Dental implants are without a doubt the best form of missing teeth replacement that we currently have. Yet despite the fact that success rates run somewhere between 93% and 98%, dental implant failure can and does occur. So, while we can praise the positive impact that implant-based restorations can have on a patient – and rightly so – what about the 3% -7% of patients who experience dental implant failures? Is there anything that patients can do themselves to prevent it?
Preventing Dental Implant Failure – Digital vs Conventional Implant Processes
While digital dental implants may be at the cutting edge of implant technology, they also take away much of the risk element. With conventional implant processes, the focus remains on the experience and skill of the dentist during the crucial surgical phase of the treatment. Placing the implant at exactly the right depth and trajectory, avoiding nerves and sinus cavities, takes near-perfect hand/eye coordination, even with surgical guides to help.
With a fully digitised process, however, the focus is more in the planning. 3D mock-ups gives the team a perfect virtual representation of the patient’s jaw including the positioning of the nerves, adjacent teeth, and sinus cavities etc. Using digital software, the dentist can plan the exact positioning of the implant in the patient right down to the nearest fraction of a millimetre. This means that all the intricate details of the surgery can be worked out before a patient goes chairside. This way when it comes to implant placement, much of the risk element is taken away. There is some evidence to suggest that dental implant failure rates are improved using this method, although they do need to be interpreted carefully.
Other Causes of Dental Implant Failure
Dental implants can also fail for a number of other reasons. The good news is that the most common are preventable. They are:
- Infection and
- Bone integration failure
Let’s take a closer look at each one in turn…
One of the main causes of dental implant failure is a disease known as peri-implantitis. Once dental implants are placed, they can be prone to infection- just like our normal teeth – particularly before the implant is fully integrated into the bone. Unfortunately, peri-implantitis is a destructive problem that affects the soft and hard tissues surrounding the dental implant. The main cause of this problem is poor dental hygiene. If peri-implantitis is left to its own devices, the disease will attack the gum and bone, eventually causing the implant to become loose.
What about prevention?
To prevent dental implant failures in this case, having a good care and maintenance routine is key. Regular and thorough brushing and flossing, combined with six monthly dental visits are vital so that any problematic signs can be spotted and dealt with early.
Bone Integration Failure
The second main cause of dental implant failures in patients is bone integration failure. When a titanium implant is placed, the surrounding bone tissue should fuse with it over time. This creates the super-strong platform where the permanent crown will sit. Alternatively, the implant can also be used to support the framework of an implant-retained bridge or denture. Unfortunately, there are cases where the bone fails to fuse with the implant that can be down to a number of medical conditions or lifestyle choices and include:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Excessive alcohol intake
What about implant failure prevention in these cases?
It’s important for a patient to disclose any medical conditions and/or lifestyle choices to the dentist before undergoing any type of implant-based restoration. In some cases, other alternatives to dental implants may be better suited, and in others – the patient should refrain from smoking, drinking excessively, or alternatively, get their diabetes under control so that bone fusion stands a greater chance of success. In smokers, in particular, the ideal situation would be to quit altogether. However. if this isn’t possible, then smoking should cease at least until the bone has properly fused. This can take anywhere between 3 and 6 months depending upon the individual.
Preventing Dental Implant Failure
The prospect of a dental implant failure is certainly something people should take seriously. However, the good news is that preventing it is relatively easy. Factors such as choosing the right dentist are the key, so ensure you do your homework. Other factors include following the aftercare instructions given by your dentist. Remember proper maintenance and care is a long-term commitment, so regular flossing and brushing twice daily along with the use of a good anti-bacterial mouthwash is key. Finally, in addition, you may want to change some lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake as well as make dietary changes by avoiding hard candy and any other foods which are particularly tough on teeth.
To find out more about implant-based restorations and how we can help. Contact our experienced team at Evergreen Dental. We’re well-versed in digital implant techniques, so give us a call on (02) 8074 3849 today.