The hygienist’s blog – implants: aim for success, not survival

Claire Berry explains what needs to be in place for implant success over implant survival in her latest hygienist’s blog.

I have to admit that when I started my career as a dental hygienist, I couldn’t put my hand on my heart and tell you I was 100% confident when faced with dental implants.

It’s not a topic I can remember anybody teaching me in great detail. It wasn’t a situation I would deal with very often at all initially. Implants weren’t common place back then.

But fast forward 10 years. Now it’s something I not only have to maintain daily, but on numerous patients with numerous implants.

As a result I did further training, learned how to maintain healthy implants and stabilise unhealthy ones and decide which protocols and equipment I wanted to use. It’s one of the reasons I invested in EMS equipment and offer GBT.

What is implant success?

A fellow experienced hygienist and I started holding regular study clubs for clinicians in our area. A common theme was the lack of confidence in implant care and a gap in learning surrounding this subject. It was at one of these study clubs that we discussed the topic of implant survival versus implant success.

Is there misplaced satisfaction with implant survival over striving for implant success? And does the aim for implant success need implementing before the clinician even considers implant placement?

Placing an implant without prior intensive treatment with an oral health expert to ensure excellent biofilm control and periodontal stability (so as to provide a solid foundation), is arguably striving for survival and not for success.

Similarly, failure to ensure the patient commits to a regular recall with a dental hygienist after placing the implant is also falling short of aiming for implant success.

Implant survival is implants with less than ideal conditions, and which require clinical treatment to reduce the risk of implant failure.

For comparison, the term implant success describes ideal clinical conditions to support an implant.

Successful implants also require regular expert care and attention. After all, success is compromised if conditions become less than ideal. This can occur to the implant itself or due to other factors, such as patient motivation or dexterity.

Striving for implant success

Achieving success starts with what happens before placing the implant.

The hygienist is the gatekeeper for further treatment. Once the hygienist is happy that the foundations are consistently stable, then the patient can consider an implant.

Oral health optimisation is what the patient requires before they can be deemed eligible for this treatment. Even if all the other conditions that are necessary for placement are met.

Why? Because ‘oral health optimisation’ is all about ensuring optimal conditions for implant success.

Once placed, oral health optimisation then focuses on maintaining optimal conditions for the life-long care of the implant.

A teamwork approach between hygienist and patient for long term implant success is crucial. I see my implant patients very regularly, even if they present with excellent health.

Life-long care after implants is very important. Things can change quickly. I now feel very confident with implant care, thankfully as they are now common place.

So, if you also believe implant success is what we should strive for over survival, working well alongside a hygienist is imperative.

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