While modern medicine has greatly reduced the risk of infection during surgery, it still exists, and the risk is higher for your mouth for the simple fact that it's where everything you eat and drink enters your body. This is underscored by the importance of routine oral maintenance, such as brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups.
To better understand how infection can occur, consider that implant surgery consists of cutting into the gum to reveal the jawbone, where holes are drilled for the dental implant anchor. That anchor is, essentially, the tooth's root, and must be set deep to ensure proper grip. In short, this is not minor surgery.
After the anchor and surrounding bone fuse, a process that can last from two to six months, the surgeon will then attach an abutment for the crown, or the crown itself, to the anchor. This procedure requires reopening the surrounding gums, so care must be taken to prevent infection. Oral surgery can result in considerable discomfort. Bruising and swelling of your gums and face, pain, and minor bleeding are all common -- and not necessarily indicative of infection. However, it's wise to keep your surgeon apprised of those symptoms.
Infection (the medical term is peri-implantitis) can not only set in during the actual implant procedure, or during the crown restoration, but patients must be vigilant that they don't leave themselves susceptible to post-surgery infection, too. If left untreated, even minor problems can threaten the long-term viability of the implant.
Good dental hygiene is critical in keeping infection at bay. Non-smokers and patients with good oral hygiene habits put themselves in a much better position for a full and fast recovery. Smokers will typically be encouraged to stop smoking beforehand to improve the odds of successful surgery. If properly constructed and cared for, most dental implants should last a lifetime [source: WebMD].
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