How to Care for All-on-4 Dental Implants
Dentures, whether they are traditional or snap-in dentures, have a lot of disadvantages. They’re fragile, they slip out of place, stain easily and accumulate unpleasant odors. They also have to be replaced every 5 years or so.
Dentures sit on top of your gums and the seal between delicate gum tissue and the dentures is often not tight. This allows food particles to become trapped beneath the dentures, leading to a buildup of a thin sticky film loaded with bacteria.
This film, called plaque, causes gums to become swollen and inflamed, which can contribute to gum disease. To combat plaque, a rigorous cleaning process is necessary. As such, one of the biggest inconveniences of traditional dentures is this daily cleaning routine, which requires them to be removed and soaked nightly in a cleaning and disinfection solution for a thorough cleaning.
The All-on-4 Dental Implant Difference
All dental implants are made up of 3 components: the dental implant, a connector called an abutment, and the dental implant crown or bridge. Dental implants are placed into small holes drilled into the jawbones, which provides a rock-solid foundation for the implant crown and bridge. In the all-on-4 dental implant approach to replacing missing teeth, an entire arch of teeth can be supported on 4 dental implants per arch.
Unlike dentures, all-on-4 dental implants provide a permanent, fixed solution that does not require nightly removal and soaking. All-on-4 dental implants work just like natural teeth and offer unrivaled stability, giving you the confidence to eat, chew, and speak without worrying about your teeth slipping. All-on-4 dental implants also halt bone loss in the jaws, as they help stimulate the blood vessels and nerves located deep in the tooth sockets.
In addition to all these benefits, all-on-4 implants are easy to maintain, taking less time and effort than dentures to clean. In fact, the good hygiene practices you’ll use in caring for all-on-4 dental implants are not much different from the type of hygiene tasks you’d perform on natural teeth, although these tasks need to be carried out a little differently.
These are the tasks and tools you’ll want to use to ensure your best oral health and the top condition of your all-on-4 dental implants:
An electric toothbrush is a good choice for keeping your dental implant bridge looking great. An electric toothbrush also helps you care for your gums by removing plaque and stimulating blood flow. Make sure to use an electric toothbrush equipped with a rotating head, or if you prefer, you may use a regular soft-bristle toothbrush on your all-on-4 dental implants.
Whether you use a regular toothbrush or an electric toothbrush, only use soft bristles on your dental implants. Not only do soft-bristled brushes help keep your all-on-4 dental implants looking great, but they also help your gums stay healthy.
Choose a tartar control toothpaste without any abrasive ingredients. Avoid oral hygiene products with abrasive agents, such as baking soda. Also avoid products with stain removers, as these ingredients can increase wear on your all-on-4 dental implants.
The areas around and under your all-on-4 dental implant bridges can provide spaces for bacteria and food particles to accumulate into a film of bacteria. This accumulation, called plaque, is a cause of gum disease. When bacteria thrive under your dental implant bridge, the gums become inflamed, sore and bleed more easily.
Keeping your gums in top health is a priority, as sore gum hurt and can lead to dental implant failure through a condition called peri-implantitis
One of the best types of floss to use with all-on-4 dental implants is super floss, such as Oral-B Super Floss. Super Floss is a specialized floss that allows easy passage of the floss filament under the all-on-4 bridge because it has a sturdier end and then a foamy section that is wonderful at capturing and removing plaque and debris.
Be gentle when flossing your all-on-4 dental implants. The goal of flossing is to remove food particles and provide stimulation to the gums, but you want to avoid scratching gum tissue, as that can lead to infections.
Make sure you floss under the dental implant bridge at least once a daily.
Cleaning your tongue and the insides of your cheeks is an essential part of good oral hygiene. Tiny particles of food stay on the tongue and the insides of your cheeks after eating and contribute to the buildup of bacteria that attack oral tissue. These bacteria cause bad breath and contribute to the development of gingivitis, a form of gum disease.
Recommended Products to Care for Dental Implants
Super floss is a great solution to removing this buildup. Super floss is composed of 3 parts—a regular floss thread, spongy floss, and a dental floss threader. Super floss makes it easy to clean the areas around dental implants and remove plaque accumulated around and under the gumline.
Waterpik is a name brand of a handheld tool called a water flosser. Water flossers use a gentle jet of water to remove food debris and plaque from underneath your all-on-4 dental bridge. Water flossers reduce your chances of developing gingivitis without irritating or lacerating your gums.
As mentioned, an electric toothbrush with a soft-bristled rotary head is a good choice for cleaning your dental implants. Use only a non-abrasive toothpaste with no baking soda, sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride, or stain removers. You may use a regular soft-bristled toothbrush as well.
Alcohol-free Mouth Rinse
Choose an antibacterial mouth rinse without alcohol. Alcohol has a drying effect on the gums, which makes them easier to scratch.
Food particles can accumulate under dental implant bridges, which causes plaque to develop. Plaque is a biofilm loaded with bacteria that irritates gum tissue, so cleaning under implants is an important part of good dental hygiene.
