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A woman is getting her teeth cleaned by a dentist to care for dental implants.

How To Care For Dental Implants: Ensure Long-Term Dental Implant Success

Dental implants are an excellent solution for missing teeth and are the closest form of replacement teeth to your own natural teeth.

A dental implant is a metal post surgically inserted into the jaw bone, which acts as an artificial tooth root, which is then able to support an artificial replacement tooth. Dental implants have a high success rate of over 90% to 95%.

However, there are occasional failures, either soon after the oral surgery, or over time. The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce the risks of immediate implant failure, as well as increase the long-term lifespan of your implant.

A 3D model demonstrating how to care for dental implants.

 

What Affects How Long Dental Implants Last?

There are several risk factors that can impact the success of your implant surgery. Your dentist will assess you for some, but be sure to discuss any others your dentist may not be aware of so that they can be addressed.

Smoking

Smoking can cause dental implant failure because it restricts blood flow to the gums, slowing the healing process. Being a smoker increases the risk of dental implant failure rate by 6.5% to 20%.

Gum Disease and Gum Health

Dental implants can't be placed if you have active gum disease. An untreated infection can spread around the implant and cause it to fail. Your dentist will need to treat your gum disease before dental implant placement.

In addition, periodontal disease, an advanced and serious form of gum disease can lead to a loss of bone mass which is necessary for implants to be secured and fuse properly.

It is essential that you have healthy gums, but you also need enough gum tissue. Gum grafts can be performed if necessary to provide sufficient tissue mass.

Gum disease is an infection that can damage the gums and jaw bones. An untreated infection could develop around the implant and lead to failure. See a dentist to treat gum disease before getting an implant.

Bone Density

Dental implants need enough bone to support the implant, so the implant can be held securely, and the bone will fuse to it during bone healing, in a process called osseointegration. When a tooth has been missing for a while, bone loss tends to occur in the area, weakening the bone too much. Osteoporosis will also lead to a drop in bone density. Bone grafts can be used to ensure there is sufficient bone for dental implants.

A 3D image of a tooth with instructions for caring for dental implants.

 

Medications and Medical History

Autoimmune diseases, diabetes, diseases that cause inflammation, and health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis slow the healing process, impair how well the implant fuses with the jaw bone, and may affect the success of the surgery.

Certain medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, may reduce new bone growth which impacts how well an implant can fuse with the jaw bone, increase the risks of inflammation, which can also affect the success of your implant, or have other impacts.

Oral Hygiene

Good oral and dental hygiene before and after implant procedure improves the success rate of dental implants and helps them last for a longer time.

Surgeon's Experience

The likelihood of success of dental implants increases with an experienced surgeon.

A woman demonstrating dental care with a cigarette in her hands.

 

What Can You Do To Help Dental Implants Last Longer?

Quit smoking before surgery and for at least a few months after. Permanently quitting is best for oral health, but the longer you can avoid smoking after the surgery, the better. Ensure your dentist has experience with these procedures, and be sure to discuss any health conditions you have and medications you are on so that any risk factor can be addressed. Be diligent in maintaining good oral hygiene, and follow your dentist's post-surgical recommendations.

Early Failure Of Dental Implants

To prevent early failure of dental implants, keeping the surgical site clean, following post-operative instructions, and watching for early signs of complications, although rare, is critical.

Pain and swelling are common, but these should start to subside after a few days. You should contact your dentist if the pain or swelling increases is extreme, or does not ease after the first couple of days.

If you notice symptoms of any of the following issues, see your dentist right away. With treatment, dental implants can be saved, but left untreated, these issues can lead to implant failure.

Infection

Pain and swelling that don't ease and a high fever are signs of an infection developing.

Implant Movement

Micro-movements of dental implants happen when they don't have enough stability; until the implant has fused fully with the jaw bone, there is a risk of movement. If you notice your implant moving, let your dentist know.

Allergic reaction

Dental implants are usually made of titanium alloy; some people are allergic to titanium. If you are allergic, let your surgeon know. If you were not aware of an allergy and have a titanium implant, symptoms include swelling, tingling sensations, or a loss of taste.

Later Dental Implant Failure

In addition to the above issues that can show up soon after your dental implant surgery, there are other complications that may not show up until years later.

Numbness or tingling of the lips, gums, tongue, or other parts of the face may be signs of nerve damage if the dental implant is too close to a nerve.

Rejection of implant is very rare; pain around the implant, fever or chills, and swelling are symptoms.

Ongoing Care For Dental Implant Success

To minimize risks of issues, maintain excellent dental hygiene. You can brush and floss dental implants the same way as natural teeth; it is important to do this well to keep implants, teeth, and gums healthy. Brush and floss at least twice a day. Using mouthwash is also helpful. Be sure to also see your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups.

Use a mouth guard during sports and take precautions to avoid injury to the area which could loosen the implant. A night guard to prevent teeth grinding is useful, too. Avoid hard, crunchy foods or using your teeth as tools, such as opening bottles with them.

Always let your dentist know if you are experiencing severe pain, difficulty chewing, gum recession, swelling, or inflammation around the implant site, or if the implant feels lose a couple of months after surgery, as these can be signs of dental implant failures. In some cases, however, you can be treated to save the implant.

Eat calcium-rich foods, and consider a supplement to support strong bones.

At Waterloo West Dentistry, we offer dental implant surgery and other replacement teeth options and can guide you on how to care for your dental implants to give them the best chance of success.

 

An instructional image showing a man and woman giving thumbs up in a dentist's chair, demonstrating proper care for dental implants.

Andrew Darroch

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