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Can Dental Implants Fail?

Monday, 23 March 2015

The technology of planning and placing dental implants has advanced considerably in recent years.

Now we have advanced bio-compatible materials, advanced instruments, pre-planning of placement using 3D images of the entire jaw structure, appliances that fit right over the implant site itself called “surgical guides” which tell us exactly where to place the implant so it is anchored in the strongest possible position, and bone grafting to replace missing bone and allow the implant to be firmly anchored.

And yet despite this, in a small percentages of cases, an implant here and there develops complications which need to be treated, and in time, if the implant is to be preserved. If not treated in time, the implant area becomes compromised by disease and deterioration. Past a certain point, it needs to be replaced.

Implants placed before these modern advances had a higher percentage of later complications, though it was still a relatively small percentage.

What complications are these? They are really the same as any other tooth. The implant area develops gum disease. It can also start to lose supporting bone structure.

At the point when the implant has developed gum disease and has accompanying bone loss, it has a condition known as peri-implantitis.

Dental implant areas will develop gum disease and infections for various reasons. Things such as poor original implant placement, disease from an adjacent tooth working its way over to the implant tooth, poor or inadequate earlier hygiene, a poor immune system; these are but samples of what can precipitate a situation which needs corrective treatment.

Many times the implant area progresses toward full peri-implantitis with no perceivable symptoms. And sometimes there are no symptoms when peri-implantitis has been reached.

But if you experience any of the following around an implant, you are experiencing symptoms of peri-implantitis. Symptoms include:

  • The gums bleed at the gum line when brushing
  • The gums change color – they become red or purple
  • The gums become sensitive or start to swell
  • Pus comes from the gums or implant
  • The metal threads of the implant start to show

If you have any of these, get it checked out immediately. If it is not too far gone, the implant area can be treated and saved. But do not lose hope even of the implant has failed and needs to be removed. The technology is such that we can start over and place a new one that is much stronger and has a high predictability of long-term stability.