Clean under your dental implants using a water flosser to remove larger food particles and to rinse away accumulations of bacteria and plaque.
Super floss and interdental brushes are also helpful for removing food particles under your dental implants.
Although food cannot get stuck under the all-on-4 implant itself, food particles may get stuck under the bridge that’s placed on top of the implants. Food particles can be easily removed with floss and a water flosser.
Unlike all-on-4 dental implants (which are permanent and fixed), permanent dentures (aka snap-in dentures, snap-on dentures, overdenture) are not actually permanently fixed into their implants. They need to be removed nightly and cleaned like traditional dentures. Your cleaning routine must remove all food particles and eliminate any bacteria that remain on the surface of the gums and under the bridge.
During the day, you need to remove and brush your permanent denture implants after meals just like you would natural teeth. This removes gingivitis-causing bacteria from the bridge, as well as gently stimulates your gums.
At bedtime, remove and soak your permanent dental implant bridge in a mild denture solution.
Just like natural teeth, brushing and flossing are necessary habits for good oral hygiene. Here are the steps for cleaning a full set of all-on-4 dental implants:
- Brush your implant bridge with a non-abrasive toothpaste, using a soft-bristled regular or electric rotating-head toothbrush.
- Brush your tongue and insides of your cheeks gently, every time you brush your implants. Disease and odor-causing bacteria thrive on these oral tissues but can be easily controlled with regular brushing.
- Floss your teeth using super floss. In addition, you might also want to use a water flosser, such as a Waterpik, which helps clean hard to reach places, paying close attention to the gumline.
- Use an antibacterial dental rinse that contains no alcohol.
5. Do you clean all-on-4 implants the same way as dentures?
No, all-on-4 implants are considerably easier to maintain because they’re permanently attached to your dental implants. All-on-4 dental implant bridges are made of durable and nonporous zirconia, which doesn’t absorb odors. They are cleaned the same way as natural teeth. Unlike all-on-4 dental implants, dentures must be removed and soaked overnight to clean them and remove odor-causing bacteria.
6. Do you clean all-on-4 implants the same way as snap-on dentures?
No, you must remove your snap-on dentures when you go to bed and soak them overnight.
7. How long does it take to clean all-on-4 implants?
It takes the same amount of time to clean all-on-4 implants as it does to clean natural teeth—about 2 to 3 minutes. Twice a day, follow this routine:
- Floss under your dental bridge with Super Floss, making sure to get underneath the gumline.
- Use a soft-bristled electric or regular toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste.
- Always brush your tongue and the insides of your cheeks.
- Use alcohol-free dental rinse.
8. Do All-on-4 Implants Take on a weird smell over time?
No, all-on-4 dental implants won’t take on a weird smell over time. All-on-4 dental implants are made from zirconia, an extremely strong non-porous material that cannot absorb odors. Over time, they do not take on weird smells and do not deteriorate in terms of appearance either. Traditional removable dentures are made from acrylic, a softer material that’s porous, which allows odor to penetrate inside.
9. What are the risks of not cleaning all-on-4 dental implants correctly?
The number one risk of not cleaning all-on-4 dental implants correctly is the possible loss of the implant itself. Regularly and consistently cleaning your all-on-4 dental implants ensures that disease-causing bacteria-laden plaque never gets a chance to do accumulate and cause tissue damage. Removing these bacteria by daily brushing and flossing helps keep your gums healthy and your dental implants in great shape.
Failing to clean one’s all-on-4 dental implants can lead to an accumulation of a biofilm called plaque along the gumline. Plaque is a breeding ground for bacteria that cause infections of gum tissue, such as peri-implantitis.
In peri-implantitis, the gums become infected, swollen, tender and sensitive. Gum tissues pull away from the implants, leaving pockets that trap even more infection-causing bacteria.
An infection of the gums will spread to the bone tissue around the dental implant posts, which weakens the bone and loosens the dental implant. At that point, dental implants will no longer be stable and will likely need to be replaced by an oral surgeon.
10. What else can I do to take care of my all-on-4 dental implants?
Visit your doctor twice a year for routine cleaning and check-up. Your doctor can identify any concerns that may be developing with your implants or oral health before they become problematic.
If you notice your gums bleeding easily or pus from your gumline, contact your doctor.
11. What happens during the routine cleaning at the doctor’s office?
During an All-on-4 cleaning, your doctor will remove your all-on-4 bridge and examine your gums for signs of peri-implantitis. The implants are cleaned, and x-rays are taken of each implant. The dental implant bridge is then placed back onto the implants.
12. Are there dietary restrictions I need to follow to keep my all-on-4 dental implants clean and healthy?
No. One of the many advantages of all-on-4 dental implants is that they allow you to eat and drink whatever you want. You can eat the same foods you would eat with natural teeth.
13. Will drinking and eating certain types of food (e.g., red wine, coffee) stain my all-on-4 implants?
All-on-4 implant bridges are made of zirconia, an inert, biocompatible material famed for its strength and durability. It doesn’t corrode or stain, which allows you to eat foods that would stain dentures made of acrylic.