What is peri-implantitis? And how do I know I have it?


If you’ve had dental implants fitted, you’ll know how important it is to keep them clean. Neglect them and you risk not only them failing but also your oral health, warns Michael Norton

What condition do my gums have to be in in order to have dental implants?

Patients who suffer from gum disease are more prone to getting peri-implantitis so it’s vital that any gum disease is tackled and controlled before any implant treatment starts.

In fact, all patients can benefit from having a pre-surgical scale and polish, even if they have healthy gums.

What is peri-implantitis?

If an infection sets in around an implant inserted into the gum, it can spread to the surrounding the jaw bone, which will begin to waste away.

Over time, this can reduce support for the implant.

This inflammatory disease around an implant is known as peri-implantitis. Symptoms include bleeding on probing and movement of implants. A dentist can make a diagnosis of peri-implantitis with an X-ray that will show up any bone loss around the implant.

Is it reversible?

The early stages of peri-implantitis — also known as mucositis — is reversible with professional hygiene and therapy.

However, once bone loss has been established this is typically irreversible.

Nonetheless the disease can be halted with appropriate therapy. If the patient is a smoker this will absolutely require the patient to quit smoking. Diabetics need to ensure their diabetes is well controlled.

How best to maintain hygiene?

Dental implants must be cleaned and looked after like normal teeth, otherwise you risk getting a gum infection.

The correct use of toothbrushes — manual or powered — helps to reduce the amount of plaque biofilm build-up that can lead to infection, too. Flossing and the use of interdental brushes are essential and it may be worthwhile investing in a single-tufted brush to get to those awkward crevices around the implant.

Disclosing tablets are a useful guide and will show up any areas missed. This can help you check to see if you are cleaning adequately.  The importance of meticulous oral hygiene around the implants cannot be under estimated.

What is supportive periodontal therapy?

These are a range of treatments that aim to remove the inflammation and the causes of inflammation such as plaque and calculus, which can adhere to the surface of the teeth and implants both above and below the gum line. Such treatments can be routing scaling or even surgical decontamination, depending on the severity of the disease.

And finally, what are the biggest risks to implant failure?

Aside from poor dental hygiene, smoking will significantly detract from the long-term success of implant treatment. Unfavourable immediate loading, such as  bruxism (or teeth grinding) and uncontrolled diabetes are also a risk.

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