Proper Dental Hygiene: Preserving Dental Implants

A dental implant is a medical procedure which involves the attachment of an artificial tooth root, usually in the form of a metal screw, which is placed into the jaw bone and is done by prosthodontists, specialists in the restoration and replacement of teeth. It serves as an anchor for a false tooth or a set of false teeth. Before the procedure is done, however, the dentist must first ensure that the patient has healthy gums and teeth (Davidoff, 2006). After the implant has been placed, it has to heal for approximately four to six months so that the bone can properly hold it in place.

During the healing process, the bone fuses with metal implant, which is made from titanium, through a process called osseointegration. Once the bone and the implant have properly fused, the dentist can now place the artificial tooth (Davidoff, 2006). Complications of Dental Implants The most commonly known complication of dental implants is infection. Dental infection usually starts with a dead tooth and a dental abscess, a small area of pus in infected tissue, filled with living and dead bacteria.

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Infection can also break the bond between the implant and the bone and ultimately result in the removal of the implant (Minsk, 2006). Furthermore, the bacteria can cause peri-implantitis, the inflammation that severely affects the tissue around the implants which can result in the loss of the supporting bone (Mombelli, 1997). Treatment of Dental Implant Complications The most basic treatment for any bacterial infection is usually by administering antibiotics to the patient. If the infection causes swelling, incisions sometimes have to be made to drain the pus that causes the swelling.

On the other hand, peri-implantitis is currently being treated by reducing the bacteria causing it. At present, certain treatment methods such as light decontamination, ozone therapy, and antibiotic treatment have been applied to treat the disease. However, since perimplantitis cause severe damage to the tissue surrounding the implant, it is difficult to restore it to the normal state. Up to this day, there is still no method to completely restore damaged tissue due to periimplantitis (Karapetian et al, 2004). Caring for Dental Implant patients

Although there are a lot of possible cures to dental infections, dentists recommend that the most effective way to prevent any infection or complication is to maintain proper oral hygiene. The American Dental Hygienists Association, in its supplemental paper to Access Magazine, “Implant maintenance and the dental hygienist,” (2003) wrote that Dental Hygienists play a vital role in the preservation and nourishing of the dental implant and also wrote the following guidelines for the whole dental implant procedure for both the Dental Hygienist and the patient receiving the dental implant.

For the Dental Hygienist, first, he should identify and substantially educate potential implant candidates and should basically be aware of the patient’s over-all history. He must make sure that the patient has adequate bone in which to place the implant. If the patient has inadequate bone, surgical procedures such as guided bone regeneration, bone grafts, or bone substitutes may be considered. After the implant has been placed, the dental hygienist should develop a specific home care routine for the implant patient.

This is a dynamic process, because home care must be altered with each stage of the dental implant including post-surgical hygiene, provisional restoration, and final restoration or prosthodontic delivery. The dental hygienist must also ensure that tissue destruction in the periimplant site, which is cause by the presence of bacterial plaque, is prevented. The dental hygienist should also help provide patient motivation. For the dental implant patients, they must participate in primary preventive measures.

The patient should be discouraged from becoming complacent with home care and understand the importance of plaque control and tissue health. Patients who lost their teeth due to poor self-care can easily return to previous neglectful behaviors. Most of important of all, the patient should always visit the dental hygienist at the appointed dates and actively participate in the maintenance and treatment of the implant (Access, 2003). Special Tools in Caring for Implants Like ordinary teeth, dental implants require the same maintenance such as brushing your teeth and flossing.

Aside from these, the dental hygienist also helps preserve the status of the dental implant by removing unwanted substances such as calculus. The dental hygienist also uses special instruments in caring for dental implants. Initially, during the first year of treatment, a radiograph of the dental implant is taken to assess its condition. Next, the dental hygienist should clean the implant of any deposit using special instruments. Instruments similar to curets and scalers are available, however, one of the most used instruments is the probe.

The probe should always be made of plastic, nylon or graphite and never metal to avoid damaging or scratching of the implant. Also, when removing calculus and deposits using a plastic scaler, the dental hygienist should always start with light and short strokes to avoid trauma to the delicate implant sulcus. Deposits should scaled apically with the stroke extending coronally. A horizontal, oblique, or vertical stroke should be done depending on the location of the deposit (American Dental Hygienist Association).

On the other hand, prostheses can sometimes limit the access of the scaler and an ultrasonic or sonic scaler can facilitate removal of deposits. However, when using either of these two devices, metal instruments should be covered with plastic tips. A rubber cup can be used to polish the implant surface with a non-abrasive paste or tin oxide (Access, 2003). In conclusion, prevention of the dental implant complications is still the best method to preserve the implant and the teeth. If patients properly follow the correct treatment and care for their dental implants, then they efficiently restore a complete set of teeth.