Dental implants are an excellent way to replace missing teeth. Although the success rate of dental implants is 98 percent and most people don't experience any subsequent problems with them, sometimes things do go awry. A small amount of patients who get implants develop a dental disease called peri-implantitis. Here's more information about this condition and what you can do to minimize your risk of being affected by it.
What is Peri-Implantitis?
Peri-implantitis is similar to periodontal disease except the infection is focused locally in the tissues surrounding dental implants rather than the entire mouth. Bacterium finds its way into openings in or around the implants and begins destroying the bone supporting the titanium posts. Eventually, so much bone is lost that the implants become loose and either fall out or must be removed.
Causes of Peri-Implantitis
The primary cause of this disease is the invasion of bacterium into places where they're not welcomed. When everything goes right, the implant should be completely integrated in the socket with no room for bacterium to enter or gather, thus preventing the organisms from damaging the bone and tissues holding the implant in place.
Unfortunately, things sometimes go wrong. Tiny holes may form during the integration process, the healing cap doesn't get tightened enough, the implant itself wasn't inserted securely or any number of things occur during the procedure that leaves a door open for bacterium to enter.
Additionally, peri-inplantitis appears to occur at a higher rate in people who suffer from chronic periodontitis. The condition is also typically preceded by peri-implant mucositis, which is inflammation in the soft tissues surrounding the implant. When left untreated, peri-implant mucositis advances into peri-implantitis.
Other things that may cause peri-implantitis to develop include:
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes or osteoporosis
- Poor oral hygiene
- Smoking or drug abuse
- Bruxism and similar conditions that cause bone and tooth damage
How Peri-Implantitis Develops
The disease begins very mildly, and many people won't know they have it—unless they get regular dental checkups—until it's too late. In the beginning, the gum tissue around the implanted tooth will become inflamed, appearing red instead of its normal pink hue.
In the next stage, the gums will begin bleeding whenever you floss or brush. The area may appear puffy or swollen, and the skin will look shiny and smooth. There may be mild pain or irritation as well.
As the disease progresses, the gums will recede and expose the implant. The replacement tooth itself may feel loose, which indicates bone loss in the area, which can be confirmed at the dentist office using x-rays. Eventually, the bone will deteriorate to a level where it can no longer support the implant, and the false tooth will fall out or your dentist will remove it.
How peri-implantitis is treated depends on how advanced the disease is. In the beginning stages, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the infection as well as thoroughly clean the area to get rid of the bacteria already present. In the advanced stages, the implant is typically removed until the infection is brought under control and the bone tissue is restored enough to support a new false tooth.
It's best to work with your dentist to develop a plan of action to deal with your unique situation.
Prevention methods start with getting your implants from a reputable dentist with a good track record of doing excellent work. This will reduce the risk of errors being made during the implantation process that can leave the implant exposed to bacterial infections.
Improper or poor dental hygiene also greatly contributes to the problem because it allows bacterium to breed in spaces they shouldn't:
- Brush twice per day and floss once per day
- Use interdental brushes to scrub the areas around the implant; these brushes tend to offer a deeper clean
- Another option is to use a Waterpik or similar device; these devices are very effective at eliminating plaque in tight spaces
- Reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth by using an antiseptic mouthwash every day
- Get regular dental checkups; the dentist can catch the problem in the early stages and take care of it before it becomes a serious issue
For more information about peri-implantitis, talk to a dentist in your area. You can also visit http://www.dds4smiles.com to learn more and dental implants in general.