How to clean your dental implants

Hygienist at Bupa UK
11 November 2016

Advances in cosmetic dentistry in recent years have been phenomenal, with dental implants becoming more common place as a treatment option.

As a hygienist working closely with people undergoing these complex forms of treatment, it’s my job to help people look after their ‘new teeth’.

Your hygienist will always be keen to discuss your oral hygiene regime and guide you in your home care, particularly after complex treatment. But if your life is hectic, here are a few simple tips to keep your mouth in tip top condition.

An image of two friends smiling

Use the right tools

Currently, there is a vast selection of oral hygiene aids to choose from – even choosing a basic toothbrush can be bewildering. With cosmetic dentistry, you need the right tools to prevent any teeth or gum problems, most of which I talk about below.

Dental implants have become a popular treatment option in the last 20 years. A titanium ‘root’ is placed in the bone with a crown placed on top. Due to their unique anatomy, implants can be challenging to keep clean. Even though they are often called ‘false’ teeth, it’s so important to keep them free from plaque to prevent peri-implant disease.

Image showing a dental implant

Peri-implant disease

Peri-implant mucositis is the medical name for inflammation (redness and swelling) around the gums of the implant tooth – this is caused by bacteria that build up in the mouth. If the plaque isn’t removed and continues to break down, this is called peri-implantitis and your implant may be at risk of coming loose.

If you have an implant and you’re unsure of how to clean parts of the tooth, ask your dentist or hygienist for guidance. There are lots of designs of implants, and sometimes it can be helpful to see a radiograph of the implant to find out where the ‘gaps’ are and where bacteria may build up.

How to brush your dental implants

You can brush your implant teeth in the same way as you do your natural teeth. You may like to try a special implant toothbrush. There are some with angled necks which help to reach the inside surface or some have a slim brush which is ideal for the outside surface. Otherwise, an electric or manual toothbrush can do the job.

Single implants at the front of the mouth are easier to clean; often just using special implant floss, normal floss or interdental brushes will do the trick. This is because the gaps here are often tiny and the method of cleaning is the same as a normal tooth.

If you have implants at the back of your mouth then you will need to clean these more carefully. It helps to understand the anatomy: often, these implants are replacing a molar tooth with two or three roots. And in the place of these roots is one single implant (titanium) root. I often describe this to people as a mushroom structure. To properly and successfully clean this area, interdental brushes are the easiest option to push between the adjacent tooth and the implant tooth. You will notice it will dip under the crown a little. With practice, you will become more confident in cleaning here.

Some implant structures can be complex to keep clean; for example, an implant bridge with several implants would have to be kept thoroughly clean. An implant with artificial gums may also pose a challenge. Often, a tool called a water flosser can be helpful here to dislodge stubborn food particles. Ask your hygienist for advice about these.

We’re fortunate to have great advancements in cosmetic dentistry, and with good oral hygiene care, you will be able to maintain that healthy smile.

Julia Wilson
Hygienist at Bupa UK

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