Missing teeth are a common problem. In fact, over 35 million Americans are missing all of their teeth in either one jaw or both, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. Implants are the recommended treatment for a missing tooth by most dentists, and 3 million people in the United States receive implants every year. Since implants are the best option for a missing tooth, according to dentists, the success of those implants is very important.
A small percentage of people with dental implants develop an infection after their implant procedure. When an infection, known as peri-implantitis, occurs, inflammation develops in the tissue and bone that surrounds and supports the implant. Many people with peri-implantitis develop the condition years after their implant procedure.
If left untreated, peri-implantitis leads to implant failure and bone and tissue loss.
One common symptom of peri-implantitis is gum inflammation. Red or swollen gums and gums that bleed when brushed or probed at or near the implant site indicate possible peri-implantitis. Other signs of an implant-related infection include a dull ache at the implant site, swollen lymph nodes, persistent bad breath and a sour taste in the mouth.
People with peri-implantitis often experience loosening of their implant, which leaves them susceptible to further tissue damage.
New Test Involving Chewing Gum
A pharmaceutical research team from Julius-Maximilians-Universitat (JMU) Wurzburg in Bavaria, Germany, has developed a chewing gum test to help patients and dentists determine if inflammation in the oral cavity is present. The gum could be particularly helpful to patients who have had a recent implant; patients could use it to check for inflammation and signs of peri-implantitis at home so they know when to seek professional dental care.
The gum works by releasing a bitter agent during chewing if inflammation is detected in the oral cavity. Protein-degrading enzymes are activated in the mouth if inflammation is present, causing a breakdown of a specific bittering agent placed in the gum.
Why Dentists Recommend Implants for Tooth Loss
When a tooth is lost, many people only replace it if it is visible. This is often done with bridges, crowns and dentures. But, leaving roots empty, even those that are not visible, can cause the jawbone to deteriorate over time, according to Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, of Everett, Washington.
"When the root and bone are no longer stimulated by day-to-day activities such as chewing and gnawing, the bone begins to recede from lack of use. Over time, this can actually cause the structure of the face to change," she said. "Many patients are completely shocked to find out that their premature aging could have been caused by not replacing their lost teeth immediately after the loss."
When teeth are lost and not replaced, the jaw bone shortens as it deteriorates, causing the face to shorten as well. It can alter the angles of the face and lead to deeper age lines and wrinkles, as well. The nose can begin to appear larger as the facial angles and structure changes under the loss of the supporting jaw bone. The chin often begins to rotate forward and the lips begin to thin from lack of support.
Bite alignment can also change when missing teeth are not replaced. Teeth naturally drift when there is space between them, and when a gap is created due to the loss of a tooth, the other teeth shift to fill its place. This often leads to a misaligned bite, which can cause problems with the jaw such as TMJ disorder symptoms and cracked or fractures teeth, Norman said.
"The best solution to keep your mouth, jaw and face in optimum health is to replace a lost tooth immediately from the root up with an implant," she said. "This quick response will keep the jaw bone from receding, avoid bite changes and keep your mouth healthy for years to come."