A common misconception about dental implants is that once placed, they don’t need any looking after. While you might think you have a bionic tooth that is made from indestructible materials, the restoration is still in need of regular check-ups and a specific daily cleaning regime. If this is not maintained it can lead to failed implants and complications for your oral health.
How do you care for your dental implants in Oxford? What are the warning signs of complications or possible failure of your implants? And how can regular examinations from a specialist dentist actually stop an implant from failing? Read further to find out….
What do we mean by dental implant failure?
To understand a dental implant restored tooth in comparison to a natural tooth, it is helpful to think about it this way: imagine two buckets - one is filled with sand, the other with cement. A pole stands in each bucket. Pressure is put on both poles - one will move, while the other stays firm. The same is true of the difference between a dental implant and a natural tooth.
There are two types of dental implant failure, namely biologic and hardware failures.
- A biologic failure relates to anything with the gum or the bone around the implant.
- Hardware failure relates to either the technical aspects of the making of the crown connection or the actual crown connection itself.
What causes a dental implant to fail?
Let’s look in more detail what the origins are of a biologic and hardware dental implant failure.
- Hardware failure, often from incorrect placement - depending on the skill and expertise of the dentist placing your implant, there may have been compromises made to fit the crown into the bite and aesthetic, without thinking through the complications later on. If a crown starts to veer due to the pressure put on it from an uneven bite or an incorrect placement, this will cause the implant to compensate the force being placed on it, leading to loose and broken implants. This is why it is vital you choose a qualified and experienced specialist to place your dental implants in Oxford to ensure a smooth transition between the forces in your bite.
- Biologic failure, often from inadequate care or cleaning of implant site - the first stage of this is normally inflamed gums or bleeding around the implants, along with symptoms of peri-mucositis (swollen and bleeding gums around the dental implant). If left untreated this can lead to peri-implantitis (loss of bone around the dental implant), which in turn can cause an implant to fail, due to bacteria found around the implant and poor cleaning of the implant site over time.
Does failure of a dental implant mean it needs to be removed?
This will largely depend on the reason for failure and how far along that process your dental implant is when you seek treatment.
If the complication is a hardware failure then your specialist dentist will need to investigate or remedy the actual crown connection, i.e. the tooth part of it. This is relatively straightforward in most cases and may mean you need a replacement crown to be made. Although your implant is made of titanium, your crown is made of porcelain, so it will need to be treated with care to avoid breakage or cracking.
If the source is a biologic problem, it will depend on the severity and whether it is the gum or the bone that has been affected, to know whether the implant will have to be removed. In cases where it is just the gum that has been affected, your dentist will try to remedy or rectify the cause, which is usually plaque or bacteria getting stuck around the crown. This may involve removing the crown and cleaning it while also disinfecting the area. If this solves the problem, the crown will be reattached and you will carry on as normal.
If it is a more serious problem, or has been left for a longer time, peri-implantitis may have developed, which leads to a loss of bone around the implant. This will not regenerate on its own, which is why it is vital to ensure you have regular examinations of your dental implants, before they become loose.
In a case of peri-implantitis, your dentist in Oxford will assess the problem and your susceptibility to the bacteria. For some patients, the implant area is rough and it’s easy for bacteria to get stuck around it, which can become a continual problem. If it causes pain and discomfort, or if it’s an aesthetic compromise, for example, with the metal showing through at the front of the mouth, then sometimes there is no option but to remove the dental implant entirely. Other patients who are not as susceptible to the bacteria, can keep the dental implant, ensuring cleaning on a regular basis to prevent it progressing or causing any further problems.
What signs and symptoms should you look out for with your dental implants?
This is a difficult question to answer. While there are some signs and symptoms you can be aware of and take action about immediately if you discover, a failing implant can also be asymptomatic. It could be failing right in your mouth and you may not have any idea about it! This is why regular check-ups and cleaning with a specialist dentist are key to ensuring the ongoing success of your dental implants.
Symptoms and signs to look out for include:
- Bleeding around the implant
- Swollen gums around the implant
- A fracture of the porcelain, which doesn’t cause any pain but may feel rough to the tongue or different in the bite
- Pain from the gums may mean the implant has become loose
- Food getting stuck around the dental implant
What happens if you ignore symptoms around a dental implant?
Ignoring swelling and bleeding will ultimately lead to loss of bone around the implant. While bleeding around an implant is still salvageable, bone loss around an implant is a lot more serious and will require more complex treatment, which is why you should act quickly on symptoms.
What can be done for a failing dental implant?
If an implant is failing an experienced, skilled dentist can sometimes remove and replace it with an implant of different dimensions, depending on how much bone has been lost. More often, your dentist will need to regraft the site to try to save the implant.
Bones grafts will be made from one of the following materials:
- Your own bone - this is harvested from another bone site on body. This is living bone but the graft is only used if needed a big amount of bone is required, as it involves surgery on another part of your body as well as the implant site.
- Bovine bone – this is bone from an animal but is not living bone. When grafted, it becomes living bone again, but it needs to be instructed by your blood cells. The bovine bone is just a scaffold. As your blood cells begin to instruct it, it becomes like your own bone.
- Cadaveric bone - this is a bone graft from another human, which again is not living bone. It acts in the same way as bovine bone, with your blood cells instructing it to become like bone again.
- Artificial bone – this is chemical bone material which remodels into your own bone over time, but never becomes ‘living’. It also just acts as a scaffold.
Any bone graft placed can take between 4 and 6 months to heal. This process will need to happen before another implant can be placed.
How can I stop my dental implants from failing?
While some implants will fail naturally, a large part of implant success comes down to two factors:
- How well the implant is placed and the correct positioning in the jaw
- How well the implant is cared for after placement
Choosing a qualified and skilled implant dentist, who is able to plan the correct positioning for your dental implants is key. While you may think a general dentist is slightly cheaper, you may end up paying more in the future with implants that haven’t been placed well through reparative work due to complications.
The biggest misconception from dental implant patients is that once your dental implants are placed they will be there for life and are indestructible. The fact is, you will need to take care of your dental implants and make sure you regularly attend check-ups and clean your implants properly. Without this, your implants will have a larger chance of failing, both in a biologic and hardware sense. Returning to the analogy at the start of this post, your dental implants are like a pole in a bucket of sand. They are secure and shouldn’t feel loose, but they won’t withstand the same force that your natural teeth will, like the bucket of concrete.
Click here to read our blog post Why your Dental Implants Hygienist is Key to Maintaining Your Dental Implant Health to learn more
A thorough examination should be carried out by a well qualified dentist in Oxford on a regular basis, to reduce the chances of dental implants failing. A skilled and experienced implant dentist will be able to identify and resolve any issues prior to them escalating.
To find out more about how we can help improve your smile, or to book a hygiene appointment, get in touch with One The Gallery on 01865 256007 or click below to book an appointment