Dental implants are a modern solution to the problem of tooth loss but they can have side effects. It can be useful to know of the possible risks before you decide to have surgery.
Bacteria Build Up
If you suffer from receding gums, you may be able to see the implant screws, which in addition to being unsightly, may allow bacteria to collect and cause infection. In severe cases, you may end up losing the implant. (1)
Infection and Inflammation
There may be infection and inflammation in the areas surrounding the implant. This can be caused by not keeping your teeth clean, or due to having a virus. It occurs more frequently in diabetic patients and in people who smoke. (1)
The implant may be rejected by your immune system. Dentists aren’t always sure why. People who smoke are more likely to reject their implant, so it’s a good idea if you try to quit before having the surgery. People who grind their teeth and people who have an allergy to titanium are also more likely to reject their implant. (1)
Damage to the nerves can occur when the dentist injects local anaesthetic. Nerve compression can happen during the placement of the implant. This can result in numbness or pain. Talking, eating, drinking, kissing, even shaving may become challenging. It is important to only use a dentist who is experienced in placing implants to avoid the risk of nerve damage from poor technique. (2, 3)
Most implants are made of the metal titanium. Some people are allergic to this metal and it may have to be removed, or they may reject it. Titanium may cause autoimmune disorders, and severe autoimmune reactions have occurred after the placement of titanium implants.
Other studies have shown that it activates free radicals. It can also cause ‘yellow fingernail syndrome’ where the fingernails turn yellow. This can be completely reversed when the implant is removed. (4)
Interactions with other Dental Products
If you use fluoride toothpaste, titanium is known to react with fluoride. The fluoride can corrode the titanium implant and if that happens it will need to be removed. (4)
If you have a general anaesthetic rather than a local, the risk of death is one in every 200,000 (healthy) people. Other problems with anaesthetic include allergy, respiratory problems such as choking, heart attack and stroke. The majority of people, however, can have an anaesthetic without these problems and most people having dental implants have a local anaesthetic. (5)
As with any procedure, make sure you have done your research so you understand the differences in the types of implants and make sure to select a dentist with special expertise in placing them.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Dental Implants, Online Surgery. Web. 21 November 2011.
Delayed Onset of Altered Sensation Following Dental Implant Placement and Mental Block Local Anesthesia: A Case Report, Implant Dentistry: December 2002 - Volume 11 - Issue 4 - pp 324-330. Abstract:
Injury of the Inferior Alveolar Nerve during Implant Placement: a Literature Review, Oral Maxillofac Res 2011 (Jan-Mar) | vol. 2 | No 1 | e1 | p.20. Full Text: http://www.ejomr.org/JOMR/archives/2011/1/e1/v2n1e1ht.pdf
Metal-Free Dental Implants: A New Approach to Implantology, The New Zealand Charter Journal, Spring 2004.
Anesthesia - Risks and Complications, WebMD. Web. 21 November 2011. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/tc/anesthesia-risks-and-complications?page=2
Reviewed November 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith