If you have teeth that you have lost as a result of accident, injury, or disease, one of the best ways to replace them may be through the use of dental implants. This surgical process will not only fully restore your smile but also give you a permanent solution that will offer you full functionality of the tooth or teeth involved. Because your implants will but fused into your jawbone, they will give you a strong bite surface, while maintaining the underlying bone structure. But because dental implants are a surgical procedure, they do pose a risk of infection. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take that will help you reduce this risk. One of the first steps includes understanding the causes of the infection.
Types of Implant Infections
Some type of infection during the dental-implant process is not uncommon. This is not surprising when you consider that at any point there can be more than 20 billion bacteria in your mouth, which in ideal situations, can reproduce as quickly as in 20 minutes. But even in less-than-ideal situations such as in your mouth where they are competing with other bacteria, bacteria can reproduce approximately every 5 hours. This means that in a 24-hour period, if you do not brush, the 20 billion bacteria can easily grow to exceed 100 billion.
There are two basic types of infections that this bacteria can cause you to get during and after you received dental implants. These are:
Peri-implant mucositis – infections that primarily affect the gum tissue. These infections are often mild and are caused by bacterium entering the surgical site during the procedure or recovery. These infections are normally relatively easy to treat with adjustments and antibiotics. When they are caught early, recovery is normally pretty rapid.
Peri-implantitis – infections that affect both the gum and bone tissues. These are often gum infections that are much more severe or those that are left untreated, which eventually can lead to bone loss, as well as the rejection of your dental implant. Signs of both can include:
- red or tender areas on your gums
- bleeding when brushing
- an increase in your blood sugars if you are diabetic
Along with bacteria, infections can also be caused by:
- Loose implants
- Poorly fitted implants
- Poorly designed crowns
Infections in these cases can often be easily avoided by using a dentist who is knowledgeable and specializes in dental implants. They will have the skills and abilities to ensure that your implants and crowns are designed and placed as they should be.
How to Avoid Dental-Implant Infections
Avoid tobacco products – Along with the billions of naturally occurring bacteria that are present in your mouth, tobacco products introduce a host of additional bacteria as well as substances that lowers your body's ability to heal. Your oral surgeon will advise you to not only abstain from any type of tobacco products during the implant process but also may ask you to abstain from the use of the product for a month or longer prior to the surgery.
Closely follow your treatment plan – Many patients do not appreciate that dental implants are a type of surgery, and just like with any other type of surgery, there is a discharge plan that you need to adhere to.
- Take all medications that are prescribed by your dentist. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed in order to help to boost your body's immune system as well as combat any peri-implant infections as soon as they occur.
- Perform any type of wound care that is suggested, such as rinsing your mouth with warm salt water so many times per day after the first 24 hours following surgery. This warm salt-water rinse will help to promote healing as well as rinse bacteria out of your mouth and away from the surgery site.
- Continue to be medication compliant with any other medications you may have been prescribed by your other physicians. This is especially important if you are diabetic. Infection can quickly cause an increase in your sugar levels, which in turn will affect your healing process.
You are the most important part of your treatment team. Although you need your dentist and the dental staff to perform the implant procedure, they need you to be compliant with the given recommendations. Together, you should achieve beautiful, successful, and infection-free implants. For more information, talk to a professional, such as one at Oral Surgery Center.