Dental implants are common for Americans. There are three million people flashing smiles supported by dental implants, and that number is growing every year. So, if you’re going in for the procedure this week--or are considering dental implants for yourself and want to know more about what you need to do to maintain them--you’ve come to the right place. 

What are dental implants?

Not to worry, when it comes to dental procedures, dental implants are the safest and most predictable process there is. The modern implant has been used for over thirty years, and is the best support for replacement teeth that modern technology can offer. So why would you need dental implants, and what is your dentist doing inside your mouth during the surgery? 

The implants are simply the base that secure false teeth. They also can be used to stabilize a denture. Dental implants are shaped like screws and act as tooth roots. Your dentist will secure the implant into your jawbone, and the natural bone and implant bond together. This acts as a strong base for your new crown(s), also known as the artificial teeth. 

The hands of a dentist working inside a mouth, inserting the implant
Once the dental implant is joined to your jaw bone, your crowns aren’t going anywhere!

Once the dental implant is secured, a connector called an abutment will hold your custom-made crown to the implant. Your new tooth will be made to match your mouth, and by the end of the healing process you should be eating, talking, and smiling with the comfort of genuine teeth. Dental implants are the best way to get crowns that look, feel, and act like real teeth!

The Risk of Improper Care

The health and success of your implant relies on the permucosal seal that should protect the implant from infection. Make sure the tissue surrounding the implant is pink and firm. There is a lot you can do to promote healthy keratinized tissue, such as choosing the right floss and using stimulators, which the article will get into further under Care at Home. 

The biggest risk is an infection due to exposure of destructive bacteria and plaque. Keeping the implant clean is the simplest and most important course of action. The implant could also, if not cleaned properly, begin bleeding, and allowing this to progress far enough could lead to the loss of bone and the implant. Lesson learned: a clean implant is key. 

Care at Home

A lot of the responsibility of maintaining your implant falls onto you. But for the most part, dental implants should be treated in the same way as your natural teeth. They should be brushed and flossed twice a day, and you can still use non-alcoholic mouthwash. And like your natural teeth, your dental implants need to be washed professionally at least once a year. So where does treatment differ then? First let’s make sure you’re using the right products.

  • Low-abrasive toothpaste
  • Nylon coated interdental brush: to get the places difficult to reach. However generally any toothbrush is accepted for cleaning the implant, although the brush must be soft-bristled
  • Unwaxed tape or implant-specific floss: this protects the surrounding tissue best while also cleaning it out
  • Oral irrigator: helps reduce the build up plaque and can calm any inflation
  • Stimulator: encourage healthy gum tissue, which will help in the fight against infection

The obvious theme throughout these products is cleaning. You have to keep the implant clean to avoid unnecessary risk. But this is how it is with natural teeth, so this should be nothing new. Make sure to brush under and around the implant crown. 

First 48 Hours

The first 48 hours after surgery are the most delicate, when you’ll experience some pain, oozing, constant bleeding, and swelling. Keep a firm pressure on the gauze in the first hour by biting gently down. After the first hour you can change out the gauze. To ensure your best chance at an uncomplicated and speedy recovery, try your best not to disturb the surgical area. You can gently brush your teeth the night of the surgery. Get a lot of rest and apply ice if you find it necessary. After the first 24 hours you can swish salt water a couple times a day. 

After the first few days your mouth should be normalizing, and you can begin again your daily care, gently at first. 

Care for Overdentures

Dental implants aren’t always used in the case of single implants, but also with overdentures. Here are some extra steps you can take to maintain your overdentures. And you can guess what the priority is: keeping it clean!

A graphic of how the overdenture implant connects to the jaw
Keeping your overdentures clean is as important as cleaning natural teeth! It’s just done a bit differently.
  • Remove and soak dentures in cleaner daily
  • Keep an eye on the o-rings, locator caps, and clips. When they’ve been worn out or gone missing, contact your dentist.
  • Use a denture brush to gently clean the underside of the denture
  • Rinse the overdenture with water before returning it to your mouth
  • Replace the o-rings and locator caps annually 

Installing dental implants is easy and safe, as long as you’re willing to put the time into consistent cleaning. But that’s worth it for the beautiful smile you get back.