When you receive implant teeth, regular maintenance is just as important as before, but cleaning them requires different techniques than cleaning natural teeth. An implant attaches to the bone and gums differently. It is also made of a different material. Dental hygienists therefore need to follow a different protocol for cleaning an implant and ensuring all plaque, tartar, and bacteria are removed.
Structure of a Dental Implant
A natural tooth has a bony socket and root, but a dental implant completely replaces the root. It is attached directly to the bone; the titanium base fuses with the bone during the healing process after surgery. Above the titanium is an abutment. It serves as a connector and has collagen, which helps to hold the implant surface against the gums. The crown also attaches to the gum, via an epithelial attachment that allows gum cells to attach to the implant’s metal or ceramic. Microscopic suction pads help to secure the crown as well.
Why Implant Cleaning Is Different
Bacteria have no preference when it comes to natural or implant teeth. Daily oral hygiene helps remove the bacterial biofilm; otherwise an infection can set in, known as peri-implantitis. The infection can cause the attachments to separate and for surrounding bone to be lost.
Dental hygienists must use special tools to clean implants. These instruments are selected based on what type of debris is present and whether it is a soft biofilm or food, or hard tarter. The type of surface affected, location of the material, and how tough it is to remove also determine what the hygienist will use.
Implant Cleaning Tools
Dental implants aren’t cleaned with the same metal tools used for natural teeth, because they scratch more easily. Plastic or resin scalers/curettes won’t damage the crown or abutment. Ultrasonic instruments are used as well, and contain plastic or nylon sheaths that protect the implants. Vibration can clean even high accumulations of debris, and is effective when used along with water irrigation and antibacterial solutions. Deposits can also be cleaned with special brushes.
Visible implant bodies can mean bone or gum has been lost, typically due to an infection, and fusion with the bone can be compromised. The surfaces that keep the implant in place are microscopically roughened, which also makes them difficult to clean. It can be challenging to clean dental implants, but studies have shown their rate of success is still quite high.