All surgery involves a degree of risk. Placing dental implants is no exception. Thanks to advanced technology used in today’s oral surgery, these risks are reduced to an absolute minimum. However, it is important to have a thorough understanding of these risks, and how they are prevented, before committing to dental implant surgery.
The Basics of Implant Dentistry
Traditional implant dentistry requires at least two surgeries. The first surgery is the most invasive, and involves the drilling of pilot holes in the jaw bone to facilitate the implant. Once the implants are placed, the gums are stitched closed over the implant while healing begins. The second surgery takes place three to six months later, when the bone and implant have become permanently fused (through a process called osseointegration). An incision is made in the gums, exposing the implant, which is then fitted with a special abutment that will attach to a crown, bridge or set of dentures. The gums are again stitched closed to guide it in healing around the abutment.
It is normal for patients to experience side effects, such as pain, swelling, and bruising after dental implant surgery. These side effects typically last anywhere to one week to six weeks, and diminish throughout the healing period. Patients are advised to take pain medication as directed, use an ice compress on the cheeks in the 48-hour period after surgery, and limit moderate to heavy exercise for a few weeks after surgery.
The risks of dental implant surgery include:
One of the major risks of dental implant surgery is that the implants will not fuse correctly with the bone. Osseointegration is the most important part of receiving dental implants. If, for some reason, osseointegration does not occur the implants will not function properly and can be uncomfortable, become loose, or fall out completely. To reduce this risk, your dentist will evaluate the density of the jaw bone to ensure that it is capable of withstanding surgery. Other causes of failed osseointegration include having AIDS, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Infection at the surgical site can also result in a failure to integrate.
Infection at Implant Site
In today’s surgical practices, extensive precautions are taken to reduce the risk of infection. Nonetheless, it is a risk that must be considered. Following surgery, you can reduce your risk of the gums becoming infected by carefully following post-operative instructions.
Nerve and Tissue Damage
In extremely rare cases, placement of dental implants can lead to damage of blood vessels or nerves. This can lead to pain, swelling, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the teeth, lips, gums, or chin. Extensive x-rays are taken before surgery to guide your surgeon in determining where to place the implants without interfering with these structure.
Your body will begin to resorb bone cells in the jaw if you leave missing teeth untreated for too long. In instances where implants are being placed in the back, upper jaw, sinus augmentation surgery, also known as a sinus lift, may be necessary in order to place an implant in the upper jaw and avoid interfering with the sinuses. This involves placing a bone graft in the upper jaw.
Who Is at Risk?
While more than 95 percent of dental implant procedures are successful, there are some factors that place individuals at a higher risk for complications. For example, individuals who smoke or drink are at an increased risk of infection both during and after the procedure. In addition, both of these habits can adversely affect healing time.
Immediate Side Effects
In addition to long-term dental implants risks, there are some side effects that patients may experience immediately following surgery. These risks include:
- Swelling. Because dental implant surgery is an invasive procedure, swelling of the gums and cheeks is possible. This typically subsides in 2-3 days.
- Pain. Patients may experience mild to moderate pain following the implant procedure. Your dentist can prescribe pain medication for use during immediate recovery. Any residual pain can be treated with over-the-counter medicines.
- Bruising. Bruising may develop on the cheeks and along the jaw area.
Learn More about Dental Implant Risks
If you are considering dental implants, the surest way to become informed of general risks, as well as risks that may specifically apply to you, is to schedule a consultation with your oral surgeon.