Now that you’ve invested in a new smile, knowing everything there is to dental implant maintenance will help them last as long as possible.
When push comes to shove, cleaning dental implants is almost identical to caring for your natural teeth. Although you may need a few extra tools or tricks to learn when it comes to how to clean dental implants effectively, it’s easier than you think.
Protecting the investment you’ve made in your smile will set you up for success. Properly maintained dental implants can last the rest of your life. All it takes is a great daily hygiene routine, attention to prevention, and scheduling routine checkups!
How to Brush Your Dental Implants
You want to brush your dental implants almost identically to the way you brush natural teeth. Start by investing in a soft or extra-soft toothbrush. A powered, sonic brush is even better (since they remove more biofilm than manual brushing.) The key is to not get one with stiff or hard bristles, as they could traumatize the gum tissues around the implant and restoration.
Next, select a gentle, non-abrasive toothpaste. Be sure to avoid harsh products that feel gritty, such as baking soda. Although implants are durable, you don’t want to risk causing any surface scratches on your restorations. If you do, they’ll be more likely to attract bacteria and stain.
Angle your brush at about 45-degrees toward the gumlines. Make short strokes, focusing on one tooth at a time. Then move your brush to the next tooth. Work your way around the entire mouth, cleansing thoroughly along the gumlines. Don’t forget the chewing surfaces! And remember, only apply just enough pressure to barely cause blanching in your gum tissues. Nothing more.
Flossing Around Implants
Even though dental implants don’t get cavities, you still need to keep them clean. One of the most commonly overlooked parts of dental implant maintenance is daily flossing. You’ll want to use traditional floss or an appropriate floss holder that allows you to work the strand down in-between each tooth and implant.
Once the floss is in place, wrap it in a “C” shape against the side of your crown and implant, gently rubbing up and down its side several times. Then lift the floss up over your gum tissue and move to the next tooth. With flossing, you’re specifically trying to clean where the teeth touch as well as just under the edges of your gumlines. Those “pocket” areas are where biofilm tends to collect, which could lead to infections like gingivitis, gum disease, and peri-implantitis.
Flossing isn’t going to pull anything out. However, not flossing could put you at risk for failing dental work! It’s just as important (if not more than) brushing.
Floss Threaders, Tufted Floss, and Proxa Brushes
Dental implant maintenance can be a little more challenging if you have hard-to-reach areas. If that’s the case, you’ll want to pick up a couple of extra oral hygiene aids like floss threaders or “proxy”/“proxa” brushes.
Floss threaders look like slender, enlarged plastic needles. They’re used to weave floss underneath areas such as fixed bridges or an All-on-4 appliance. That way you can reach those surfaces even if you can’t slide the floss down from the top of the tooth.
Proxa brushes are like a small, tapered, tufted brush. They look sort of like a small pipe cleaner or Christmas tree. You can get them on small handles or larger toothbrush-style holders. Proxa brushes are great for brushing between wider spaces where a conventional toothbrush won’t reach. For instance, in open spaces like gaps or under a fixed prosthesis where there’s more room between the appliance and your gum tissue. A proxy brush won’t replace flossing, but it’s an important part of your dental implant maintenance toolkit.
Tufted floss or “super-floss” is a thicker version of traditional floss. It’s great for cleaning wider spaces between teeth or under bridges and All-on-4 implants. Most brands have a stiff end, making it easy to weave through areas without using a floss threader.
What About Water Flossing?
If you’re someone who hates flossing or finds it too tedious to keep up with each day, you’re in luck. Water flossers are a great alternative! Although a little messy at first, water flossers are thorough and effective. With a little practice, you’ll know how to clean dental implants in no time.
Water flossers are handheld devices that use a steady stream of water to flush out whatever is in its path. They’re great for cleaning between teeth, inside of gum pockets, and around dental implants.
Depending on the type of water flosser you choose, you can even adjust the pressure settings. We recommend starting with a gentle flow and working your way up as it becomes more comfortable. Simply trace the gumlines around each implant and tooth, pausing between them to flush out food residue and plaque.
Used daily, water flossing can combat and reverse gingivitis! It’s an excellent tool for preventing peri-implantitis and periodontal disease.
What is Peri-Implantitis?
Peri-implantitis is the dental implant form of gum disease. It’s why thoroughly cleaning dental implants each day is so important. Without the right prevention, peri-implantitis can lead to gum inflammation, bone resorption (shrinkage), and dental implant failure. In fact, peri-implantitis is the leading cause of failing dental implants.
The symptoms of peri-implantitis mirror that of periodontal disease. At first, the tissues become red, swollen, and tender to the touch. Eventually, they’re likely to bleed when you brush and floss. Moderate plaque and tartar buildup are usually visible.
Fortunately, if you catch gum irritation before aggressive peri-implantitis develops, cleaning dental implants can reverse the process.
Cleaning Around an Implant Crown vs. Bridge
Knowing how to clean dental implants is easy if you just have a single implant and crown. The process practically mirrors that of brushing and flossing a natural tooth. But when you have a fixed multi-tooth restoration like an implant-supported dental bridge or hybrid All-on-4 prosthesis, it’s a bit different.
Single implants and crowns are easy to floss since the strand simply tucks down between the teeth. For implant bridges or other restorations, you’ll want to go back to using a floss threader and/or Waterpik. These appliances make it possible to reach the side of the implant that’s facing the middle of the restoration. Simply glide the floss threader underneath, run the strand back and forth under the bridge, and rub the sides of each supporting implant. Or if you prefer a water flosser, use the water spray to flush away debris along your gums, bridge, and the implants. It takes a bit of extra time, but it’s a crucial step!
Scheduling Professional Dental Cleanings
Dental implant maintenance should also include your regular preventative dental cleanings. We recommend scheduling your checkup every six months, regardless of how many dental implants you have. Since it’s possible for stain and tartar to accumulate along them, professionally cleaning dental implants should be a part of your ongoing care.
Our hygienists use special instruments to safely and thoroughly clean dental implants without damaging their surface or the soft tissues around them. That way you can feel confident, knowing they’re free of bacterial buildup.
One of the things we do differently at Raleigh Dental Arts is to use a special glycine powder that’s specifically designed for safely cleaning dental implants. The material thoroughly removes microscopic plaque debris along your gum tissues and implant surface, ensuring the best possible outcome for our patients.
The Importance of Checkups
Part of your dental implant experience is the full-service approach to maintenance. With personal and professional care, you can take every step possible to ensure your implants last a lifetime. During your checkups, we’ll show you how to clean dental implants and restorations effectively, so that you can protect your investment for decades.
Yes, implants are designed to last for life. But they can also develop complications if they’re not cared for properly. By scheduling a professional checkup and cleaning at least every six months, our Raleigh dentists can intercept potential issues before they have an opportunity to become more aggressive. Not only is it better for your smile, but it’s also gentler on your wallet! Prevention is the key to getting the most out of your new smile.
Implants are stronger than anything else in your mouth, but they also require professional cleanings and exams just like your natural teeth do. We’ll also take intermittent X-rays to evaluate the bone support around them (even though they don’t get cavities.) Once a year is usually all that’s needed unless you’re having a specific issue going on.
Implant Dentists in Raleigh
Are you thinking about getting dental implants? Raleigh Dental Arts offers complete implant therapy from your initial consultation and screening to the placement and financing options. So, whether you need to replace one tooth or all of them, we’ll help you do so predictably. That way you can smile with confidence for decades to come!
Find out if dental implants are right for you. Contact our implant Dentists in Raleigh today for an exam.