Dental implants are a great option for patients who have lost teeth, as they offer a stable and subtle replacement for natural teeth. However, Aws Alani, a restorative dentistry consultant at King’s College Hospital in London, has warned that they can lead to future problems if they are not properly cared for.
Implants are an increasingly popular choice in the UK, particularly for older people, with about 10,000 fitted in the lower jaw each year. The procedure is normally carried out privately, and can cost as much as £1,000 per tooth, representing a major investment for many people.
They are often regarded as one of modern dentistry’s biggest success stories, as they are successful in over 90 per cent of patients, and they are a practical alternative to traditional dentures, especially for patients who have experience significant mouth trauma. The majority of people fitted with implants are over the age of 65.
In an article in the British Dental Journal, Dr Alani said he was seeing increasing numbers of patients suffering from peri-implantitis, or bacterial infections and inflammation in the gum tissue around the implants themselves. As with infections in other parts of the gums, this can cause a loss of supporting tissue and even bone around the implant, meaning it is less stable than had been originally planned.
Dr Alani took the opportunity to challenge the idea that implants were “indestructible”, and urged people who had them fitted to give up smoking and practice good oral hygiene throughout their mouths. That means brushing twice a day, flossing and using mouthwash, regardless of how many of your teeth are natural.
Philip Friel of the Association of Dental Implantology echoed this advice, and added: “If you see any inflammation of the gums or any deterioration of the implant, then tell your dentist.
“It can be resolved, but if it isn’t identified, it can progress and lead to bone loss – and that’s permanent.”