Dental implants are very similar to natural teeth in many ways. They look and function like natural teeth. They are cared for very similar to natural teeth. But they’re not exactly the same as natural teeth. The direct connection between the implant and the bone is a different structure than the ligament that connects a natural tooth to the bone, and this means that the gums around an implant have a different structure than the gums around a tooth.
As a result, a new study says, we need to measure the health of tissues around dental implants differently than we would measure the health of tissues around teeth. Especially when it comes to periodontal probing.
Periodontal Probes Could Harm Dental Implants
Periodontal probes are commonly used to measure the health of gum tissue around teeth. The probe slides between the tooth and gum to measure the depth of the periodontal pocket. Deeper pockets indicate that oral bacteria are separating the teeth and gums, an indicator of periodontal disease. We also note if you have bleeding on probing, because healthy gum tissue shouldn’t bleed in response to the gentle insertion of a probe into this space.
However, with a dental implant, there isn’t necessarily supposed to be any space between the implant and the gum tissue. Inserting a probe into this area therefore doesn’t give any useful data. Inserting a probe here can lead to bleeding in even healthy gum tissue around implants, and it’s not linked to health or disease of the implant, the authors say.
In fact, the authors cite data showing that frequently inserting something between the implant and gums can actually lead to problems, including bone loss around the implant.
New Recommendations for Checking Implant Health
Instead of probing around dental implants, the authors recommend three approaches to measuring the health of dental implants:
- Visual inspection of the implant
- Gentle pressure on the peri-implant tissue
- X-rays to measure bone levels
Looking at the dental implant will reveal swelling and redness. Pressure checks for discomfort, bleeding, and infection (indicated by pus that oozes on pressure). But the most important measure is periodic x-rays, which will show if there is bone loss around the dental implant, or if the bone remains healthy.
Of course, it’s also important for patients to pay attention to the health of their dental implants so that we can identify health problems early and address them to protect the implants.
Implants Have a High Success Rate
While it’s important to keep an eye on the health of implants, we also want to stress that implants overall have a very high success rate and tend to last a long time. With an initial success rate approaching 98% and a 20-year lifespan for more than 90% of implants, we know that these health concerns aren’t likely to cause major problems for your implants, as long as we watch for them.
Instead, it’s like natural teeth. About half of all American adults have gum disease, but with careful monitoring and proper care, most of us can retain most or all of our teeth for a lifetime.
If you have more questions about maintaining the long-term health of your dental implants or are considering getting dental implants in Orange County, please call (949) 551-5902 today for an appointment with an implant dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.