Dental implants have changed and improved the options for replacing missing teeth. The success rate of dental implants is very high – usually above 95%. However, any surgical procedure comes with risks of infection or other complications, including the dental implant. Bump on gum can be a sign of a dental implant infection.
Dental implants use a medical-grade post, usually titanium, that is inserted into the jawbone. To access the bone, a small incision is made in the gum tissue. The dental implant is placed in a hole that is drilled into the bone, secured in place and the gum tissue is sutured around the dental implant.
In most cases, the implant fuses to the bone and a restoration device is attached to the abutment of the implant post. In rare instances, there may be signs of complications which may need treatment, including signs of a dental implant infection.
Causes of a Dental Implant Infection
A dental implant infection, or periimplantitis, can occur when bacteria enter the space around the implant. Like any surgical procedure, patients receiving dental implants will have post-procedure instructions to improve healing and reduce the chances of complications.
Post-op care for implants includes keeping up with oral hygiene protocols to reduce bacteria exposure to the implant site. Poor oral hygiene is one of the factors that can contribute to periimplantitis – those with periodontal disease before their implant are at higher risk for a dental implant infection.
Other factors that increase risk of a dental implant infection include smoking or using tobacco products. Patients who have a hypersensitivity to titanium or have certain diseases like diabetes may be more likely to develop an infection around their implant.
Signs of a Dental Implant Infection
If bacteria are able to enter the space around the post, you may get an infection impacting your dental implant. “Bump on gum” is one of the first signs of a dental implant infection when it occurs near the implant site, and many patients claim the dental implant feels “too big.” Other signs of dental implant infection include:
- Pain near the implant
- Changes in the gum tissue color
- The implant becomes loose
- Bleeding at the implant site
- Throbbing in the ear near the implant
- Difficulty chewing with the implant
A dental implant infection usually begins slowly and progresses over time, similar to periodontal disease. You may begin noticing that the dental implant feels too big, but there may not be any pain or looseness in the early stages. The sooner you see your dentist, the better chance for treatment and saving the implant.
Treatment for Periimplantitis
To stop a dental implant infection from progressing, the diseased tissue must be removed. The infected tissue can cause deterioration of the bone around the implant and the infection can spread to other areas. The type of treatment used depends on the stage of infection and where the implant is located.
Mechanical debridement of the tissue around the implant is a common treatment for early stages of periimplantitis. A dentist can clean the mucosal pockets around the implant with an ultrasonic device, scaling or mechanical flossing. This may also be combined with antibiotic treatment to stop the infection.
The type of antibiotic treatment depends on how far the infection has spread. Localized antibiotic treatment may be used if the infection is contained to the implant area. General antibiotics may be prescribed if there is evidence of infection in other oral tissues.
Surgery for Dental Implant Infection
In severe periimplantitis that has caused bone loss, oral surgery may be required. This can involve incisions into the gum tissue to pull it back away from the implant to completely debride the area. This is called an open-flap debridement, but it is usually only recommended in severe cases.
If there is too much bone loss around the implant, it may need to be surgically removed. This is the worst case scenario when other treatments are unsuccessful, or the infection was caught too late. If there has been significant bone loss, the implant may be able to be removed with forceps and no surgery.
Depending on the circumstances, some patients may be able to receive another dental implant once the infection is cleared. Bone grafting will likely be needed to build up the bone to support a new implant and several months of healing may be needed before another dental implant could be inserted into the jawbone.
If you have a dental implant, a bump on the gum or swelling around the implant can be the first signs of a dental implant infection. It is imperative to see your dentist right away for treatment – with proactive dental treatment, most dental implant infections can be cured, and the implant can be saved.