis, notes the journal Antibiotics.

Each treatment has advantages and disadvantages, so find out from your dental professional what's right for you. Some treatments can be most effective working in combination with other treatments.

Antibiotics: In pill form or placed directly on the infected area around the implant, antibiotics work be on moderate infections.

Mechanical Removal: Certain devices can remove bacterial plaque and restore the tissue. Devices used in this procedure include titanium brushes, dental curettes, and air-abrasive and ultrasonic devices.

Laser Therapy: A dental professional might choose to use laser therapy to destroy the bacteria around the implant.

Surgery: Perhaps the most effective way to treat peri-implantitis, surgical treatments vary. A couple of surgeries involve pulling back the gum tissue to create flaps for removing the plaque and bacteria. Another involves bone regeneration, which might include bone grafts.

After treatment, you can expect to have follow-up appointments throughout the following months. That way, your dental professional can track your healing progress and ensure the implant is stable.

A great choice for teeth replacement, dental implants let you live your life just as with natural teeth. But like your natural teeth, implants need proper care to prevent diseases such a peri-implantitis. Though treatments abound, prevention will serve you well – and keep you smiling.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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