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tooth implant infection sydney

Tooth Implant Infection – How The Condition Can Be Treated?

Dental implants look and perform just like natural teeth and opting for one can yield fantastic results. But unfortunately, they can also be prone to infection. Understanding the possibility of such conditions is vital for your overall health. Discover important perspectives on this often-overlooked issue in this thorough guide.

Generally, if dental implants are neglected or do not receive regular care from a professional, they can fail or become diseased. The long-term goal in most cases is to prevent the spread of infection and maintain the dental implant.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your dentist may prescribe a special mouthwash or a combination of other treatments to get your dental implant back on a healthy track. Treatment options may include antibiotics, ultrasonic cleaning with surface decontamination, surgery, mechanical debridement and — in the case of significant bone loss — removal of the dental implant itself.

If you suspect you may have a tooth implant infection, you should contact a dentist right away to stand the best chance of saving your implant. Then once the implant is restored to good health, it’s vital to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen.

What is a tooth implant infection?

Peri-implantitis, commonly referred to as dental implant infection, is a condition likened to gum disease and characterised by inflammation and infection of the gums and bone tissue surrounding dental implants. The severity of tooth implant infections can range from slight soreness of the gums to significant degradation of the teeth and jawbone.

Without treatment, a tooth implant infection can cause bone loss around the implant, leading to destabilisation. And because there is little to no pain at times, patients are often unaware they have it. Peri-implantitis can develop soon after the implant has been restored with a dental crown or several years later. According to studies, it can take up to 5 years for peri-implantitis to progress.

How can a tooth implant get infected?

Despite their artificial nature, tooth implants can get infected. In fact, several studies show that up to 47% of all implants placed are affected by peri-implantitis. Below, we outline the main causes and circumstances leading to this condition:

  • Dental cement — When residual dental cement is attached to the implant, it provides an environment conducive to bacterial growth. Over time, these bacteria can lead to a tooth implant infection, causing discomfort and complications.
  • Dental implants placed too close together — Dental implants placed too close together can obstruct effective oral hygiene. This lack of adequate cleaning can encourage bacterial growth, eventually causing a dental implant infection.
  • Improper angulation of the implant in the bone — Incorrect angulation of the implant in the bone can compromise its stability. This instability may lead to pockets that can harbour microorganisms.
  • Poor bone quality — Insufficient bone quality might not provide adequate support for the implant. This situation can create gaps vulnerable to bacterial invasion, leading to infection after tooth implant procedures.
  • Smoking — As a habit that impedes healing, smoking increases the risk of bacterial infection post-implant placement. This illustrates how lifestyle choices can affect how any surgical augmentation, including tooth implants, can get infected.
  • Systemic issues like diabetes — Conditions like diabetes can weaken one’s immune system and hinder the healing process post-surgery — making the area more susceptible to infection.
  • Implant overloading and implant fracture — Overloading the implant can result in failure, possibly creating micro-cracks that act as hiding places for bacteria. When a fracture occurs in the implant, it can produce crevices where bacteria can proliferate, causing a post-op dental implant infection and other potential complications.
  • Existing periodontitis condition — Patients who have had periodontitis (gum disease) in the past are more at risk of developing the infection. This is because these patients are more likely to have weakened teeth and gums.
  • Poor oral hygiene — Poor oral hygiene on the part of the patient increases the likelihood of plaque build-up, which can lead to inflammation, infection and bone loss. Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for preventing diseases and ensuring your implants last many years.

Signs your dental implant is infected

Given how the majority of dental implant complications arise from infection, identifying the symptoms early can significantly improve your prognosis and ensure a swift return to optimal oral health. These signs include:

  • Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Bleeding or pus in the gum tissue around the implant
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Pain or tenderness around the implant
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Loose or shifting of the implant
  • A metallic taste in your mouth

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your dental professional promptly to avoid further complications.

Tooth implant infection — how it’s diagnosed

One of the first things a dentist does is to take an X-ray of the infected dental implant to determine if any bone loss has occurred. The second step involves gentle probing around the implant area to assess the level of inflammation and infection. Shortly after, the professional will recommend an appropriate course of action.

Therefore, immediately after having dental implants, it’s still crucial that you visit the dentist every six months for a checkup. These regular appointments allow your dentist not only to examine your natural teeth but also to monitor your implant sites for any inflammation, infection or instability. Quick action can help prevent further complications, ensuring the health of your implant and, by extension, your overall well being.

Common treatments for post-op dental implant infections

Combating dental implant infections effectively involves understanding the treatment options available. Fortunately, there exists a wide array of interventions to help restore your oral health following an infection.

If the infection after tooth implant is mild, antibiotic medication may be all that’s needed. But when this isn’t powerful enough, a combination of options may be utilised. Treatment for infected dental implants depends on the amount of bone loss and the aesthetic impact of the condition.

