We've come a long way from the days of George Washington's fabled wooden dentures. Today, dentists can replace lost teeth with substitutes that feel and look more like the real thing than ever before. Dental implants are an excellent option for people who are missing sporadic teeth, whether it is due to an injury or a single bad cavity. The procedure to get implants is fairly simple and quick, with just a few weeks of careful eating needed after an out-patient procedure at the dentist's office.
However, as with all medical interventions, there are possible negative side effects of getting dental implants. Two of the biggest are failed osseointegration and peri-implantitis. Both of these issues can be largely avoided with a little extra information, so here are a few things you should know before getting implants yourself to guarantee the best chance of success.
Failure to Integrate
One of the reasons that implants work so well is the process known as osseointegration. Titanium is used as the primary material for implant rods because it bonds to bone unlike any other metal. Within a few weeks after an implant is placed in the jawbone, the exposed soft tissue of the bone will regenerate and grow around the titanium post, cementing it into place. This integration continues for several months after the initial procedure, strengthening the implant.
Reasons it May Fail
Sometimes this bonding does not occur correctly. Some of the most common causes of failed osseointegration include too little bone mass in the implant site and attaching the external, visible parts of the implant to the post too soon, known as overloading. A doctor will thoroughly check the mass and size of bone matter near the intended implant, and if there is not enough he or she may decide to do a bone graft.
Avoid Failed Integration
One way you can help avoid this issue is to get an implant sooner rather than later after losing a tooth--the bone beneath a lost tooth will begin to lose mass quickly because it is not experiencing the frequent pressures of chewing. Also, discuss with your doctor whether he or she plans to attach the crown and other finishing pieces directly after the surgery. Ideally, the post should be given several weeks to integrate and heal before everything else is attached.
An Infection of the Bone
There is a rising number of people with implants who experience peri-implantitis, or an infection in the bone where the rod attaches. This infection causes the bone to gradually decay, eventually leading to the implant falling out. This rise in cases may be due in part to people getting their implants done abroad for cheaper than at home, so they don't have proper follow-up care for the weeks and months following the surgery.
Avoid with Proper Hygiene
Most peri-implantitis cases can be prevented by proper hygiene. The disease is nearly always preceded by a similar infection in the gums, and if it is caught early enough in the gums the infection will not spread to the bone. Some external factors increase the risk of getting peri-implantitis, such as a history of gum disease and smoking. If you get implants, you should be visiting your dentist every few weeks for several months, and then several times a year thereafter to prevent any infection.