Dental implant surgery is one of the most common ways to replace missing teeth and has an early success rate of 96%, but are dental implants safe? If you have a missing tooth (or several missing teeth) and are considering dental implant surgery, it's important to understand:

  • The benefits of dental implants

  • The risks of dental implant surgery

  • How to care for dental implants

Benefits of Dental Implants

Dental implants have been used since the 1960s and are fast becoming the standard treatment for missing teeth—especially in places like Beverly Hills where cosmetic dentists place hundreds of dental implants each year.

When it comes to dental implants vs. dentures, implants offer many distinct advantages:

  • Implants look and function just like natural teeth.

  • Implants are as strong as natural teeth, allowing you to eat and speak normally.

  • Implants won't fall out or become stuck together.

  • Implants don't cause gum discomfort.

  • The implant stimulates jawbone growth, preventing bone loss.

Dental implants also offer several advantages over bridges for replacing missing teeth:

  • Your own teeth don't need to be cut down to make space for crowns.

  • The titanium implant can't decay whereas the teeth under crowns can.

  • The titanium post is so strong that it can be used to support several crowns if the surrounding teeth need to be replaced in the future.

Finally, dental implants have several advantages over simply leaving a gap in your smile:

  • When a gap is in a visible location, it can have a profound effect on confidence.

  • Even if the gap isn't visible, the lack of tooth roots can cause other teeth to shift, affecting your bite.

  • The lack of roots to stimulate the jaw bone can lead to jaw bone loss and a compromised facial appearance.

Dental Implant Surgery Risks

Clearly, dental implants offer several advantages over dentures, bridges (for the sole purpose of replacing a tooth), and simply leaving a gap in your smile. However, as it’s a form of oral surgery, there are some risks to dental implant procedures. Fortunately, most of these risks can be minimized or eliminated with proper preoperative preparation and appropriate post-implant care.

Surgery-Related Complications

Every surgical procedure comes with risks. Dental implant surgery carries the risks of:

  • Infection at the implant site

  • Swelling and bruising of the gum tissue

  • Minor bleeding

  • Nerve damage

  • Damage to the blood vessels

  • A post protruding into the sinus cavities

  • Complications from sedation or general anesthesia (if used)

Fortunately, most of these risks can be avoided by having the procedure performed by an experienced dentist who does a thorough evaluation before commencing treatment. See our dental implant surgery overview.

A Thorough Preoperative Evaluation Is Essential

Professionals who perform implant dentistry, like Dr. Glosman, will also assess each patient individually to make sure they are a good candidate for implants. To place dental implants safely, the patient must be free from gum disease and have sufficient jawbone to support the implant.

In some cases, gum disease will need to be treated before performing the implant procedure. Jawbone loss can be remedied with a bone grafting procedure either before or during the placement of the post.

Patients Who Should Not Get Implants

There are two kinds of patients for whom dental implants may not be a good idea. They are:

  1. Patients with an autoimmune disease

  2. Patients who smoke tobacco and aren't prepared to quit

Autoimmune Disease and Dental Implants

Autoimmune disease can increase the chances of implant failure due to bone loss (a side-effect of some anti-inflammatory medications) and inflammation, leading to greater difficulty healing after surgery.

Smoking and Dental Implants

Smoking increases the risk of infection and the likelihood that dental implants will fail. If you currently smoke and wish to get dental implants, you should quit smoking at least one to two weeks before the placement of the post and refrain from smoking for at least two to three months afterward.

Diabetes and Dental Implants

Patients with diabetes were previously advised against getting dental implants. However, most patients with controlled diabetes can have dental implants placed successfully with special pre- and post-operative care.

Rare Reactions to Metal

In extremely few cases, titanium implants can cause allergic reactions. The majority of titanium posts contain other metals, including nickel, aluminum, and vanadium. This can be problematic for people who are sensitive to nickel. Metal toxicity can also occur if the titanium post corrodes, but this is extremely rare—especially if you take good care of your teeth.

If you know you have metal sensitivities or prefer to avoid metal prostheses because of the minuscule chance of titanium toxicity, talk to your dentist about zirconia implants. While not as strong as titanium, zirconia (a kind of ceramic) may be the best option in some cases.

Galvanic Shock

The other risk of titanium metal is the risk of galvanic shock. If you have metal fillings—including gold fillings and amalgam fillings—these can react with the titanium post and cause pain.

To eliminate the possibility of galvanic shock, your dentist can replace metal fillings with porcelain inlays and onlays and metal crowns with porcelain crowns or bridges. Porcelain fillings are tooth-colored, which offers aesthetic advantages over metal fillings as well.

Dental Implant Care

After your dental implant procedure, there are several things you can do to prevent infection and help your implants succeed:

  • Eat soft foods until your gums heal.

  • Maintain a nutritious diet.

  • Refrain from smoking.

  • Rinse your mouth with mouthwash as instructed by your dentist.

Once the implant process is complete and the porcelain crown has been placed on the abutment, you can prevent problems with good oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth twice every day, using a soft-bristled and/or interdental brush.

  • Use dental floss at least once a day.

  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash every day.

  • See your dentist twice a year for a professional clean and checkup.

While porcelain implants won't stain or develop cavities, keeping your new teeth clean is important for preventing gum disease, decay on the surrounding teeth, surface discoloration, and implant failure. Read out extensive guide for dental implant aftercare.

Dental Implants: Highly Effective and Almost Always Safe

While dental implant surgery does carry some minor risks (like any surgery), almost all complications can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle, maintaining good oral hygiene, and visiting your dentist regularly. A skilled dentist will also take steps to ensure that you’re a good candidate. 

If you would like to find out more about dental implants and whether they might be a good option for you, the first step is to speak with an expert. 

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