Learning how to care for your new dental implants may seem like a momentous task. Will you need to find an implant-specific toothbrush? Will your implant wear out in ten years? Do you need to shine it with a special cream every night before bed? The answer to these questions is no. One dental hygiene practice that you should put a little more thought into, however, is flossing.
Flossing helps to remove plaque and other biofilm from around the gums and in between the teeth. Biofilm is when bacteria bond together for protection, making them tough to clean and causing tooth decay when left alone. Even though implants will not accumulate plaque as quickly as your other teeth, and biofilm will not decay the implant, the gum around it is still natural gum and still needs care.
Flossing with String
Although you can continue using the dental floss that you used before your implant, it is important to keep in mind that gentleness is key to healthy gums. Flossing around dental implants is slightly different than regular teeth. With regular teeth, the gum is connected to each tooth by strong connective tissue called periodontal ligaments. When flossing, pushing the floss into the pocket between the tooth and tissue is non-damaging because nerve pain deters you from pushing too deep and damaging this seal.
Implants are not connected by a periodontal ligament. Instead, a periodontal soft-tissue seal surrounds the constructed tooth to keep out bacteria and particles. This seal is not as strong as the periodontal ligament and has less nerve sensitivity. Flossing too deep breaks the seal, giving bacteria access to the bone beneath, which causes damage to the bone over time. Bone damage can lead to the loss of the implant.
Taking care to floss gently around implants, even older implants, is the key to avoiding bone loss from aggressive dental hygiene. As much as possible, avoid delving into the pocket more than 1-2 millimeters.
Oral irrigation devices such as the WaterPik are recommended as an alternative to string floss when working around implants. Used on a low setting, the stream of water will not damage the soft seal. Higher settings may irritate the area or damage the seal if used continuously. People who floss for long periods of time on high settings could also experience bone loss from bacteria infiltrating the periodontal soft-tissue seal. Plastic tips are recommended over metal tips.
Using oral irrigators to remove plaque and biofilm can help to prevent peri-implant disease and gingivitis. Water flossing has been found to remove the same amount of biofilm as traditional floss.
Protecting Your Gum and Bone Health
Regular dental cleaning for patients with implants is just as important as it is for those without them. The implant itself is not going to decay, but your natural teeth and gums still need care. Regular checkups give dentists the opportunity to check the tissue health around implants. Dental hygienists should be notified of the presence of dental implants before cleanings if you are seeing a new dentist. In the same way as dental floss, cleaning instruments run the risk of damaging the soft seal when cleaning in the gum pocket if the dentist is not aware of the implant.
To learn more about proper care for your dental implants in the Orlando area, please call (407) 834-6446 to set up an appointment with Orlando cosmetic dentist, Dr. Michael L. Weinstock today.