A dental implant is a permanent replacement for a missing tooth and looks and functions remarkably like a natural tooth. The good news is dental implants don’t require special care and attention. But that doesn’t mean you can neglect them, or you run the risk of implant failure. So, with this in mind, what is the best way to care for dental implants?
Taking Care Of Dental Implants After Surgery and Beyond
The dental implant procedure is lengthy and comprises several stages, with healing time in between each step. Knowing what to expect during each phase is key to understanding how to care for your implants. So, let’s start with post-surgery care.
Caring for implants immediately following surgery
Although evaluating your suitability for dental implants is a thorough process, it’s essential to do everything in your power to help your body heal and fight infection. Your surgeon will typically provide you with a list of do’s and don’ts to follow, and they may tell you about medications that you need to take or avoid. However, there are things you can do yourself to speed up recovery and healing.
Adjust your diet
If you’ve had dental implant surgery, it’s best to limit your diet to soft or liquidised foods that don’t require any chewing—at least for a day or two after your surgery.
Your mouth may feel sore, and your jaw could be stiff, so you may feel more comfortable sticking to yogurts, ice cream, and mashed potatoes.
As your mouth starts to heal, you can begin to introduce more solid foods, such as scrambled eggs, easing gradually back into your regular diet, which may take a week or two.
As well as adjusting your diet, you will also have to avoid hot food in the days following surgery as this can cause inflammation and irritation around the surgical site.
Rinse your mouth with saltwater
Infection is the number one enemy of dental implants, so keeping the mouth clean after your dental implant surgery is paramount. A saltwater rinse flushes away bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause infections. Additionally, saltwater is pH neutral, providing the healthiest environment for your mouth to heal.
Alcohol is a depressant that works by slowing down the nerves and muscles in our mouths, causing the salivary glands to slow down. This then leads to a dry mouth, which has detrimental consequences.
Saliva plays a vital role in keeping the mouth healthy, as enzymes in saliva help break down carbohydrates, protein and fats. This fluid helps keep the mouth moist and neutralises acids. Saliva also contains antibodies that fight off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Any depletion of saliva after dental implant surgery could lead to more harmful bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk of infection.
Taking Care Of Dental Implants During The Healing Phase
Once dental implants have been placed and your body has recovered from surgery, you will enter the healing phase, lasting between three to six months. During this time, blood cells will grow over the implant post fusing the implant to the jawbone, in a biological process known as osseointegration. This integration creates a strong bond between the dental implant, bone, and gum tissue and forms a solid platform to support the artificial tooth replacement. As long as the gum tissue and bone remain healthy, the implant will remain stable.
Osseointegration is vital to the success of a dental implant. It’s critical during this phase to brush your teeth and implant at least twice a day and floss before going to bed to help prevent infection or gum disease that could jeopardise the implant.
Routine Dental implant Care And Ongoing Maintenance
With good care, dental implants have proven to last for ten years, if not longer. However, the restoration (dental crown or bridge) will likely need replacement between 10-15 years.
Not only do dental implants look and function like natural teeth, but like natural teeth, they are not invincible. If you take your eye off the ball and allow your oral health to deteriorate, there’s a high risk of peri-implantitis putting your implants in danger.
Peri-implantitis is an infection of the gum tissue around a dental implant. In many ways, it’s similar to gum disease because the oral bacteria cause inflammation of the gum tissue that may lead to pain, pus, redness, and swelling. It also starts with plaque build-up, and the bacteria that live on the plaque cause the infection. The irritation of the gum tissue can cause bone loss in the area around the dental implant, and the implant may loosen or even fall out.
Thus, to keep your dental implants healthy and protected, care for your implants by following these simple guidelines:
- Brush and floss your implants twice daily
- Eat healthy and well-balanced meals
- Do not smoke
- Visit your dentist regularly
The Bottom Line
While dental implants are easy to look after, taking care of dental implants is an ongoing process that starts from the time of the implant placement surgery and continues throughout the whole time you have implants. To get the most from your investment, follow your dentist’s instructions, keep on top of your twice-daily brushing and flossing routine, and ensure you visit your dentist as often as they recommend for check-ups so that any oral health problems can be dealt with early.
If you’d like to know more about any aspect of dental implants, please schedule an appointment with DDSS/DDII today.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Colgate – How saltwater mouth rinse benefits oral health
PubMed Central – Long term clinical performance of 10 871 dental implants with up to 22 years of follow‐up