Tooth implants are effective options for people who have missing teeth. A tooth implant involves the use of a metal "root" to which a replacement tooth is attached. This root is surgically inserted into a patient's jawbone. Good candidates for tooth implants include those with enough bone in their jaw to support an implant, those with healthy gums and non-smokers. Although tooth implants have a high success rate, there are still potential dangers associated with the procedure.
As with any surgical procedure, patients who receive tooth implants may face the danger of infection. Infections can develop in the gums around the implants or in the bone itself. If an infection develops in the lower jaw, it may also infect soft tissues in the mouth and neck. Infection may also develop in a patient's sinus cavities. Most infections, however, can be treated successfully with antibiotics. A patient who develops an infection should see his dentist immediately.
Occasionally a tooth implant or the metal implant "root" may break. In some cases, an entire tooth implant may loosen or come out completely. Tooth implants that break are in danger of creating additional damage. Therefore, damaged tooth implants often need to be removed. To help avoid tooth implant breakage, patients should refrain from eating hard foods that may damage the implant. Dentists recommend that patients eat only soft foods for five to seven days after tooth implant surgery.
Although rare, there is a slight danger that patients may experience nerve damage during tooth implant surgery. The risk of incurring nerve damage is greatest while the dentist is working on the back of the lower jawbone. Damage to a nerve in this area can cause numbness, a tingling sensation or pain in the jaw, gums, teeth, chin or lips. Depending on the patient, these sensations may be temporary or permanent.
After tooth implant surgery, the tooth implant fuses with the surrounding bone in a process called osteointegration. However, it is possible that an implant may fail to integrate properly with the jawbone and neighbouring natural teeth. If an implant does not integrate correctly, it may also fail to function correctly, causing some discomfort for the patient. Osteointegration failure can occur if a patient exerts excessive pressure on the jawbone before the tooth implant has successfully fused.
During tooth implant surgery, it is possible for the tooth implant to extend into a patient's sinus cavities during the drilling process. This can potentially damage the sinus cavity or lead to an infection. If a patient is at risk for a sinus-related complication, she can undergo a sinus lift before having tooth implant surgery. A sinus lift involves increasing the height of the maxillary bone, making it easier for the dentist to insert the tooth implant.