Dental implants are indeed a marvel of modern dentistry. They allow dentists like Dr. Brazdo to replace missing teeth while strengthening the underlying bone. These prosthetic teeth are just as strong as natural teeth, yet they cannot decay. Unfortunately, however, they can still become infected if they are not taken care of properly. By understanding how dental implants can become infected, patients will understand the risks and adequately care for them to prevent peri-implantitis and the problems this disease can cause.
What Is a Peri-Implantitis?
Infections are a constant threat in the mouth. At any given time millions of bacteria are replicating in the oral cavity. Some are helpful and begin the process of digestion, others are harmful and can cause the tissues in the mouth to become inflamed and ultimately infected. While dental implants are impervious to decay, they are still susceptible to infection where the titanium meets the gum line. When bacteria is allowed to well at the base of the dental implant, the threat of infection is real. When the site of a dental implant becomes infected, it is referred to as peri-implantitis. This is a very serious infection that is similar to periodontal disease. It can cause loss of bone, pain, and in most cases will cause the implant to fail. Unlike periodontal disease, however, peri-implantitis does not respond well to professional cleanings or therapies like periodontal therapy. The only effective way to resolve peri-implantitis has proven to be surgical cleaning.
There are two stages of peri-implant disease, and they mirror those of other gingival diseases. Peri-implant mucositis is characterized by puffy, bleeding, and sometimes painful gums at the site of an implant. Much like gingivitis, this is a warning infection. Peri-implant mucositis can be treated and reversed if caught early. However, if it is not treated it can develop into full-blown peri-implantitis and affect the integrity of the underlying bone and osseointegrated implant. Much like periodontal disease, peri-implantitis is essentially incurable and must be managed throughout a patient’s life. As mentioned earlier, the only way to rid a mouth of peri-implantitis is with a surgical cleaning, and life-long maintenance and periodontal therapy.
How Can I Prevent Peri-Implantitis?
Thankfully, just like periodontal disease, peri-implantitis is one hundred percent preventable with a beneficial daily oral hygiene routine. After a dental implant is placed your Melbourne, Florida dentist will inform you of how to care for your dental implant. While dental implants are great and cannot become decayed, they are still at a major risk of becoming infected below the gum line. Dr. Brazdo will stress to you that now, more than ever, your daily routine must be impeccable, and must be maintained. Especially in the days following your procedure, you must be very careful to allow your implant to heal according to instructions. This will prevent bacteria from entering the fresh implant site and beginning to wreak havoc. Once your implant has healed, brushing twice each day and flossing correctly every night will prevent bacteria from settling and developing into inflammation-causing plaque. It will also be mandatory for you to make twice yearly appointments to your dentist to ensure that the site of your dental implants are not at increased risk of developing peri-implant mucositis, or peri-implantitis.
New Technology May Offer Hope
The best way to prevent peri-implantitis from developing is to maintain impeccable oral health after you have dental implants placed. However, dental implant technology is constantly evolving and offering new solutions in prevention. German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials have been working on a revolutionary coating for dental implants that can prevent the growth of bacteria in the critical, first stages of dental implant osseointegration. Many cases of peri-implantitis occur because bacteria is able to create an antibiotic resistant biofilm directly on the titanium surface of the implant, and causes the implant to fail. Their film is comprised of three layers of textured polymers. More specifically, hydrophilic plasma polymers sandwich a layer of silver nanoparticles. Silver ions are widely regarded antimicrobial agents and in this application have proven to effectively prevent peri-implantitis. The polymer layers protect the rest of the body from the powerful silver ions by providing a barrier that only allows the release of small amounts of the antimicrobial metal. The polymers are also expertly textured to promote osseointegration. Eventually, the film is dissolved and replaced by new, healthy bone.
While dentists wait for this new technology to become more widely available, we will continue to encourage our patients to prevent peri-implantitis the old-fashioned way. If you have questions or concerns about your dental implants, please call our Melbourne, Florida dental practice today!