What problems can occur after dental implant surgery?

Despite having a high success rate in dental implant surgery (DIS), it is not suitable for everyone. It also has the potential to cause complications on the long term.

A dental implant is a replacement of a missing tooth for a long period. The implant itself is a titanium screw, screwed into the jawbone by a dental surgeon. Implant and jawbone fuse together over several weeks. The implant may once fused support an artificial tooth or a crown.

Around 3 million people in the United States have dental implants according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID). Also the popularity of dental implants is increasing. The AAID states that the number of people it receives increases by around 500,000 a year.

This article outlines the potential complications and long-term problems that might arise from DIS. It also provides information on success rates, aftercare and recovery times for implants.

Potential complications from surgery

While dental implants can be beneficial, surgery can pose a risk.
While dental implants can be beneficial, surgery can pose a risk.

After DIS there are a variety of possible complications that can arise. Any of these will be discussed in the Parts below.

Common problems

Below are some of the commonest problems that may occur after DIS.

Infection

People should look after their dental implants well to reduce the risk of infection. Following the counseling of the dental surgeon regarding aftercare is vital.

Treatment for an infection depends on how serious and where the infection is. For example, a bacterial gum infection may require antibiotics or a soft tissue graft, whereas a bacterial bone infection may require removal of the infected bone tissue and possibly the implant, followed by a bone and soft tissue graft.

Gum recession

In certain cases , an individual may notice that the gum tissue around the implant is starting to recede. That can lead to pain and inflammation. It is essential to get a prompt assessment from a dentist to prevent implant removal.

Loose implant

The dental implant will develop into and fuse with the jawbone within the first few weeks following DIS. This process is called osseointegration, and is critical for implant’s long-term success. Can take many months to complete this process.

If the implant does not fuse with the bone, this may be removed by the dental surgeon. If the area has recovered, a person may be able to re-tempt the implant procedure.

Damage to nerves or to tissues

A dental surgeon may occasionally inadvertently place a dental implant too close to a nerve. This can cause discomfort, tingling or long-term numbness.

A study conducted in 2012 found that nerve damage caused by DIS can result in a decline in quality of life.

A problem with the nerves or tissues demands urgent attention. Injury to the lower alveolar nerve (IAN) can be especially serious in the lower jaw. Some possible IAN-injury symptoms include:

  • persistent numbness on the side of the implant, including the lower lip and chin
  • persistent pain or discomfort
  • tingling, tickling, or burning sensations in the gums and skin

Less common problems

DIS can also cause certain less common issues, such as problems with the sinus and damage to the dental implant itself.

Sinus issues
Dental implants in the upper jaw can protrude into the sinus cavities, causing the sinuses to swell. This is called sinusitis.

Some signs of sinusitis probably include:

  • pain, tenderness, or swelling around the cheeks, eyes, or forehead
  • green or yellow nasal mucus
  • a blocked nose
  • a reduced sense of smell
  • sinus headaches
  • toothache
  • bad breath
  • a high temperature

Damage from excessive force
Excessive force or damage, as with any tooth, will cause the dental implant to break or become loose.

Some individuals can put undue force on their dental implant without even realizing it. Some people , for instance, smile their teeth while sleeping, or brux. People who are susceptible to this activity can need to wear a mouth shield to prevent implant damage and their natural teeth from doing so.

Long-term issues

Peri-implantitis is a form of gum disease which causes loss of the implant-supporting bone. It grows at the implant site, due to chronic inflammation.

Peri-implantitis can take around 5 years to develop, and cause symptoms, according to one 2017 study. Usually, such signs include bleeding or swelling around the dental implant site.

Often, there is an unusual chance that the body may reject a dental implant. Researchers evaluate the dangers of using dental implants made from titanium or other metals based on a study performed in 2019. Some people have a sensitivity to rare metals which causes their bodies to reject metal implants. Until getting such implants, the researchers suggest that people undergo metal sensitivity testing.

Who should have dental implants?

Dental implants are a suitable solution for people who replace the damaged teeth with extreme decay or trauma, according to the AAID.

Two potential problems surrounding dental implants, however, are suitability and rate of success. This will be explored in more detail in the Sections below.

Suitability

A big issue with dental implants is that they don’t match everybody.

An individual has to have good overall health to be given dental implants. They will need to have healthy gums and a healthy jawbone as these structures will sustain the dental implant over the lifetime of the person.

Dental implants are not appropriate for kids, as their facial bones continue to expand.

Success rate
One dental implant can fail sometimes. Health care practitioners categorize implant failure into one of two categories: early failure (before implant insertion) or late failure (before implant insertion) (before implant insertion).

Dental implants have around 95 percent success rate. They may however have a reduced rate of success among people who:

Taking care of implants

The best way to guarantee a dental implant ‘s effectiveness is to obey the surgeon’s aftercare advice.

A individual should avoid hot foods and drinks after experiencing DIS, while being numb and adhering to a soft diet for at least a few days. It is also necessary to avoid strenuous 2–3 day exercise to prevent increased blood flow and associated area swelling.

As with the natural teeth of a human, daily cleaning is needed of an implant and the tissues around it. After the gums have healed a person should floss the area at least once per day and use interdental brushes to access areas that are more difficult to reach.

People can also arrange daily dental check-ups and appointments below the gum line for cleaning areas.

People who smoke may want to consider stopping, as this would minimize the risk of DIS complications.

When to see a doctor or dentist

A dental practitioner can prescribe antibiotics after DIS to help prevent infection. Often, a person may need an over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever to help alleviate the pain.

Any swelling or bruise may subside within a couple of days of the procedure. However, should the person book a follow-up dental appointment if pain and swelling continue for a week.

The initial healing process takes a couple of weeks, and complete osseointegration will take months. If your dental implants start moving slightly or begin to hurt after a few weeks, a person may seek medical attention. It is important to resolve the issue quickly to avoid complications.

Outlook

Simple DIS typically requires only local anesthetics, so most people appear to have relatively short periods of recovery.

Some people can experience following DIS like the following symptoms:

  • pain at the site of the dental implant
  • minor bleeding
  • bruising of the gums or skin
  • swelling of the gums or face

A dentist or oral surgeon may advise the person to get plenty of rest after the procedure. They can also prescribe a strict diet of soft foods and applying an ice pack to the affected portion of the face to help relieve swelling and inflammation.

Niveaus of pain can vary from person to person and depending on how many implants the surgeon puts. However it should be appropriate to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve any pain. Medications for pain are typically prescribed 2–3 days after the operation.

The average time a person takes to cure after DIS ranges from around 2 months to 6 months. The dental surgeon can place an artificial tooth on the implant once healing is complete.

Summary

DIS doesn’t suit everyone. For a surgeon, a person may need to undergo an comprehensive dental examination to decide whether or not they are an eligible candidate for the procedure.

Dental implants have a high success rate of around 95 percent, leading many people to a better quality of life.

Dental implants may also cause complications such as infections, gum recession, and damage to the nerves and tissues. If a person experiences any troubling symptoms following DIS, they should see their dental surgeon.

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