Dental Implant Health
August 10, 2022
Once a tooth is replaced with a dental implant, special care should be taken to make sure that you keep the implant clean and ensure optimal health. In this article, we talk about how to take care of your dental implants and what the risk factors for complications are.


Ina Alberts

Once a tooth is replaced with a dental implant, the area below the gum line, around the implant crown (called the peri-implant sulcus), creates a new habitat for bacteria to colonize. On examination by a dental professional, a healthy sulcus will show no bleeding, and the surrounding soft tissues will be a light pink color.

Once the balance between good and harmful bacteria is lost, the disease presents itself. This happens with plaque accumulation around a dental implant. Soft tissue will turn red, and on examination by a dental professional, the diseased sulcus will show bleeding or even edema. This infection, peri-implant mucositis, can be treated if diagnosed early on. Treatment involves professional cleaning & better daily plaque control.

If peri-implant mucositis is left untreated, it can progress to peri-implantitis -an infection that has spread from the soft tissue to the surrounding bone around an implant, causing bone loss. More aggressive bone loss is seen around dental implants than natural teeth due to structural differences in the gingival soft tissues (gums). Treatment of peri-implantitis might involve any of the following: removal of the implant prosthesis and proper cleaning around the implant. Surgical opening of the soft tissue surrounding the implant with the cleaning of the implant surface, whereafter, the gum is sutured back in place. Treatment will depend on the severity of the bone loss. In cases where severe bone loss has occurred with the mobility of the dental implant, removal might be the only option.

Risk factors for implant complications include smoking, diabetes and periodontal disease. In addition, local factors that can have an effect may be excess cement around the implant crown (if cemented), lack of attached soft tissue, ledges on crowns or an unfavourable crown design.

The key to success is good oral hygiene with proper daily plaque control, regular supportive hygiene treatments, and implant evaluations. Routine dental x-rays to evaluate the bone levels around your implants are also valuable. Your dental hygienist can assist with this.