Dental implants are essentially replacement teeth, or more accurately, replacement tooth roots. Even as practices in modern dental care have had innovations in leaps and bounds, millions of Americans still suffer from tooth loss– whether through tooth decay, injury, some form of gum disease, cancer, or regular wear and tear.
While they are built for comfort and built to last, dental implants are not indestructible.
Even as dental implants continue to be a popular method to replace missing or damaged teeth, there’s still a chance (however unlikely) that something can go wrong with them, usually through habits like excessive teeth grinding or mouth conditions like gum disease.
Why Are Dental Implants So Popular?
Providing a strong foundation for either permanent or removable replacements, dental implants are made to match the look of your natural teeth and have a good number of advantages and benefits.
• Dental implants are durable. With proper maintenance and care, they can last for decades to come.
• They’re comfortable. Dental implants look great and feel like real teeth.
• Dental implants allow you to eat more easily. They allow you to chew into food easily without any worry.
• They also help you maintain your speech. Since they fit well, and feel natural, you don’t have be concerned about lisps, slurs, or other impediments to the way you talk.
• Dental implants are great at improving your self-esteem. You can smile naturally and interact with people without having to worry about your teeth falling off or looking unnatural.
• They encourage better overall oral health. Dental implants rely less on the support of your other teeth, and so don’t cause as much stress as more traditional replacements. They’re also very easy to clean and maintain.
Can Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) Damage My Dental Implants?
Bruxism– or excessive teeth grinding and clenching– can damage your dental implants. While your dentist might see evidence of tooth grinding, this is actually a habit that is likely triggered by stress and anxiety.
Teeth grinding commonly occurs during sleep, typically happening involuntarily and unnoticed, except by telltale signs of crooked (or damaged) teeth. A naturally abnormal bite or sleep disorders (e.g. sleep apnea, etc.) can also cause bruxism among adults.
As repeated teeth grinding and clenching subject both natural teeth and dental implants with damaging force, this can weaken the structural integrity of your teeth over time.
A custom bite guard can help stop or at least reduce the effects of bruxism. Made of a durable plastic, a bite guard is worn while you sleep, preventing your teeth from gnashing excessively with each other, thereby preventing or greatly minimizing damage.
Can Gum Disease Affect My Dental Implants?
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, does present itself as a more prominent problem.
Caused by a buildup of dental plaque and bacteria around tooth surfaces and hard-to-reach areas around the gums, gum disease brings with it inflammation, which can lead to damage to teeth as well as supporting bone and tissues if it persists for an extended period of time and isn’t addressed correctly.
In some cases, gum disease can be specifically related to the implant itself. Known as peri-implantitis, the gums immediately around the dental implant can get infected. Left untreated, the area can weaken and ultimately lead to an implant failure.
A Final Word
If you have had dental implants, proper maintenance and care is just as important as when you have had regular teeth:
• Brush at least twice a day
• Floss regularly
• See your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.
More importantly, if you notice any pain, reddening, swelling, or bleeding in and around your gums, consult your dentist right away. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and the same applies here if you notice anything wrong with your teeth and gums around your dental implants.
Dental implants can last for years (and even decades), serving you well and proving to be well worth the investment with proper care and maintenance. Just continue your good oral hygiene routines and be on the lookout for anything that feels wrong or abnormal with your dental implants down the road.