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Dental implant failure

  • Dental implants are becoming more popular as a choice of treatment for tooth replacement.

    By Ben Lees

Despite implants being so popular there are alternatives which are just as viable in some cases,  usually dentures and bridges, however they can be less comfortable, more difficult to maintain or may not last as long.

Equally, having a bridge can mean compromising adjacent healthy teeth so a standalone implant may be the preferred treatment.

To be assessed as suitable for an implant, a cone beam scan usually needs to be taken of the area to ascertain whether there is enough bone in the jaw to hold an implant. The scan will also help the practitioner to decide where the best place is to drill for and place the dental implant and at what angle in order to achieve the best results.

The practitioner will consider several factors before placing the dental implant, particularly if the original tooth was lost because of poor dental maintenance; this is because an implant needs to be kept clean too in order to avoid infection and dental implant failure.

Recently, Sharon Osbourne has been quoted in the press for criticising British dental care after her upper front implant fell out live on television. Although, the implant itself was placed by a Hollywood dentist, it appears reality TV star, Sharon, has found it difficult to find assistance in the UK.

More relevantly, the dental implant failure occurred only two weeks after it had been placed which clearly, would have come as a shock.

Causes

The following is a non exhaustive list which includes some examples of how and/or why an implant may fail:

1. The patient had periodontal or gum disease prior to placement of the implant which led to the natural tooth loss in the first place, the dentist has failed to ensure the disease was treated and kept under control prior to placing the implant and this has resulted an infection called peri-implantitis, causing painful symptoms and a need for extraction;

2. The patient had periodontal or gum disease which, although now under control and treated, caused bone loss meaning there is insufficient bone to hold an implant in place. If the dentist has failed to place a bone graft or material to encourage the remaining bone to strengthen around and hold the implant, the implant may eventually fall out;

3. The dentist has ensured the teeth are of satisfactory hygiene and placed the implant where there is sufficient jawbone to hold it. The patient is just a victim of misfortune in that the implant fails of its own accord and requires replacement.

4. The dentist placed an implant that was too small after drilling an access cavity that was too big or where the bone was not sufficient and the implant is not held in place.

In exceptional circumstances, the dental practitioner may have failed to adequately plan the treatment and only after extracting a tooth, realised there is insufficient bone to hold the implant. I have acted for a Client in this position and instead of informing her, the practitioner proceeded to place the implant and then secure it in place with filling material.

Sadly, after a short while, after the filling material had eroded away, the implant was loose and the patient was suffering from an infection. Fortunately, I was able to obtain suitable compensation for her so that she would be in a position to arrange corrective treatment.

As a dental negligence lawyer, I appreciate how frustrating it is for patients to find an implant has failed. If you are concerned that negligent treatment has caused your implant to fail, consult a dental professional for an opinion and feel free to contact us for specialist advice.

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