Treating post-op dental implant infections involves cleaning the surface of the implant in question and regenerating bone loss with either bone grafting or growth factor-based bone substitutes.

Non-surgical cleaning

  • Mechanical cleaning – is a form of professional teeth/implant cleaning performed manually with the help of special hooks and brushes or mechanically with an Air Flow system.
  • Ultrasonic cleaning – is a high–frequency cleaning procedure carried out with a device emitting vibrational waves to clean the contaminated area around the implant.

These methods are referred to as submucosal debridement. Your dentist may recommend delicate scaling instruments or mechanical cleaning if the mucosal pockets are deeper than 4 mm. Typically, localised antiseptics are applied following debridement.

infection from dental implant sydney

Surgical procedure — open-flap debridement

Typically, a surgical procedure is used by dentists when an implant is placed in a hard-to-reach location. A small flap of gum is cut and lifted back, making it easier to access the contaminated area. Mechanical cleaning, along with antiseptic injection, is done before stitching the gums back together.

Removing the abnormal crown

If the infection is localised in the crown, removing and replacing it may be enough to solve the problem. Once the inflammation has healed, a proper crown can be applied to restore the tooth.

Removing the infected tooth implant

If significant bone loss has occurred, it may be necessary to remove the dental implant altogether. In most cases, this action is only taken when the supporting bone has a depth of less than 3 mm to 4 mm. Patients who have undergone a bone graft that has healed for several months may be eligible for reimplantation.

Can infected dental implants be saved?

As mentioned, the earlier an infection is diagnosed and treated, the simpler the treatment will be, and the better the chances of saving the implant. If bone loss is moderate to advanced, the soft peri-implant tissues may need to be surgically cleaned, the implant surface decontaminated and bone regeneration techniques utilised to recover the lost bone. If a severe infection has caused a tooth implant to loosen, saving it may not be possible.

If you have dental implants, we can’t stress enough the importance of periodic checkups and professional cleaning every three to four months. This allows dentists to check your implants for early signs of inflammation and infection and take prompt action.

How to prevent dental implant infection

Preventing a dental implant infection is key to keeping your smile healthy and your implant sturdy. Here are simple and effective tips to follow:

  • Practise good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice daily. Flossing will also help remove plaque and bacteria that can build up around the implant.
  • Avoid smoking as it increases the risk of implant failure. It also extends healing time, making you susceptible to infection.
  • Eat a balanced diet full of healthy food like fruits and vegetables. Limiting your sugar intake can also curb bacterial growth, thereby reducing the risk of a post-op dental implant infection.
  • While healing, it’s advisable to avoid hard, chewy or sticky food that could apply stress to the dental implant. Such food could dislodge or shift the implant, thereby increasing the risk of infection.
  • Lastly, regular dental appointments are a must. Visiting your dentist twice yearly for cleaning and checkups allows for monitoring your oral health and early detection of potential problems. Your dentist can provide additional personalised advice on preventing infection based on your circumstances — reinforcing the adage that prevention is indeed better than cure.

Final thoughts on tooth implant infection

Dental implant infections are not uncommon and can be caused by various factors such as poor sterilisation, inadequate oral hygiene or a history of periodontitis disease. Implant placement complications can also contribute to these infections, and lifestyle factors like smoking and systemic issues like diabetes might further heighten the risk.

However, it’s equally important to remember that tooth implant infections are largely preventable with the proper care and precautions. If you’re vigilant about your oral health and follow the advice of your dental professionals, you can enjoy the benefits of your dental implants for many years to come. Also, the likelihood of post-op dental implant infection is greatly reduced by choosing only reputable dental professionals for your implants.

Interested in restoring your smile with dental implants?

Dental implants can be life-changing, and while they have a high success rate of 95% and above, preventing infection is vital.

At No Gaps Dental, we take patient safety and hygiene very seriously. From hand sanitisers to elaborate masks, we take every precaution to prevent infection. We also work in conjunction with every Australian health insurer. Your benefits are accepted as complete payment for essential dental procedures, possibly translating to over $200 in annual free dental treatments.

Whether you suspect you have a tooth implant infection or you’re interested to learn if dental implants are the right treatment for you, contact the No Gaps Dental team at (02) 8806 0227 today.

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.


NCBI Resources – Complications in Implant Dentistry

Dental Economics – Dental Implant Maintenance to Reduce Peri-implantitis Risk

NCBI – Bone Grafts and Substitutes in Dentistry

IJOS — Titanium mesh for bone augmentation in oral implantology: current application and progress

Colgate — Peri-Implantitis and Protecting Your Dental Implants

WebMD — Metallic Taste in Your Mouth: Common Causes,dinner%20earlier%2C%20and%20take%20antacids

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