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How long will my implants last? What can I do to maintain them?
Studies have shown that implants can be expected to last at least 10 years. However, its longevity depends on how well you maintain them.
Many people think that because implants are artificial teeth, they do not have to maintain it. This cannot be further from the truth.
Implants are susceptible to failure if they are not kept clean.It is true that implants cannot get ‘decayed’ like normal teeth. Decay is caused by the bacterial infection of living tooth structure. Because implants are made of metal, they are impermeable to bacteria.
However, the area between the implants and the gums is where infections may happen.
If implants are not kept clean, the surrounding gums get inflamed. In normal teeth, this is called periodontitis (link). In implants, we call it peri-implantitis
Peri-implantitis causes the underlying bone supporting the implant to recede. This causes the implant to be destabilised. In many cases, patients do not detect this until it is too late where it becomes shaky.
In severe cases, the implants may start to become mobile and shaky. When this happens, the entire implant may have to be removed. Imagine that! All the time, effort, and money spent- only for the entire implant to be removed. So remember this, implants are not ‘invincible’. They require similar diligence in maintenance and cleaning.
Also, the following group of people are more likely to suffer from peri-implantitis:
- Suffer from diabetes
- Smoker or previous smoker
- Have a history of gum disease (periodontitis)
If you are one of these groups, remember to see your dentist regularly!
How do I maintain my implants?
First, clean and floss them like normal teeth! The gums surrounding the implant tend to trap dirt if not cleaned properly. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and try to floss at least once a day. Check out our comprehensive guide here on how to take care of your teeth!
Secondly, remember to visit your dentist for your regular checkups! When implants fail, they tend to do so slowly, and it often goes unnoticed by the patient. Patients also do not usually report any pain. By the time you finally detect the looseness and shakiness, it is usually too late.
During your regular maintenance visits to the dentist, we routinely check for the health of the implant. There are methods to detect implant failure. We routinely check the depth of the gums around the implants. This gives us an indicator if the implant is in good health.
X-rays are also useful in detecting bone loss around implants.
The picture above illustrates what happens during peri-implantitis.
You can see a dark space surrounding the implants. That dark space represents the loss of bone around the implant.
However, the patient may not be able to detect that something is wrong because the implant may still be firm (it is still supported by bone). Eventually, more bone loss occurs and it will be too late to treat this.
How do you treat peri-implantitis?
Peri-implantitis comes in different stages of severity
No sufficient studies done to determine best way to treat.If bone loss is advanced or persists despite initial treatment, it will be necessary to surgically debride the soft, peri-implant tissues affected by the chronic infection, decontaminate the microimplant surface, and finally apply bone regeneration techniques aimed at recovering the lost bone.
Until now, no methodology has been established as a gold standard approach for the treatment of peri-implantitis.
So the therapy of peri-implantitis comprises (a) the nonsurgical phase, which includes debridement by mechanical means, ultrasonic, or laser devices, either alone or combined with antiseptic and/or antibiotic agents and (b) the surgical phase, utilizing either resective or regenerative techniques
...hence best to avoid treatment, after all, prevention is better than cure!