Are Dental Implants for Life?

FAQ’s on signs of a problematic implant and how to avoid any possible issues

The development of dental implants was a life-changing occurrence for patients who were seeking for a permanent solution that would replace a fallen tooth with the most natural result possible. As we’ve stated before in our blog, thanks to advances in dental research, dental implant therapy has become a popular means to treat tooth loss across ages. Over 3 million patients in the U.S. alone have had implants, with treatments occurring at a rate of about 500,000 per year.[ii]

Even though dental implants have historically had a success rate of over 95%, this article focuses on informing patients about signs that they may be having a problem with a dental implant, and how to avoid these issues from the beginning and throughout the maintenance of a dental implant.

How Successful are dental implants?

Natural Teeth vs Dental ImplantsIn the vast majority of cases, implant placement is successful and when properly placed and taken care of, implants will withstand throughout a person’s lifetime. Nonetheless, there are occasions where an implant could falter, be it because of improper case planning prior to placement, or due to risk factors that should be assessed before implant placement.

The probability of dental implant’s placements being successful increase by: suitable case selection and identification of risk factors prior to the placement of an implant. These are important steps, which are taken by your oral surgeon and dentist.

Some of the risk factors that might make a person unlikely to become an implant candidate are:

  • The state of your oral hygiene, particularly your gums
  • Having the adequate bone structure to support the implants
  • Other lifestyle factors or conditions, such as smoking or diabetes

For more information on dental implants, or to find out whether you’re a candidate read our blog: Missing a tooth? Are you a candidate for implant therapy?

In addition, an important step to stress is “to have your dentist or oral surgeon check the “bite” or how your jaws meet and the direction and amount of force that is exerted on your teeth and implants.Says Dr. Antoine Chehade.

What are some of the signs I may be having a problem?

How can you tell if an implant is at risk? Let’s take a few minutes to run through some of the most common symptoms and what can be done to address these.

Dr. Antoine Chehade explains “Most commonly, patients cannot actually detect implant failure in the early stages.  Early detection is best accomplished via annual follow-ups with their dentist. And in case there was bone graft reconstruction of the jaw, visiting the dentist regularly becomes of utter importance.” “However, one of the first indicators that there might be a problem is Spontaneous bleeding of gums around dental implants, at which time the patient should advise their dentist or oral surgeon.”

Other common symptoms that might suggest a dental implant is failing are:

  • the mobility of the implant
  • pain
  • infection
  • excessive bleeding
  • swelling/inflammation
  • tenderness

The Ailing or Failing Implant: How to Identify a Failing Dental Implant and What to do to prevent this from occurring?

As you might expect, any feeling of the implant becoming loose, wobbly, or being able to move the implant ever slightly is a cause for concern. This is known as failed osseointegration and typically occurs over the first few months post-procedure. Dental Implants should feel as solid as normal teeth and anything less should be brought to the dental surgeon’s attention. In cases where progressive bone loss might have occurred, a radiograph should detect this.

It is natural to feel a degree of discomfort, swelling/inflammation, and tenderness after any surgery. However, it is a question of intensity and duration that is important. Did the pain start from day one and continue at the same level or worsen? Did the pain only begin later on? When the answers point to intensifying or later developing pain there might be an issue with the dental implant.

Those same questions can be asked for swelling or tenderness. If swelling appears to be particularly red and gums are inflamed, this could point to an infection. The most common infection is peri-implantitis, a periodontal disease, where bacteria enters this sensitive region as a result of poor dental hygiene.

Returning briefly to the questions relating to pain, if the pain is chronic and feels like a tingling or numbing sensation, the implant might be too close to the nerve, another cause of a failed implant

Actions to Take if You Suspect a Failing Dental Implant

First, it cannot be stressed enough that quick action is the best course of action as it can reduce the risk of complications significantly. As a patient, it is important to follow the dentist’s aftercare plan and hygienic instructions closely.

If caught early enough, a dental implant can sometimes be saved by rebuilding gum tissue and bone to provide a stronger support for the implant.

In cases of peri-implantitis, it is likely that the dental implant will need to be removed. Smoking, having diabetes, and poor oral hygiene habits are main causes of this condition.

In all cases where an implant requires removal, the area affected will need time to heal before a second attempt at implanting can take place. This timeframe can vary from patient to patient, but durations of a year are not uncommon.

The Failed Implant
Even the most advanced procedures can fail across all types of medicine. Proper preparation and following of post-operation instructions will minimize these. Many tests will help diagnose these conditions but it all starts with listening to the body; if something seems off, there is a good chance there is. In such cases, consulting a dentist as soon as possible is always the recommended practice.

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