Are Dental Implants Worth the Risk?

Published: March 26, 2015

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Dental implant surgery, which replaces the teeth and roots with artificial counterparts, is a relatively common practice. Like any surgical operation, however, the procedure comes with several risks and possible complications. Before scheduling an appointment with your oral surgeon, it is important to determine whether or not the risks are worth the gain.

Surgical Error

The biggest risk of dental implant surgery is the procedure itself. Fixing implants into place requires the surgeon to drill down into the bone to install the titanium tooth base. If a patient gets implants in the upper jaw, there is a slight chance that the doctor may go too far, causing the metal to extend into the sinus cavity. This accidental protrusion can cause long-lasting sinus issues.

Patients also run the threat of the surgeon hitting a blood vessel or damaging unimpaired teeth. According to Mayo Clinic, the probability of error is low with an experienced dental surgeon, so finding a reputable doctor is advised.

Infection

Being an extremely invasive dental procedure, there is a risk of patients developing an infection around their titanium implants once they are installed. Infection is possible with any surgery, however, and antibiotics are available to treat it if the need arises. The most likely consequence of an infection is pain, which is treated with over-the-counter painkillers or, in more serious cases, prescription medication.

Nerve Damage

During a dental implant procedure, the surgeon works near the nerves of the mouth. An unexpected movement or slip of the hand can cause potential nerve damage that may lead to extra pain in the jaw and teeth.

If a patient experiences nerve damage, possible symptoms include feeling slightly numb in the face or a tingling sensation. This risk is minimal though, as studies have found that approximately 1 percent of dental implant procedures lead to nerve damage.

Failed Implantation

In order for a dental implant to be successful, the titanium implant must fuse into the bone. After it is drilled into place, the bone needs to grow around it naturally. In most cases, this happens as planned, and the implant remains steady and stationary. If the bone fails to grow around the rod, however, the implant — and the connected false tooth — may move or wiggle back and forth. If left undetected, the implant can fall out after the procedure.

Pain and Swelling

As with any type of oral surgery, experiencing moderate pain is likely. The level of pain associated with the surgery is often compared to that of a tooth extraction: manageable for most people, but difficult for patients with sensitive mouths. The procedure also is likely to cause swelling of the gums and mouth. Fortunately, the pain and swelling don't prove disruptive for most patients.

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