Dental implants are almost exactly like your natural teeth in many ways. They look like natural teeth. They only require the same care as natural teeth. And, like natural teeth, they can last a lifetime if they’re properly cared for. They even share the same greatest weakness: gum disease.

But there is one way that dental implants aren’t the equal of your natural teeth: shear stress. Shear stress is force that pushes sideways on the dental implant. Dental implants don’t handle these forces as well as your natural teeth.

Dental Implants Aren’t Equipped for Shear Stress

We sometimes say that dental implants are anchored in the bone like your natural teeth, which isn’t strictly true. While both are surrounded and anchored in the bone, only dental implants are directly bonded to your bones. Natural teeth are connected with something called either the periodontal membrane or the periodontal ligament, a tough but soft tissue that is capable of stretching and flexing.

This gives your natural teeth the ability to move just a small amount in response to force, including shear stress. This allows your natural teeth to move slightly without losing their anchorage in the bone.

But dental implants aren’t bonded by a periodontal ligament. Since they’re rigidly in the bone, they shouldn’t move at all (although some are working on more flexible implants). If you notice there’s movement in your dental implant, it’s important to contact us right away.

A second function of the periodontal ligament is even more important: it generates osteoblasts. Osteoblasts are special cells that generate new bone. So when the periodontal ligament stretches, it releases cells to repair any bone damage that may have occurred around your natural teeth. But with dental implants, damage to the bone is less likely to be repaired, so it’s more likely that bone damage will worsen.

How to Protect Your Dental Implants

So now that you know about this weakness of dental implants, how do you protect them from damage? There’s no worry about normal chewing forces. Feel free to keep eating all your favorite foods.

But bruxism can be damaging to your dental implants, and it’s important to let us know about your teeth clenching, and, especially, grinding, which creates intense shear forces that can cause implant failure.

Just as you should never do with natural teeth, don’t use dental implants as tools. Using them as bottle openers or pliers can put a lot of shear stress on the implants.

Biting into some foods can create shear stress, too. There are many foods we bite into and tear, such as sandwiches, hamburgers, and bananas, that are just fine. But some hard or tough vegetables, such as carrots, can be damaging if you bite down hard and pull the food apart.

It’s important to note that, despite this difference from natural teeth, dental implants still have a high survival rate and a long lifespan. It’s just a question of maximizing the life of your investment.

If you have concerns about your dental implants or you want to talk to a dentist about getting dental implants in Las Vegas, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment at the office of Dr. James B. Polley today.