Peri-Implantitis – Gum Disease that Can Cause Implant Failures Too

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We all know the bad effects of dental diseases, whether it is tooth decay, gum disease, trauma, and other causes. But did you know that dental implants, tooth root replacements upon which new crowns are placed are also prone to disease of the tissues that attach to, and surround them? In fact, inflammation and infection of the surrounding tissues that support implants is probably the major cause of concern today regarding implant failure. It is commonly referred to as peri-implantitis (“peri” – around; implant “itis” – inflammation).

The gum tissues surrounding the dental implant become inflamed or infected in the first phase of peri-implantitis. This condition is also referred to as peri-mucositis which is inflammation of the gum or lining membranes of the mouth. This usually is the result of biofilm (bacterial), but can also result from excess dental cement that is used to attach a crown that is not completely removed.

If the infection is limited only to the gum tissues, then upping oral hygiene and cleaning to get rid of dental biofilm along with any excess cement can generally manage it.

Deep-rooted infection or inflammation which reaches into the bone destroys the connection to the implant: the all-important osseointegration (bone attachment). This is much more complicated because it erodes the support for the dental implant and therefore the root of the tooth and crown that it replaces. This is what is referred to or diagnosed as peri-implantitis.

Peri-implantitis often has the usual signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, bleeding, and suppuration (pus formation). In critical cases, bone loss can be abrupt, and eventually, the implant may loosen and be lost.
There has been speculation and some evidence to say that people who had aggressive periodontal (gum) disease initially that resulted in their tooth loss may be at a higher risk for peri-implantitis.

There is nothing to worry about as dental implants have the highest success rate of any tooth-replacement system that is around 95%. And only a small percentage develops certain problems.

The reason not to worry about the infection is that peri-implantitis treatment is successful if diagnosed early enough. All it needs is the requirement to control the inflammation/infection with local cleaning or antibiotics.

In serious and more advanced cases, attempts at surgical repair may be necessary to regain attachment and bone. The biggest problem here is decontaminating the exposed implant surfaces, which are microscopically roughened by the manufacturer to aid attachment to the bone. This creates hiding places for bacteria. If a dental implant is lost due to peri-implantitis every effort should be made to preserve the surrounding bone and replace the implant.

Prevention pays great dividends in avoiding implant failure. You should maintain your oral hygiene routine so it is protected and kept intact. Once the implants are placed, the ball is largely in your court. Make sure you have regular professional dental check-ups and cleanings to help keep the tissues around your implants healthy.

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