Dental implants are an effective and popular replacement for missing or damaged teeth. Dental implant procedures are extremely common and are the only permanent tooth replacement treatment available. But are dental implants safe, and what are the risk factors?
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are small metal posts implanted into the jawbone as part of the dental implant procedure once the site of the missing or damaged tooth has been prepared. Implants tend to be made of the biocompatible material titanium zirconium, which helps avoid allergic reactions and implant rejection.
Over time, usually over six to eight weeks, the bone tissue begins to fuse with the implant in a process known as osseointegration. This keeps the implant firmly in place so it can serve as a root for an artificial tooth, typically a crown.
The process of getting a dental implant takes several months and involves various steps, depending on the needs of the individual patient, including:
- The initial consultation where your dentist assesses your suitability for dental implants and, using X-rays, a CT scan, and other diagnostic imaging, lay out your detailed treatment plan.
- The dental implant surgery where the dentist places the implant either using flapless “keyhole style” surgery through the gum or by making a small incision into the gum to expose the bone underneath. This routine procedure can be conducted under conscious sedation or general anesthetic, depending on the patient’s needs and preferences.
- Once the implant site has healed, the abutment, a small piece of metal that connects the artificial tooth to the dental implant, can be fitted. Sometimes the abutment can be attached during the main dental implant surgery.
- After the area has healed, a mould is taken to prepare for the artificial restoration, either a crown, bridge, or denture. This piece will only be attached when you and your dentist are both happy that it perfectly blends in with your teeth, taking size, shape, and colour into account.
Are Dental Implants Safe?
Dental implant surgery is an extremely common procedure that skilled dentists, such as Dr Chou or Dr Willis or Dr Rodricks at Toothsome, perform regularly; however, as with any surgery, many patients feel concerned about potential risks and wonder, “are dental implants safe?”
The short answer is that yes, dental implants are safe. Your dentist or dental specialist will assess your suitability as an implant candidate before undergoing a dental implant procedure, thereby limiting the risk of any problems. However, like all medical procedures, there are some potential risks. What are some of these risks, and how can they be mitigated?
When fitting upper dental implants, there can be a risk of the implant protruding and perforating the maxillary sinus, the air-filled cavities that sit close to the back upper teeth. If this happens, it can lead to problems such as sinus infections. Signs of sinus perforation include nose wheezing, nosebleeds, nose pain, headache, and scabbing in the nose.
Sinus perforation can be avoided by a thorough examination of the area using diagnostic imaging before proceeding with dental implant surgery. If the patient has an enlarged maxillary sinus, known as pneumatisation, or significant bone loss, your Toothsome dentist can perform a sinus augmentation, also known as a sinus lift. This surgical procedure elevates the floor of the sinus to create space for the implant.
Peri-implantitis is an infection of the gum tissue around an implant. The infection can spread from the gums to the bone, which can make the implant loose or unstable and can even damage the jawbone. Peri-implantitis can occur during the healing period after a dental implant surgery or years later if oral hygiene has not been well-maintained.
Peri-implantitis can usually be avoided by following the instructions your dentist gives you after your dental implant procedure and maintaining good oral hygiene practices, which includes visiting your dentist for regular check-ups. If you are concerned about how to care for your implant and surrounding gums, your dentist is happy to give you advice. When peri-implantitis does occur, it can usually be treated by noninvasive methods such as antiseptic rinses or antibiotics.
Patient Suitability For Dental Implants
Most issues that occur after dental implant surgery are because the patient was not a suitable candidate for dental implants. This is why at Toothsome, we do a thorough assessment of your overall health, as well as the condition of your teeth, gums and jaw bone, before proceeding with a dental implant procedure. These risks include:
- Existing health conditions such as diabetes, cancer or bone degradation can negatively affect healing.
- If significant bone loss has occurred, for example, due to severe gum disease, before the dental implant procedure, the patient may have to undergo a bone graft to ensure successful osseointegration.
- If the patient has an allergy to titanium or sensitivity to metals that are alloyed with titanium, such as copper or zinc, they are not considered good candidates for dental implants.
- Patients on certain medications, such as those that suppress the immune system, may be considered too high risk to undergo dental implant surgery.
- Dental implants are not usually recommended to people who severely clench or grind their teeth as this can damage the implant and impede their success.
Safe Dental Implant Procedures at Toothsome
Are dental implants safe? Most dental implant problems can be avoided by two things: the dentist thoroughly investigating a patient’s suitability for implants and the patient closely following the aftercare program set out by their dentist. When these things happen, dental implants are a safe and effective option for tooth replacement.
At Toothsome, our Specialist Dr Patty Chou and Specialist Dr Rohan Rodricks and Dental Surgeon Dr David Willis have extensive experience with dental implants and work hard to ensure our patients are safe and comfortable during and after their treatment.
If you want to discuss your implant options, contact Toothsome on (02) 8203 8786 for an initial consultation and start your journey to safe and effective tooth replacement today.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.