Clean and Maintain Implants
Dental implants rely on the tissues that surround them for support, and that means it’s important to maintain the health of these tissues. The best way to do this is to clean all teeth daily with a soft toothbrush to remove dental plaque. If plaque is not effectively removed, it can turn into dental calculus, which encourages the accumulation of additional plaque, and this can lead to inflammation around the implant. This inflammatory condition known as peri-implantitis can rapidly destroy the bone surrounding an implant, eventually leading to loss of the implant. Even the most meticulous brushing can’t remove all dental plaque, which means that at least some dental calculus will develop. Just as with natural teeth, only a dentist or dental hygienist can safely and effectively remove dental calculus from dental restorations. The process of professionally cleaning the different types of teeth, however, is vastly different, and hygienists must consider multiple factors before cleaning can occur so that they are certain to use the best possible tools for the job.
The gum tissue that surrounds each implant abutment and the base of each crown attaches to the smooth material of the abutment and crown, suctioning to the surface with a series of microscopic suction cups that make up this specialized tissue called the epithelial attachment. Natural teeth are held in place and kept alive by a periodontal ligament that is no longer present when the teeth fall out or are removed, and, in the absence of this ligament, less blood is sent to these tissues, making them more susceptible to infection. This is a large part of the reason that dental hygienists must be so selective when determining the proper cleaning approach for implant-supported crowns; the tissue is more vulnerable to bacterial invasion. The hygienist must choose cleaning tools that will not damage the polished surface of the abutment or the crown. Of course, there are aesthetic reasons for this, but it is hygienically preferable to keep the surfaces of the crowns smooth to discourage them from harboring bacteria. You may notice that your dental hygienist uses an instrument that looks like a regular dental instrument but is made of plastic or resin; this softer material allows hygienists to effectively remove plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the crowns without damaging them. Ultrasonic instruments may feature nylon or plastic sheaths that can help minimize damage to the crowns. If any part of the implant is visible, due to bone loss, the surface of the implant also needs to be cleaned in a specific way so the bone can reattach. Usually, brushes are the preferred tool when exposed implants need to be cleaned, and when the material to be removed is too hard for brushes, hygienists must use caution to avoid damaging the implant and compromising its strength and integrity.
While dental hygienists must take many factors into consideration when preparing to clean dental implants, this care is part of the reason that dental implants have such high success rates. The prevention of peri-implantitis is an integral part of maintaining the success of dental implants, and meticulous professional cleaning is vital to preventing infection and ensuring the long-term benefits of dental implants.