One of the most remarkable things about dental implants is their ability to look and be used like an entirely natural tooth. Unless you've been broadcasting the fact that you're about to receive one, chances are that only you and your dentist will know that the tooth in question has been implanted into place. But can you care for a dental implant like you would a natural tooth?
Not a Natural Tooth
Technically, a dental implant will not be subject to decay like a natural tooth could be. It's not susceptible to any of the traditional means of tooth degradation. There is no enamel to be eroded; no dental pulp to be exposed. In an extreme case when someone neglects their dental health to the point where periodontal disease weakens their gums—this could theoretically destabilize a dental implant, even though the prosthetic tooth will remain intact. But a dental implant represents a significant investment, not to mention its undeniable usefulness, and so you wouldn't ever allow such a thing to happen, would you? But still, how do you keep a dental implant clean? Is it just like a regular tooth?
Rinse Your Mouth
While your dental implant cannot be directly affected by the bacteria inside your mouth, it can still accumulate on or around the prosthetic tooth. While this oral bacteria will not harm the prosthetic tooth, it can still potentially cause damage to the rest of your natural teeth. So this is why you still need to clean a dental implant. Your dentist might direct you not to clean the tooth for a prescribed period of time immediately after the implant has been finalised, and this is generally to avoid irritation to the site as any swelling subsides. You should still rinse your mouth, but avoid mouthwash. Even the most mild of varieties can cause irritation after an implant has been fitted (although this will fade). Opt for a salt water rinse instead.
Brush and Floss
Once your dentist has given you the all clear to start cleaning the tooth, you might wish to use a soft bristled toothbrush for a short period. Even when the swelling and sensitivity has subsided, you'll still need to exercise caution to avoid irritating the site of the implant. Flossing is where you might encounter difficulties. This is particularly true when the site of the dental implant was an empty socket for months or years before the implant was fitted. It can simply be difficult to get used to the new dimensions of your mouth—of having to floss around a tooth that was essentially vacant real estate for some time.
If it truly becomes problematic, it can be worthwhile to invest in a water flosser (sometimes known as a water pick). It directs a thin stream of concentrated water between the gaps of your teeth for flossing that won't cause irritation.
Your dental implant should look and be used like an entirely natural tooth, and just like a natural tooth, it's important to take good care of it.