Consider these two facts: 1) The American Academy of Periodontology reports that gum disease is the primary contributor to adult tooth loss in the United States. 2) According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, dental implants are considered by many dentists and patients to be the best tooth replacement option currently available. Add to these facts one further complication: gum disease is considered by many professionals to be a contraindication for receiving dental implants. So, if you’ve lost a permanent tooth to gum disease, can you have that missing tooth replaced with a dental implant? Today, Allen TX periodontist, Dr. Marco Cueva, will shed some light on this complex issue and offer some actionable advice for patients interested in dental implants.
Gum Disease and Dental Implants: A Complicated Relationship
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is characterized by an inflammation and infection of the gums, connective tissues, and alveolar bone (the raised tooth sockets that line the jaw). As gum disease progresses, the body attempts to rid itself of infection by destroying the tissues that hold the teeth in place. Eventually, this causes the tooth in the affected area to loosen and fall out. Before receiving a dental implant tooth replacement, gum disease patients can expect to undergo a course of treatment designed to eradicate the infection. In addition, they will usually be expected to demonstrate a commitment to improving their at-home oral hygiene habits.
Dental implants mimic the dimensions of a natural tooth, complete with a titanium post that acts like a tooth root. Unfortunately, dental implant posts (or, more specifically, the area around the post) can be affected by plaque-induced inflammation. Termed peri-implantitis, meaning “inflammation of the area around an implant,” this problem usually affects dental implant wearers who fail to perform thorough, consistent oral hygiene. Peri-implantitis, like gum disease, will stimulate the body’s defensive mechanisms and lead to deterioration of the bone and connective tissues around the implant. The resulting loosening of the implant post often causes implant failure.
The Importance of Continuing Maintenance
Your first defense against peri-implantitis is to maintain a regular oral hygiene regimen at home. Unless otherwise instructed by your dentist, follow the ADA’s guidelines for good hygiene, including brushing after meals for two minutes with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing once every day, and minimizing your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Visit your dentist every six months (or more frequently, if needed) for checkups and cleanings. Should your dentist identify the early stages of peri-implantitis, he may refer you to a periodontist for treatment, which might include a deep cleaning or even laser therapy. Late stage peri-implantitis often requires the complete removal of the implant, a bone graft to regenerate healthy bone tissue in the area, and re-implantation. This complex process is both cost intensive in terms of money and time, so practicing preventive care is always preferable.
About Dr. Marco Cueva
Marco Cueva, DDS, MS is a board-certified periodontist with extensive training and experience treating all stages of gum disease and placing dental implants. New patients can schedule an appointment or a consultation with Periodontic Excellence by calling 972-390-9944.