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How to look after your investment in an implant

If your dentist recently told you that you need a dental implant, it's essential that you understand how to care for it. With the proper care, your dental implant can last you a lifetime. However, if you are neglectful, it can lead to implant failure, which means another expensive and uncomfortable trip to the oral surgeon. Because dental implants cost thousands of dollars, it's in your best interest to keep the one you have.

What is an implant?

A dental implant is a piece of metal that looks a bit like a screw and is used to replace a missing tooth. Because it screws into your jawbone, it is a permanent fixture in your mouth and requires a dental operation to implant. Your dentist will add an artificial tooth – also known as a crown – to the top of the implant that looks like your other teeth.

Because of the complicated nature of the implant, it usually takes several visits to the oral surgeon over a period of a few months to complete the procedure. Once your oral surgeon has a clear understanding of where the tooth needs to go through the use of examinations and x-rays, they will perform a minor surgery to put the implant into your jawbone. Then, you'll have to wait a few months for the bone to grow around the implant and stabilise it. At that time, your dentist will create a foundation for your new tooth and add the crown.

Caring for your implant

Though a dental implant is intended to be a permanent fixture to your mouth, it requires thorough care and upkeep to avoid implant failure. You should think of your new tooth not only as a part of your mouth, but as an investment that you made in your dental health. Always follow your dentist's instructions on the best way to care for your teeth. Here is what you should expect after you receive your implant:

Because you will have local anesthesia for your dental surgery, check in with your dentist to find out what you can eat and drink at what time. It's generally a good idea to avoid hot beverages or anything hard or crunchy. Because of a lack of feeling in your mouth, you could burn yourself or bite your tongue without realising it.

You may notice bruising, tooth pain, swelling of your gums and face, as well as some bleeding from your gums. While this is normal, you should notify your dentist if it continues after a day or two or gets worse.

Your dentist will likely prescribe a mouthwash for you and provide instructions for a strict brushing schedule. Your goal is to maximise plaque bacteria removal. Though your new implant doesn't build up plaque or tooth decay, the surrounding teeth still do, so you need to keep the area clean to prevent cavities and gum disease, all of which can put your implant at risk.

During the next three months, before your follow-up appointment with your dentist, be sure to keep up your dental cleaning regiment daily. This means both your natural and artificial teeth should be brushed for two minutes twice a day, and you should floss regularly. Poor oral hygiene can cause bacteria to grow on the implant and trigger inflamed gums – also known as mucositis. If this isn't caught and treated early, it can lead to bone loss around the implant and trigger peri-implantitis.

Peri-implantitis is a localised inflammation and infection that occurs near the implant site. It can cause bone loss and damage nearby teeth and, if it continues to go untreated, can lead to implant failure and the breakdown of your jaw bone.

When you check in with your dentist, they'll be checking the implant for proper hygiene and that the bone growth around your implant is progressing normally. They'll check for inflammation and other signs of infection to help head off any of the aforementioned issues.

Implant failure

If you experience implant failure, there's more at risk than another few thousand dollars spent and more dentist appointments. There can also be nerve or tissue damage as a result of a failed implant. In addition to poor oral hygiene, one of the major causes of dental implant failure is smoking, so after your surgery is a good time to give it up if you haven't yet.

It is estimated that between 5 and 10 per cent of dental implants end in failure, which can occur shortly after the surgery or months or years down the road.

Luckily, the care for your dental implant is not any more complicated than caring for your regular teeth. As long as you follow the instructions your dentist provides for you, it is likely you'll have your dental implant for life.

To speak with the team at City Dentists, call 04 978 4964 or book an appointment online.

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