Do you have one or more missing teeth? No problem—replace them with dental implants. You’ll never have to worry about those teeth again.

It sounds simple enough. But nothing could be further from the truth. Implants, like any other dental procedure, require daily home care and regular routine maintenance from your dentist. Integration and long-term success of dental implants are not only dependent on the body’s overall health and healing response but also on how you care for them.

Typical Dental Implant Problems and Complications

There are benefits and drawbacks to any given treatment. This statement is particularly true when it comes to placing dental implants into the human jawbone. Implants can provide great benefits to patients who are missing some or all of their own teeth. But they are not foolproof, and dental implant complications and undesirable side effects can and do occur. We will discuss some of the more common dental implant problems and how they can be prevented or treated.

Infection

Although it is most common to experience some swelling shortly after implant placement, dental implant infection symptoms can occur at any time. Infection is a sign that something is wrong and the body is reacting to try to resolve it. Sometimes swelling or infection seems to happen for no obvious reason. Infection associated with an implant is not something that you should ignore in the hope that it will go away on its own. Contact the dentist or surgeon right away. The sooner that the dental professional is made aware of the problem, the greater number of recourse actions available.

Depending on the situation, the dentist may prescribe a regimen of antibiotics while identifying the underlying cause of infection. Typical treatment options may include surgery, laser therapy with surface decontamination, mechanical debridement, or antimicrobial therapy. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to remove the infected implant and allow the area to heal completely. A replacement implant may be a possible treatment at a later time.

Nerve Damage

Because nerve pathways in every human body vary slightly, it is possible for an implant to be placed too close to a nerve. This can result in tingling, nerve pain, temporary numbness, or even permanent numbness. The risk is low, but it is important to discuss with your surgeon prior to consenting to implant surgery. No one wants to believe that a permanently-numb jaw will happen to them from a “simple outpatient procedure.” But it does happen in about 1% of all cases, with the lower jaw having a higher incidence of occurrence.

If nerve tissue has been stretched or compressed by the implant and the problem is addressed soon after the numbness from the anesthetic wears off, sometimes the condition will resolve on its own. The surgeon may try unscrewing the implant slightly to see if feeling returns to normal. A second option may be to remove the implant entirely and reposition it in an alternate location. Ignoring the problem almost always guarantees numbness that doesn’t improve with time. The risk of nerve damage during surgery is a very real risk that you must be willing to accept if you are going to have teeth replaced with dental implants.

Loose Implant

Five to ten percent of all implants fail at some point in time. The first 10 to 14 days after implant placement are generally the most critical. This is when soft tissues begin to heal, and the body begins to form new bone cells that will eventually integrate the implant with the bone. If the implant becomes loose during this initial healing phase, it is a sign that the body is not responding to treatment, and the implant is being rejected. The implant should be removed at once to avoid prolonged pain or infection. Allow the area to heal for about six months, then try having a new implant placed.

In a smaller number of cases, dental implant failure can occur months or even years after placement in response to things such as an infection in a neighboring natural tooth, peri-implantitis, trauma caused by the implant restoration itself hitting prematurely when chewing, or habitual grinding and clenching of teeth. If the source of the problem is quickly identified and eliminated, it is possible for the implant to re-integrate solidly within the bone.

Peri-Implantitis

Similar to natural teeth, implants can fail due to gum disease. Peri-implantitis is a type of gum disease that causes loss of the bone supporting the implant. Usually, it develops due to low-grade, chronic inflammation around the implant site. Because it happens gradually, you may not be aware of it. The symptoms are similar to periodontitis—gums that bleed while brushing the implant, tartar build-up around the implant, and gradual loss of bone support causing the implant to become mobile. Any time an implant has worsening mobility, dental implant failure is inevitable. Implants require excellent home care to prevent dental implant problems. In addition, implants need regular professional cleanings and maintenance at least once per year in order to catch any potential problems before they mushroom into a big issue.

Smoking

Smoking constricts blood vessels, reduces the body’s ability to send vital nutrients and healing factors to the surgical site, and slows the immune response that helps the body recover from trauma. Because blood flow is reduced, smokers who get dental implants are much more prone to bacterial dental implant infection symptoms. Smoking decreases the success rate for both dental bone grafts and implant integration. Implant failure rates for smokers are nearly twice as high compared with non-smokers.

Can you get dental implants if you smoke? The short answer is yes, although you will require more preventative visits to the dentist, and you should expect to have more problems than non-smokers. It is prudent for smokers to budget for additional costs to address problems as they arise and plan for the cost of alternative treatment options should some of the implants fail.

Are Implants Right for Me?

Not every patient is an ideal candidate for dental implants. Patients with health conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, immune system diseases, and osteoporosis are generally not good candidates for dental implants because they are likely to have a much higher dental implant failure rate compared with individuals who have good overall health.

To understand your treatment options, schedule a consultation with the skilled clinicians at European Denture Center. Their knowledgeable denturists and staff will create a customized list of all of the treatment options that are appropriate for you. The best solution for your missing teeth is one appointment away!