How to care for dental implants

According to the American Dental Association, there are nearly five million dental implants placed in the U.S each year. That’s a lot of implants, but there’s a good reason for this huge number:

Dental implants are not only a superior option to wearing removable dentures, but they also preserve and protect the jawbone, function like natural teeth, improve your smile, and unlike other replacements such as bridges or crowns, can last a lifetime. One caveat, though; in order for them to actually last a lifetime, they need to be properly cared for. You can do this by following the tips below:

Caring for your dental implants

  • Clean your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-nylon toothbrush. If you can, get an electric toothbrush, which removes bacteria more effectively. (Just make sure the electric toothbrush uses a soft brush too). Patients are also advised to brush for a full two minutes.
  • Don’t use abrasive toothpaste, mouthwash, or other oral products that are abrasive. Rather, look for oral products that have been specially formulated for dental implants so they won’t contain ingredients that will wear down your implants. 
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol (which is good to do for your health anyhow) until after your post-operative appointment. Smoking in particular should be avoided at least for 7-14 days after surgery, although ideally they should be avoided for the entire healing time, which can take up to 6 months.
  • Brush under and around the dental implant crown to minimize the buildup of bacteria and plaque around the implant. Tip: Use a nylon-coated interdental brush that slides between teeth and can more successfully clean hard-to-reach places.
  • Floss daily with unwaxed tape or a water flosser (aka oral irrigator), which can remove bacteria in pockets up to 6 mm deep.
  • Avoid sticky or hard foods such as apples, caramel, carrots, dried fruit, hard candies, ice, etc. Food like these can damage dental implants (as well as your other teeth).
  • Visit your dentist regularly, at least twice a year, and regularly schedule appointments for professional teeth cleanings.
  • If you grind your teeth or clench your jaws (bruxism), tell your dentist since bruxism can complicate treatment. Dentists will often recommend a night guard or night splint for people with bruxism in order to protect their teeth from the force of grinding (and clenching). 

Easy, but imperative

As you can see, caring for your dental implants is fairly easy and doesn’t differ significantly from caring for your natural teeth. However, ease doesn’t mean unimportant. On the contrary, taking good care of your dental implants is imperative. And while dental implants are an extremely successful medical procedure, part of that success comes down to how well you care for them.