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- Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS, Speaker, Author. Dental Hygiene Coach & Consultant

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The Dental Hygienist’s Role in Maintaining Dental Implants

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

May 10, 2017

Dental Implants are an expensive alternative to tooth replacement and they must last a lifetime. This is our ultimate goal when placing implants.

If our desire is to keep implants for a lifetime of the patient, as it has been made evident by the publications from LA Dental Town, it is important for the dental hygienist to understand the morphology of the peri-implant mucosa, the attachment between the mucosa and the titanium implant. This area comprises the junctional epithelium, about 2 mm high, and the connective tissue zone of greater than or equal to 1 mm in height. This is the zone that protects the osseointegrated surface from environmental factors, such as plaque in the oral cavity.

It is this zone where the health and longevity of a dental implant is imperative and it is a major role for dental hygienists is to maintain dental implants.

An important role of the hygienist is to assess if their patient as a potential implant candidate. Many people know about dental implants but choose not to inquire about them and they choose not to consider them for tooth replacement.

It is the open-ended questions, a smile evaluation and communication with a potential implant patient will begin a foundation for case acceptance of dental implants. When you allow the patient to complete a smile evaluation, you allow the patient to be the one asking about the area where a tooth is missing.

Allowing your patient to be the one inquiring about treatment will put them in the drivers seat and you are only there to offer answers to the area the patient has checked off in their smile evaluation that the are not 100% satisfied with.

You can now lead this conversation into a discussion about the consequences of not having an implant. You now have an opportunity to discuss why implant therapy a good option for a particular patient.

Continuing with your conversation you may talk about adjunctive or alternative forms of therapy/treatment that can be utilized.

It is very important for all the auxiliaries to understand why implants work, how well they work, and everyone on the dental team must understand all aspects of implant care so communications and explanations to the patient, that based on the doctor’s diagnosis, is a seamless process. This means that you have had role-play sessions as a team about “what to say,” “Who are the patients that doctor considers a good implant candidate, etc.”

When your patient accepts treatment, it’s the hygienist who will be responsible for educating the patient about oral care during the surgical and prosthetic phases of treatment. It is important for all the clinicians to understand the surgical treatment your patient will undergo and the types of restorations that will be placed. It is imperative that you recommend the appropriate oral hygiene techniques during healing phases.

Clinical hygiene and routine home-care procedures need to be effective but non-invasive so the healing tissues are not disturbed. It is also important for the patient to be aware that gentle debridement will only be effective while tissues are healing. Once healing and restoration are complete, a new hygiene routine will need to be established, learned, and complied with.

It crucial for the hygienist to educate their patients about the need for routine, maintenance. This is not an option if the patient has a desire to keep their implants for the rest of their life. Explain to your patient what can happen when their implants are not properly cared for at home and maintained by their dental hygienist.

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