500,000 Americans a year receive dental implants to replace lost teeth. These implants are anchored permanently in the jaw where the root used to be and act just as normal teeth do. Many people report a huge increase in their quality of life after getting implants due to a more confident smile, easier chewing, speaking and comfort of fit. The success rate of dental implants stays above the 90% range consistently but sometimes things go wrong, and complications arise. An implant is considered a “failure” if it becomes loose, falls out or shows bone loss.
Dental implant success depends on many elements. One of the biggest factors is the health of the jaw bone. The length of time a tooth has been missing has a huge effect on the jaw bone. When a tooth is lost, sometimes the root is forgotten about. Dentures and bridges fill the space the tooth itself occupied, but the root remains empty. As time goes on, the jaw bone begins to recede and reabsorb where the gap exists. For this reason, some patients may find themselves needing a bone graft in order to even get an implant if too much time has passed since the tooth was lost.
Dr. John Pappas, DDS, leading Phoenix area cosmetic and family dentist says,
“When your smile is missing a tooth, your jaw is missing it too. Because of this the jaw bone is no longer stimulated in that area when chewing and speaking. This causes reabsorption of the bone over time. Getting a dental implant as soon as possible after losing a tooth is so important in order to prevent bone loss.”
A recent study by McGill University found that beta-blockers, used to treat hypertension, actually decreased the failure rate for those who had implants placed. This is possibly due to their ability to increase bone formation. On the other end of the spectrum, heartburn medication was discovered to increase failure rates in patients getting implants. This is especially alarming due to the fact that heartburn medication is prescribed to a high percentage of elderly Americans who are the most likely to need implants due to age. It’s actually the world’s third most prescribed type of medication. The researchers think that the tendency for these medications to reduce the bone’s ability to absorb calcium may be to blame as it makes the bones weaker and fractures more likely.
“It’s very important to discuss what medications you are taking with your dentist at every visit. It’s even more important when having a procedure like implants done. Many medications can affect the outcome of implants such as antidepressants, antibiotics, and NSAIDs just to name a few.”
Infection around the implant can also cause problems. Sometimes shortly after surgery and other times years down the road. Smokers and those suffering from diabetes are at an increased risk for developing the infection sometimes referred to as Peri-Implantitis.
The good news is implants have a very high success rate. Even if the implant does fail, which is rare, usually the second attempt has an even higher chance of success than the first.