According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, three million people in the United States currently have dental implants, and approximately 500,000 dental patients opt for this particular brand of dental replacement every year. Clearly, the number of people that prefer dental implants to dentures is growing exponentially, but since this still is a fairly new alternative, not all Chapel Hill dentistry patients of Dr. Diane Hourigan are cleaning them in a way that will protect their longevity and keep their gums clean.

Knowing this, we have put together this daily checklist for keeping your dental implants cared for properly:

#1 Clean Twice a Day

If you are brushing your teeth correctly, you are doing it twice a day to clear away food particles and plaque to prevent cavities. While dental implants can’t get cavities, it still is important to clean them twice a day, just like normal teeth. This keeps food and bacteria away from your gums and preserves the durability of the implant.

#2 Use a Soft-Bristle Brush

You don’t want to use a hard brush when caring for implants because they are prosthetic and can wear down over time under duress. A high-quality, soft-bristle toothbrush is the best way to ensure that you’re cleaning your implants without causing them damage at the same time.

#3 Use the Same Techniques as Your Real Teeth

As is the case with natural teeth, dental patients with implants should use the same basic brushing techniques. However, proper care does require special attention under and around the implant to make sure it’s staying clean and the gums aren’t being introduced to extra bacteria.

#4 Use Nylon-Coated Interdental Brush for Tough Spots

These funky-looking little brushes do a great job getting those hard-to-reach spaces between teeth, especially the extra gaps and crevices that come with dental implants. Use these smaller brushes to clear any areas where food could get trapped, yet may not be reachable by brushes.

#5 Floss Daily (with the Correct Floss)

Floss does a similar job, but for even tighter spaces. Just because the tooth isn’t “real” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t floss. Adjacent teeth may be natural, and keeping food and bacteria away from those will be imperative in driving away potential cavities and periodontitis.

#6 Consider an Oral Irrigator

It’s amazing what a little splash of water can do for the health of your teeth, and an approved oral irrigator is precisely the tool to keep your teeth (real and implants) at their cleanest. They typically run $20-60, but they go a long way toward washing away the last remnants of food particles from your dental implant.

If you do all of these things on a daily basis, you will give your dental implants a better shot at longevity while also helping to avoid gum disease and bad breath. It is every bit as important to take care of your dental implants as it is to take care of your regular teeth, but if anything does go wrong and you find yourself in need of a dental implant repair dentist, Dr. Hourigan is a terrific option to help you get everything else back in working order.



If you are sick with a cold or flu, your oral health probably isn’t your first priority. Depending on how sick you are, it can be an exhausting thought just to drag yourself out of bed, much less head to the bathroom to brush your teeth!

However, neglecting your oral hygiene at this time can, unfortunately, mean bad things for your teeth and gums. Your Chapel Hill general dentist doesn’t expect you to be an oral health superstar during this time, but taking care of yourself now can minimize the risk of developing cavities and other oral health issues.

Here are a few easy things you can do to protect your oral health, so look them over and be prepared the next time you get sick:

Put Floss on Your Nightstand

Daily flossing is critical for preventing gum disease, so keep floss on your nightstand. That way you will be more likely to use it while you are lying in bed with nothing else to do!

Combat Dry Mouth

It is common to get dry mouth when you are sick, but the lack of saliva promotes bacterial growth. Many cold medications are also dehydrating, so keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Sucking on sugar-free cough drops can also help stimulate the flow of saliva.

Don’t Skip Brushing

It may be the last thing on your mind, but brushing is just as important when you’re sick. You may be surprised at how brushing can help you feel refreshed, and it has the added benefit of removing decay-producing plaque and bacteria from your mouth.

Rinse Your Mouth with Water after You Throw Up

Unfortunately, throwing up often comes along with being sick. You will probably be tempted to brush immediately after to get rid of the unpleasant taste in your mouth. However, the acid levels rise in your mouth after vomiting, which can weaken dental enamel. But rinsing with water neutralizes the acid in your mouth and help stop erosion.

Please Call Our Office

If you have questions about caring for your oral health, please call the Chapel Hill general dentist. We will be happy to assist you and schedule an appointment for you if necessary!


The foundation for excellent oral health is preventive dental exams and professional cleanings. Most people know this (even if they don’t always follow through) but are often unaware of exactly what is involved in preventive dental exams and cleanings.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of what you can expect at our next routine appointment with the Chapel Hill general dentist.

Dental Exam

When you become a patient of Dr. Diane Hourigan, we will perform a dental exam that will include the following:


  • Visual exam: We check all tooth surfaces for decay and check the condition of existing fillings and dental restorations.
  • Review of diagnostic x-rays: This step is essential for detecting decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays will also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Your dentist should check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
  • Gum disease evaluation: It is essential to check the gums and bone surrounding the teeth for signs of periodontal disease.         

Professional Dental Cleaning

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) should be performed by an experienced dental hygienist that involves:

  • Removal of calculus (tartar): When plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth it hardens and forms a deposit known as calculus. Brushing will not remove calculus since it is calcified and adheres to the teeth above and below the gum line; calculus can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. Plaque is actually a collection of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. These bacteria produce toxins that will inflame the gums and ultimately lead to periodontal disease.
  • Teeth polishing: Tooth polishing is the final step in the process of your professional cleaning and removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling. 

Call Us to Schedule Your Next Exam

Now that you know what’s involved with preventive checkups, you can see how invaluable they are for helping you maintain the healthiest smile possible. If it’s time for your next checkup, please call the Chapel Hill general dentist to arrange an exam and hygiene appointment.