Dental implants are the tooth replacement that is most like your natural teeth. They’re so much like your natural teeth that they are threatened by the same disease that most often leads to tooth loss: gum disease.

Although there is some dispute about whether gum disease is the same when it affects dental implants, we are coming to learn that as dental implants get more popular, the disease is changing to reflect those changes.

Beautiful Mature woman showing off her smile

Different Names for the Same Condition?

Although we often use the label “gum disease” broadly, many argue for the use of specific terms like periodontal disease and peri-implantitis.

Periodontal disease describes gum disease that is found around the tooth. (That’s literally what it means: peri- “around” and -dont “tooth”.) This is divided into two categories: gingivitis, or minor inflammation of the gums and periodontitis, a more serious infection that leads to bone loss and may lead to tooth loss.

Peri-implantitis is also divided into two categories: mucositis, inflammation of the gum tissue, and peri-implantitis, a more serious infection that can lead to bone loss and potential implant failure. Note that gingiva and mucosa are both alternate names for gum tissue.

So we describe the two conditions using different terms, but it seems that they’re very similar (if not identical) conditions. Some researchers have proposed that different bacteria may be involved in the two conditions, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

Peri-Implantitis Is Common

Another commonality between the two conditions is that, like periodontal disease, peri-implantitis is common. About half of all American adults have periodontal disease, and about 43% of implants are affected by some degree of peri-implantitis, mostly mucositis.

In addition, peri-implantitis has similar risk factors. This includes:

  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Increased age
  • Diabetes
  • Poor oral hygiene

In the past, it was mostly older Americans who got dental implants, but now we are seeing more people get dental implants after losing their teeth at a relatively young age thanks to smoking or drug use. These factors may also increase the prevalence of gum disease affecting dental implants, so we have to watch out for them more carefully.

Prevention and Early Treatment Are Best

If there’s a drawback to dental implants, it’s that people treat them as though they were indestructible. They may use their dental implants to do things they would never think of doing with their natural teeth. Or they may think that because their implants can’t get cavities, they don’t need to brush or see the dentist anymore. And, unfortunately, people with the highest risk may be the least likely to make follow-up implant appointments.

Because of gum disease, it’s important to take care of implants as though they were normal teeth. Make regular dental visits even if all your teeth have been replaced with dental visits. This will allow us to help clean your implants, and identify problems early. We can also help you understand whether your home hygiene routine is working or not–and how to get it back on track if necessary.

Dental implants can be considered “second chance teeth.” You have another opportunity to do what’s best for your teeth, and another opportunity to keep your teeth for life.

If you are looking for dental implants in San Jose, we can help make sure you get the best results with healthy implants, from placement to maintenance. Please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with implant dentist Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.