If you've had teeth removed and replaced with dental implants, it's important to do whatever you can to avoid failure of the implants. One reason that implants fail is due to infection. If an infection takes hold in the gums and spreads to the bone surrounding the implant, you might end up losing it. Preventing infection should be a matter of course when you have dental implant. Check out this list of ways to prevent infection, as well as tips on what to do if you think you have an infection brewing.
Treat Your Implant Like It's a Natural Tooth
Just as you brush, floss, and take your natural teeth to the dentist periodically, it's important to do the same with your implants. If you have only one or two implants, this will be a matter of habit, since you're caring for the rest of your teeth anyway. If you have a mouth full of implants, however, you need to understand that you have to treat your implants the same way you would treat your natural teeth -- or better!
Brush your implants twice daily, and be sure to floss once daily. Because your gum tissue will adhere to your implants differently than it adhered to your natural teeth, you'll have to take special care when it comes to flossing. Some patients find it helpful to use a special water flosser to get a fairly forceful stream of water into the space between the implant and the gum tissue. Be sure to ask your dentist about this, as it should not be used in certain cases (if you've had recent oral surgery or if your gum tissue is compromised, for example).
When you had your surgery, you were advised not to smoke, and that recommendation still holds months or years down the road. In addition to wreaking havoc on your health, smoking causes the gums to atrophy, reduces salivary flow and affects bone healing. All of these can add up to a bone infection called peri-implantitis (which means an infection or inflammation in the bone around a dental implant).
If you're having trouble quitting smoking, talk to your doctor or dentist about ways to stop. In the meantime, ask your dentist about whether a prescription-strength mouthwash will help keep your implants safe and less likely to develop an infection.
Get Chronic Health Conditions Under Control
If you are diabetic or have heart disease, you might be at an increased risk of developing an infection around your implants. Getting these conditions under control is important not only for your overall health and wellness, but for your dental health, as well. See your physician and find out what you need to do to maintain your health while dealing with chronic health conditions.
Be Alert to the Symptoms of Infection
One of the primary symptoms of an infection around your implant is gum irritation. This might consist of swelling, bleeding and redness. You might even be able to see a space where the gum tissue is separating from the implant. Pus drainage, pain that gets worse or feeling that the implant is loose necessitate prompt treatment.
If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. He or she may elect to put you on antibiotics prophylactically if you cannot get in to be seen within a day or two. Take the medication as prescribed and keep your appointment with the dentist, even if you are feeling better in a few days.
While an infection is always possible with dental implants, most patients do well with them and will enjoy having a prosthetic tooth that remains in place for many years to come. Talk to your dentist about ways that you can avoid infection and other complications.