A lot of people mistakenly think that dental implants are a new way of replacing missing teeth. Actually, dental implants have been reliably used and studied for decades! As with all medical advances, dental implants have become more predictable and more successful over time. Currently, dental implants have an extremely high long-term success rate, making them a reliable choice for tooth replacement.
What is a successful dental implant?
A successful dental implant is one in which the patient’s jawbone creates a solid attachment to the implant body. The implant body replaces the tooth’s root, and the connection between the bone and the implant determines the long-term success of the implant. We deem an implant successful when it maintains that healthy bone connection for over 10 years. The dental research varies, and current averages show a dental implant success rate at higher than 90 percent at the ten-year mark.
What is failure of a dental implant?
When a dental implant does not have a healthy bone connection to the implant body, it loses its attachment. Just like a tooth with gum disease loses its attachment and becomes loose, an implant will become loose without enough attachment to the jaw bone. Dental implant failures typically do not cause any pain, and many patients are unaware that their implant is failing until their dentist informs them. Signs of failure will show up on a dental x-ray. If the signs are caught early enough, the problem may be addressed and the failure prevented.
This is why routine dental evaluations and x-rays are so important!
What factors affect long-term success of dental implants?
There are several risk factors that make a dental implant more likely to fail. In general, you can help to reduce your risk of implant failure by addressing these specific factors.
Diabetes affects blood flow and wound healing. Diabetic patients tend to have poor or delayed healing from surgery. Blood flow plays an important role in the formation of a solid connection between the jaw bone and the dental implant. Because diabetes reduces that blood flow, patients with diabetes have a high risk for failure of a dental implant.
Diabetic patients should take special care to control their blood sugar before, during and after the implant placement surgery. Keeping blood sugar within normal limits improves healing and blood flow; therefore, it also improves the likelihood of dental implant success!
One awesome thing about dental implants is that they cannot get cavities! Titanium and porcelain are impervious to the bacteria that break through enamel. The bad news is that dental implants can get gum disease. Gum disease on a dental implant is called “peri-implantitis”. Gum disease destroys the interface between the bone/gums complex and the dental implant exactly the same way it destroys that attachment on a tooth.
Gum disease begins with plaque buildup around the dental implant. This means cleaning your implant is just as essential as cleaning a tooth! Gum disease on an implant is easily intercepted when you stick to a consistent schedule of professional teeth cleanings. Your dental hygienist will help you stop it before it progresses to implant failure.
Similar to diabetes, smoking decreases blood flow. This causes poor or delayed healing of surgeries. Dental implants have a higher rate of failure in smokers. Smokers should make every effort to quit or at least hold off on smoking before and after surgery, for a period of 2-3 weeks. The longer you abstain, the better your dental implant success rate will be.
Dental implants are impervious to cavity-causing bacteria, but they are not impervious to destructive forces. A dental implant can fail as the result of too much biting pressure. Your dentist will ensure that the amount of pressure during normal biting and chewing function is correct for your implant. The problem is that many people put improper amounts of pressure on their teeth at night by clenching or grinding their teeth.
If you are at risk for clenching or grinding your teeth, a habit called bruxism, your dentist will recognize the signs and explain the need for a protective nightguard. Your job in preventing implant failure is to wear your nightguard faithfully.
How can you improve the long-term success of your dental implant?
As outlined above, controlling the risk factors to lead to failure is key to preventing implant failure. In addition to that, doing the following things will also improve long-term success:
- Stick to a consistent schedule with your dental evaluations, x-rays and professional teeth cleanings. As with most health problems, early detection is key to reversing the situation. Because dental implant failures do not usually cause pain, you might never know there is a problem. Regular dental visits are essential.
- Commit to performing excellent, consistent oral hygiene at home. Your role in preventing gum disease is the daily removal of plaque buildup from the implant and surrounding teeth. This consists of brushing the gums well, using a mouthrinse, and flossing nightly. Some implant patients also need to use additional tools to clean their implant “tooth”. Often the gums do not extend up in between the neighboring teeth and the implant, leaving small spaces or gaps for food and plaque to build up. Using tools like GUM® Proxabrushes or Soft Picks can help clean these areas better than traditional brushing and flossing alone.
- Wear a protective nightguard. If you are prone to clenching or grinding your teeth, make sure to protect your implant from aggressive forces by wearing your nightguard regularly.
Do you need a dental implant?
Call us today to schedule a consultation with Dr Chris Campus. He will evaluate your specific dental needs and discuss all of your treatment options with you. If you are a candidate for dental implants, you’re in good hands!