The Anatomy Of A Dental Implant, And Why It Matters

If you’re the lucky recipient of a dental implant you know how amazing they are. They restore the chewing force of natural teeth, they’re fixed in place, and they look absolutely lifelike. They’re also easy to care for. So easy, in fact, that many patients end up not paying close enough attention to them.

We place a wide variety of dental implants at Northwest Dental Group, from single teeth all they way up to full mouth solutions. While your implants might appear to be identical to natural teeth there are some distinct differences that you need to know about in order to keep them healthy.

Dental Implants From The Bottom Up

Every implant starts below the gumline with the implant itself. It’s a titanium screw that’s placed in your jaw just like a natural tooth root. Once healed the titanium integrates with the bone to leave you with a stable, reliable root that perfectly supports either a crown or bridge.

The restoration of implants is done using an abutment that attaches to the implant, which in turn holds the crown or bridge in place. These are as permanent as the implant itself, but they can be removed in case of damage or new support needs.

It’s the difference in how an implant anchors to your jaw that we want to discuss in depth. While they’re just as stable as a tooth, dental implants aren’t at all similar to natural teeth, and that difference is important to highlight where oral health care is concerned.

Teeth are held in place, and separated from your jaw bone, by the periodontal ligament. This ultra-thin layer of tough tissue is composed of filaments that are anchored into small pores in your tooth root and bone. It holds them together with incredibly strength, and it runs all the way to the gumline. The periodontal ligament is one of the most important defenders against gum disease, but implants don’t benefit from its protection.

Dental implants are anchored directly to your bone and don’t contain any form of ligament. This isn’t a problem for the implant itself, but it makes your gumline much more susceptible to infection from oral bacteria. Without proper treatment an oral bacteria infection can quickly turn into a case of peri-implant disease, a gum disease-like infection that can cost you your implant!

Peri-Implant Disease: What Is It?

Your gums still form a seal with your implant abutment and crown, but it’s much more like a suction cup than a strong, permanent ligament. Bacteria has no problems sneaking beneath that line and building up beneath your gums.

When bacteria spreads it causes redness, swelling, bleeding, and sensitivity in your gums. That’s the earliest stage of peri-implant disease, called peri-implant mucositis. At this stage there’s not too much risk to your implant, but without proper treatment it will quickly turn into peri-implantitis, the much more serious and tooth-destroying form.

Peri-implantitis begins when bacteria starts causing damage to the bone holding your implant in place. As bacteria spreads it has direct access to the bone surrounding your implant, unlike with a natural tooth where it has to combat the periodontal ligament first. Over time this condition will lead to total implant loss and severe bone damage – you don’t want to let that happen when prevention is so simple!

Don’t Let Peri-Implant Disease Get You!

It’s worse than just losing the implant – you’re losing your investment and all the benefits of having a great new smile too. Peri-implant disease isn’t difficult to avoid, especially if you take care of your implant just like you would a real tooth. Brush twice a day, floss EVERY night, and make sure you’re scheduling regular checkups at our Rochester dentist office.

Professional exams and cleanings are important even if you have a full mouth of implants like All-On-Four. Proper care is necessary to keeping your implants healthy, and just like with real teeth you can’t do it all at home.

It can be simple to fight for the health of your implant, and we want to keep it that way at Northwest Dental Group. If you’re concerned about symptoms, have care questions, or just need to schedule a cleaning we’re ready to see you! Give our offices a call at 507-315-2932 or request an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you soon!