Dental Implants

Care for Dental Implants


Dear Doctor,
My dental hygienist always uses special instruments to clean around my dental implants. Why does cleaning dental implants differ from cleaning natural teeth?

Dental implant hygienist.

Dear Samantha,
Thank you for your question. In a nutshell, cleaning around implants differs from maintenance of natural teeth for two reasons: The first is that each attaches to surrounding bone and gums in a very different way; secondly, the materials from which implants are made are very different from natural teeth.

Dental implants replace the root parts of the teeth. Artificial crowns, bridgework or removable dentures — tooth replacements that make up the visible (crown) part/s of teeth — are attached to the implants. In between the implant and the crown of a tooth there is often a connector known as an abutment. The success of the whole system is based on the implant's attachment to bone. Titanium, the metal of which implants are made, is uniquely osteophilic — literally “bone-loving.” It fuses to bone in a process called osseointegration (“osseo” – bone; “integration” – fusion or joining).

Above the bone where the integration process ends, the abutment comes in contact with the gum tissue where it is supported by a connective (i.e. “connecting”) tissue composed of fibers made of a tough material called collagen. The fibers run beneath the surface parallel to the implant ending at the top of the bone. They hold the gum tissues against the implant surface.

At the very top of the implant assembly, the abutment and lower part of the crown attach to the gum (the surface “skin” layer) via a specialized structure known as an epithelial attachment (“epi” – on top; “thele” – nipple). The cells actually attach to the highly polished metal or ceramic, of which the implants are made, by means of microscopic suction pads.

By contrast, a tooth root is attached to the bony socket that surrounds it — by a periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth). The ligament is composed of tiny fibers that insert into the bone on one side and into the tooth root on the other. Above the bone, the fibers attach from the tooth into the gum tissue. An implant has no such attachment. Since the whole periodontal ligament has a greater blood vessel supply through which it can bring cells and nutrients, it is more readily able to resist and fight against infection.



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