Dental implants are an excellent example of just how far dental technology has come in the last decade. They’re as close as you can get to a brand new tooth!
For many of my patients, gum disease is often the impetus for a dental implant. But while gum disease may lead you to consider or need an implant, it can also affect your candidacy for getting the implant in the first place. And if you develop gum disease after an implant, it can affect your implant’s long-term health and stability.
In today’s blog post, I’ll examine this weird catch-22, answering some of the most common questions my colleagues and I hear from patients about gum disease and dental implants.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are the safe and most effective method for replacing missing teeth. They restore your ability to eat, chew, and speak naturally, and ensure a durable and healthy future for your smile.
An implant is made from 3 important parts:
1. Fixture — Made from titanium or zirconium, the fixture takes the place of your tooth’s root and becomes a permanent part of your smile.
2. Abutment — The abutment screws into the fixture and provides a strong and stable base for your final tooth restoration.
3. Restoration — Usually a crown, denture, or dental bridge, the restoration is the final step in the process and is custom-made to fit your smile.
In order for all these 3 pieces to come together perfectly, your dentist follows a careful and precise process. Arguably the most important step of this process is ensuring the fixture is built on a strong and secure foundation — in other words, healthy gums.
What is gum disease?
Your gums work really hard for you on a day-to-day basis. Your gums help support your teeth, holding them in place. At the same time, they provide a seal around each tooth to keep bad bacteria from sneaking into deep tissue and affecting your systemic health.
Proper dental hygiene is the best thing you can do to support healthy gums and keep bacteria at bay. If bacteria is left to grow and multiply, eventually your gums will be unable to keep up or protect you. The result can be painful, and a dangerous infection in your gum tissue, called periodontitis — or more commonly gum disease — can develop.
A few of the most common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing
- Gums that are sore, tender, or swollen
- Chronic bad breath or dry mouth
- Sensitive teeth or pain when chewing
Left untreated, your gums will start to recede away from your teeth, causing tooth decay and eventually, tooth loss.
Can you get dental implants if you have gum disease?
If you are currently suffering from gum disease, you’ll need to work with your dentist to correct the issue before implant surgery can occur.
There are several reasons for this:
- Ensures proper healing of your fixture
- Lowers the risk of complications
- Reduces your risk of developing peri-implantitis
If we were to place an implant while you’re suffering from gum disease, the disease would only continue to damage your gums and supporting bone. Eventually, your implant would fail and you’d be back to square one.
Even if you’re not considering an implant, stopping the gum disease is very important. Depending on how far bacteria has progressed, treatment plans might include:
- Bone grafts
- Soft tissue grafts
- Laser treatment
- Deep cleaning
The most important thing you can do for your health and the future of your smile is to face gum disease head on.
At The Winning Smile Dental Group, we offer gum therapy treatments to help stop gum disease in its tracks. If more advanced therapies are required, we partner with a network of amazing specialists and can provide you with a referral. We’ll work hand-in-hand to ensure your treatment is a seamless experience with the desired results.
Can dental implants cause gum disease?
At our office, dental implant treatments have a great success rate. With proper dental hygiene habits, your implant can last for 25+ years!
However, as with any dental treatment, you’ll need to be hyper aware of risk factors. With implants, there’s one risk in particular that you should be aware of: peri-implantitis.
Peri-implantitis is a form of gum disease. It occurs when bacteria builds up and affects gum tissue and bone around a dental implant. Small symptoms include bleeding, swelling, and bad breath. At its worst, peri-implantitis can cause your dental implant to become loose or fail completely.
How to prevent gum disease and peri-implantitis
Prevention is key. You must be committed to taking excellent care of your teeth and gums to prevent gum disease and implant failure. It all starts by developing good dental hygiene habits:
- Practice good brushing and flossing habits. Use a soft bristled brush and be gentle.
- See your dentist regularly. Unless recommended otherwise by your dentist, at minimum visit the dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings.
- Consider a gum disease preventive treatment to stop bacteria in its tracks.
- Eat a healthy diet and stop smoking. Smoking of any kind is a very big risk factor!
Treatment options for peri-implantitis
A lot of people want to fully understand what to expect and how things may shake out in different scenarios. I completely understand! In fact, your dentist should always educate you on every aspect of a treatment and let you know exactly what to expect.
If after a dental implant treatment, despite your best efforts, you notice the signs of peri-implantitis, you should do 2 things:
- Contact your dentist right away
- Don’t panic!
There are many great, highly-successful treatment options available to combat and stop the disease, as well as stabilize and fix your implant. Your dentist will review your unique situation and provide the best treatment plan recommendation for resolving the issue.
Remember, your dentist is your partner in dental health. By working closely together, you’ll be able to catch any issues early on.
Have more questions about dental implants and gum disease?
The Winning Smile Dental Group is home to 25+ experienced dentists, hygienists, and staff. On behalf of our entire team, I invite you to learn more about our practice and contact us with any questions. We’re always welcoming new patients and would be thrilled to meet you.
Dr. Lewis is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry. She’s a member of the American Dental Association, the Mississippi Dental Association, the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Lewis is known for providing high-quality, comfortable care, while giving you a smile you’ll be proud to share with the world!