Because they look like natural teeth and function like natural teeth, it’s easy to think that they’re just like natural teeth. But they’re not, and, in at least one area, they may need different care from natural teeth.
A new study is showing that using an ultrasonic scaler on a dental implant might actually contribute to the inflammation associated with peri-implantitis, making the condition worse. This could lead to infection of the implant, loosening of the implant, and possibly failure of the implant.
Peri-Implantitis and Scaling
Peri-Implantitis is essentially gum disease around the dental implant. It’s caused by an infection of the gum tissue by oral bacteria. This infection is facilitated by the presence of tartar–hardened pieces of plaque that can shelter bacteria from brushing and the antibacterial effects of saliva.
So it’s common to remove the tartar–also called dental calculus–as part of treatment for gum disease. This is also used in treatment of peri-implantitis for the same reason, but researchers show that this might not be wise, depending on the tools used.
One of the tools common in dental scaling is an ultrasonic scaler. This metal implement vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies to help break up the tartar. But researchers were concerned that the ultrasonic scaler could damage implants, and that tiny metal fragments could cause inflammation.
To test the theory, researchers used titanium discs to simulate dental implant. These titanium discs were either machined or given surface treatments (acid etching and/or sandblasting) to simulate surface treatments used on implants to help them bond to bone.
They then applied the ultrasonic scaler to the discs. This caused particles to be dislodged. More particles came off the discs that had been sandblasted than the other discs. To determine whether these particles could cause inflammation, they tried two different trials.
First, they mixed the particles with immune cells and observed the result. They found that the titanium particles stimulated an inflammatory response in the cells. This created the release of compounds associated with bone loss.
To see if the particles would induce actual bone loss in an organism, the particles were placed against the skulls of mice. They found that the particles did trigger an inflammatory response that actually led to bone destruction.
A Specialist Can Help Protect Your Implants
Protecting your dental implants starts with choosing the dentist who will place them. An implant specialist can reduce your risk of developing peri-implantitis, according to some studies.
It’s also important to make sure your implants are getting proper care. A dental practice with a specialist focus on dental implants may be better prepared to help you maintain your dental implants.
Make sure you talk to your hygienist about your dental implants to make sure they know about them. And talk about proper care both at home and in the dentist’s chair.