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Dental implants can do more than replace individual teeth — a few well-placed implants can support other restorations like a fixed bridge. The natural integration that occurs between the bone and the implant's titanium post creates a strong, durable hold for both implant and the supported restoration.
But if a bone-implant connection weakens, the implant could be in danger of failing. This can occur because of periodontal (gum) disease caused by dental plaque, a thin film of built-up food particles and bacteria on the teeth. Untreated, the infection can ultimately spread from the gums to the bone and cause it to diminish in volume. If the bone loss occurs around an implant the threaded surface of the post may be exposed, inviting more plaque buildup. This can trigger more bone loss and eventually implant failure.
That's why you must brush and floss daily to remove plaque on and around your fixed bridge just as you do your natural teeth. Brushing around a bridge could be difficult with a traditional brush, so you may want to use an interproximal brush designed for just such situations. Be sure any utensil you use contains only plastic parts — metal creates microscopic scratches in the restoration materials that could harbor plaque.
You should also floss between the bridge and gums as well as between any natural teeth. While this can be difficult with traditional flossing methods, there are some tools to make it easier.
One is a floss threader, a small tool with a loop on one end and a stiff plastic edge on the other. With floss threaded through the loop, you gently guide the edged end between the bridge and gums. Once it passes through, you wrap the two ends of the floss with your fingers as you would normally and work it along each side of the nearest implants.
You can also use pre-cut floss sections with stiffened ends to pass through the gap, or an oral irrigator that loosens and flushes away plaque with a pressurized water stream. Just be sure you flush debris away from the gum and not toward it.
Keeping all surfaces of your implant-supported bridgework clean of plaque is necessary for its longevity. Be sure you also visit your dentist regularly for more thorough cleanings.
Tooth wear, especially on biting surfaces, is a normal part of aging — we all lose some of our tooth enamel as we grow older. Even primary (“baby”) teeth may show some wear before they’re lost. But there’s also excessive, premature tooth wear caused by disease or abnormal biting habits. This type of wear is cause for concern and action before it leads to tooth loss.
Normal tooth wear occurs because of what teeth naturally do — bite and chew. When teeth come together as we eat they generate a modest amount of force: between 13 and 23 pounds. Our teeth also make brief contacts hundreds to thousands times a day. Again, this produces force, though not to the extent we see with biting and chewing: somewhere between 0.75 and 7.5 pounds. These glancing contacts are actually good for dental health because they provide needed stimulation to the teeth and jaws that help the body maintain healthy bone and tooth attachments.
But parafunctional (outside the normal function) habits like teeth grinding or foreign object chewing can greatly increase the generated force, up to 230 pounds. These may result in noticeable symptoms like fractures or loose teeth, but not always — the damage may not be noticeable until much later in the form of excessive tooth wear.
These parafunctional habits aren’t the only cause for excessive tooth wear; tooth decay can weaken the tooth structure, making it more susceptible to wear. And, some restorative materials used for fillings may also affect the rate of wear.
Because excessive tooth wear may or may not present with immediate symptoms, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to monitor the condition of your teeth. Our training and experience helps us identify signs of excessive tooth wear and, depending on the extent of damage, work with you on a treatment plan. You should also keep us informed about oral habits, especially teeth grinding, thumb sucking or foreign object chewing (toys, nails, pencils, etc.).
Your teeth will wear as you grow older. By keeping a close eye on your teeth, we’ll help you keep that wear at a normal rate.
If you would like more information on preventing excessive tooth wear, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”