Peri-Implantitis – A Threat To Dental Implants

Dr Harminder Sehmi of the Cygnet Dental Practice discusses the problem and how it can be avoided.

As we have discussed before, dental implants offer an excellent option for anyone looking to replace a missing tooth, or teeth, with a secure and strong alternative. Advances in technology and a more advanced understanding of the process of osseointegration (where the implant fuses with the jawbone) have led us to the point where implant failure is very rare.

This does not mean that we can ignore their aftercare however, and making sure that we keep our implants clean will help us to remain problem free for the maximum time possible.

So what are the main threats to dental implants? These fall into a number of categories. Damage to an implant caused by a blow to the face is an obvious one, and one that we may not be able to avoid. If you play contact sports though, it would be a sensible approach to talk to our Wickford team about using a mouthguard during the activity. General poor oral care is also one of the main reasons for implant failure. This is particularly important in the period immediately following the procedure where it may lead to infections and poor osseointegration. Bad habits such as smoking and excessive drinking, will also increase the chances of a poor outcome.

Peri implantitis overview

One lesser known, but very real threat to a dental implant, is a disease known as peri-implantitis. It is closely related to the better known gum disease, periodontitis, but differs in certain ways.

As with periodontitis, if the area around the implant is not cleaned sufficiently, bacteria will start to multiply. If this is allowed to happen for a period of time, the soft tissue of the gums will start to become inflamed, worsening if not treated. It can also affect the bone structure into which the implant is placed.

There are two main stages of this disease:

Peri-implant mucositis

This affects the soft tissue only, leaving the bone intact. As gingivitis is to periodontitis, so mucositis can be seen as a precursor for peri-implantitis. During this stage, treatment to reverse it is more likely to be successful and usually involves professional cleaning.


This stage affects not only the gums, which are likely to be sore and inflamed, but also the supportive bone structure. Regular home cleaning or a scale and polish by the hygienist is unlikely to reverse the problem at this stage, and surgical intervention is more likely.


The symptoms of peri-implantitis are very similar to what might be expected with gum disease. Redness or tenderness of the gums is a likely indicator of problems. Those with poor oral habits and/or smokers are more likely to suffer. Diabetics too are at a higher risk due to a potentially weakened immune system which can lead to poor plaque control.

Is implant loss inevitable?

Whilst surgical intervention may help to save an implant, this may not always be successful. If you are considering having implants placed to replace missing teeth, it is important that you ask yourself if you would look after the implant or neglect it. Taking care of your dental implant should not be a burden, and care, especially after the first few months, should be straightforward for most people.

As with your natural teeth, daily brushing is a must. In addition to this, some form of interdental cleaning, whether a floss or interdental stick, should be used to help remove food and bacteria from between the teeth, including artificial ones such as implants. We also strongly advise that you have a professional clean at least every six months (or more often if you are in a high risk group such as smokers or diabetics), with our dental hygienist. This will make a big difference to the overall health of your mouth.

By and large, most patients of the Cygnet Dental Practice that have had dental implants have had very few problems, as they have followed the aftercare advice of our implant dentists. Having healthy teeth is a long term project and this applies to implants too. Although they are made from artificial materials and can’t decay as a natural tooth can; as you can see, problems can still occur if you neglect them.

A healthy dental implant can give you more than twenty years of service, allowing you to eat freely, unconcerned by any instability. We do understand that, for some patients, it may not be a straightforward decision whether to have them or not, and we are more than happy to see you for an initial no obligation consultation to discuss all aspects of this treatment.

If you live in the Wickford, Rayleigh or surrounding areas of Essex and would like to discuss this increasingly popular tooth replacement method with us, please arrange a free consultation by calling us on 01268 733078.

Dr Harminder Sehmi – GDC 82530