Infected Dental Implants

Contemporary surveys estimate that nearly three-quarters of adults in the US have lost at least one of their permanent teeth because of tooth decay, gum disease, or trauma or injury to the face. In many cases, patients who have lost a tooth, no matter the cause, find dental implants to be the ideal solution for their dental restoration needs. Dental implants have become the most popular replacement option for people who seek to replace a missing tooth, and they are consistently increasing in popularity among people who wish to replace more than one tooth, thanks to technical innovations that allow a minimal number of dental implants to be used to support an entire row of missing teeth. Dental implants that are placed by qualified dental implant teams have exceedingly high success rates, though rare complications, including infected dental implants, can arise. Early intervention is the best defense against these complications, and it’s important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dental implant infection so you can see your dentist right away if you notice any signs of infection following your dental implant treatment procedure. Understanding the basics of dental implant technology can help explain these symptoms and the potential damage they may cause.

Dental implants are tiny posts made of titanium or other biocompatible material. Resembling small screws, these implant posts are surgically placed into the jawbone in the places where natural tooth roots once lived. After they are placed, they are given time to heal. During this healing period, a biological process called osseointegration occurs, in which the bone tissue that supports the implant post fuses to the implant and creates a long-lasting, secure bond. Once osseointegration has completed, which may take several months, an implant abutment is affixed to the tip of the implant post, where it emerges from the gum line and adds to the natural appearance of the finished product. Then, the dental implant crown or other dental restoration is affixed to the abutment. When the ratio of implants to restorations is one to one, as is the case with a single dental crown, or artificial tooth, that sits atop an individual implant post, the implant restoration closely mimics a natural tooth, with a strong root that supports a single tooth and looks and functions just like a natural tooth. The dental implant post also confers the additional benefit of stimulating the growth and health of the natural bone, helping maintain the integrity of the bone and the lasting strength of the implant restoration.

While it is normal to experience some discomfort or pain after any procedure that involves surgery or is otherwise invasive, it should be possible to alleviate this pain with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication. If you’re noticing pain that doesn’t diminish with medication, or if your pain increases in magnitude or spreads to a larger area of the face, possibly interfering with your ability to comfortably talk or chew, this could be a sign of an infected dental implant.

Mild swelling is another standard part of the recovery process following dental implant surgery, though this swelling should subside after a few days. If swelling persists or increases, especially if it is accompanied by a fever, it is likely that an infection is present. An infected dental implant may also cause a consistent bad taste to linger in the mouth and could also cause bad breath. This is because infections in the teeth and oral cavity are often caused by an accumulation of bacteria and food debris, which carry an odor, and because infection can cause pus pockets to form in the mouth; as these seep or leak, the smell of the secretion can be pungent and unpleasant. Pus pockets develop as the body’s blood cells congregate in the diseased area in an attempt to annihilate the pathogens there. Because of the overall biology of the oral cavity, this can cause pus or blood to seep into the mouth when infection is present.

Because dental implants are designed to last a lifetime, the healing process is an incredibly important part of their success. When implants aren’t given enough time to heal after surgery, the bone can be compromised. Qualified dental implant teams ensure that patients are given ample time to heal and will measure the extent of healing and the integrity of the bone before the dental implant crown or other restoration is placed and treatment is complete. If you notice that your dental implant is wiggling or otherwise loose, this can be an indication that the implant post is infected or otherwise compromised. On the other hand, it may simply mean that the dental crown has loosened from its attachment with the abutment, but only a dentist can tell for sure, so see your dentist promptly if your implant seems loose or if you’re experiencing any other symptoms of infected dental implants.

Some patients with certain underlying conditions, like diabetes, cancer, or periodontitis, are more likely to face infection and other risks associated with compromised healing or weakened bone tissue. Your dental implant team will work with you to optimize the safety of your dental implants by helping you manage existing conditions in conjunction with your doctor. In all cases, effective oral hygiene and adherence to aftercare instructions can dramatically reduce the risk of dental implant infection or implant failure. During your recovery, limit physical exertion and follow the recommended diet of softer foods. Make sure to complete all recommended medications, especially cycles of antibiotics, and clean your new implants carefully but thoroughly, following your dentist’s guidelines.

Once your implants have healed, continue to maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing gently twice a day and flossing daily, and see your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and dental checkups. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can compromise the health of the oral cavity and contribute to implant failure, so talk to your doctor about these or any other medical concerns. Without attention, an infected dental implant could fail, falling out of the mouth and causing an avalanche of other issues, and the infection could spread to the body’s other systems and cause potentially life-threatening complications. If you suspect that your dental implant is infected, contact your dentist right away and follow their instructions to restore the implant to health and to maintain its health and stability over the long term.

Minimum Age or Age Restriction for Dental Implants

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