Dental implants have become one of the most popular and effective restorative treatments for replacing missing teeth, providing both function and durable long-term results. The use of biocompatible titanium implants fused to the jawbone has proven tremendously successful, with 5 to 10-year implant survival rates exceeding 95% based on numerous studies.
However, while dental implants have this high probability of success, it is still helpful for patients to understand the potential side effects and complications that may rarely occur during or after implant treatment. Knowing the risks involved with implants, even uncommon ones, allows patients to provide fully informed consent to treatment. It also helps set appropriate expectations for recovery and enables early recognition of any issues arising during the healing process.
Overall, dental implants are exceptionally safe and reliable when proper protocols are followed. But understanding the risks, though small, enables patients and providers alike to maximize successful long-term outcomes through vigilant follow-up care.
What to Expect When Getting Implants
If you’re considering getting implants, the process may involve the following stages:
The dentist assesses your dental health, bone structure, and overall health to determine if you’re a suitable candidate.
A small titanium post is surgically implanted into the jawbone, acting as a tooth root substitute.
Over several months, the implant fuses with the jawbone, creating a stable foundation.
After osseointegration, an abutment (connector) is placed on the implant to hold the crown.
A customized dental crown, resembling a natural tooth, is attached to the abutment.
Immediate Side Effects from Surgery
The initial implant placement procedure is a minor oral surgery typically done under local anesthesia. Typical post-op effects include:
- Swelling – Up to 80% of patients experience short-term facial swelling for 3-4 days after surgery. This is well managed with cold compresses and OTC medication.
- Bruising – About 20% of patients develop minor bruising around the implant site and cheeks post-surgery. These resolve within 7-14 days.
- Pain – As with any oral surgery procedure, some degree of pain and discomfort is expected for about 2-3 days following implant placement. This is minimized with prescription pain medication and ice packs.
- Numbness – 10-15% of patients report temporary lip or tongue numbness for several weeks after the surgery from the anesthesia wearing off. Complete sensation typically returns.
Early Healing Complications
Rarely, about 1-3% of implants may have early healing issues like:
- Early failure – The implant does not successfully osseointegrate and must be removed. This usually results from poor initial stability or loading the implant too soon.
- Infection – Bacteria get introduced during surgery causing localized infection requiring antibiotic treatment. Strict sterile protocols prevent most infections.
- Improper positioning – Incorrect angulation or depth can hinder the permanent crown placement later.
Side Effects of Fully Restored Dental Implant
Once healed, another procedure is done to place the visible tooth portion. At this point, your replacement tooth will be fully in place. Some of the issues that you might encounter include:
- Peri-implantitis – Inflammation and infection around the implant. Caused by poor oral hygiene. Requires deep cleaning.
- Structural complications – Breakage or wear may occur to the metal abutment, screw, crown or porcelain. Replacement of components may be needed.
- Aesthetic issues – Visible crown or gums may not be ideal color match or shape. Corrections can be made.
- Nerve damage – In <1% cases, the inferior alveolar nerve is affected. This leads to pain, numbness or tingling.
Tips for Dental Implants Aftercare
After getting dental implants, proper aftercare is essential for the longevity and health of your new teeth. Here are some tips for dental implant aftercare:
Maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste to avoid damaging the implant or the surrounding gum tissue.
Rinse with Salt Water
Rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day, especially after meals. This helps in keeping the area clean and reduces the risk of infection.
Avoid Hard Foods
Avoid hard or sticky foods that could potentially damage the implant or the crown. Opt for soft foods, soups, and smoothies during the initial healing period.
If you smoke, avoid it during the healing process. Smoking can impair healing and increase the risk of complications.
Regular Dental Check-ups
Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings to monitor the health of your implants and ensure they are well-maintained.
Avoid Alcohol-Based Mouthwashes
Alcohol-based mouthwashes can be harsh on the healing tissue. Opt for an alcohol-free, gentle mouthwash recommended by your dentist.
Be gentle while cleaning around the implant site. Avoid applying excessive pressure, which could irritate the area.
Wear a Mouthguard
If you grind your teeth at night, consider wearing a mouthguard to protect your implants and natural teeth from excessive force.
Eat a balanced and healthy diet to promote overall oral and general health. Adequate nutrition supports the healing process.
Drink plenty of water, especially if you are experiencing any discomfort. Proper hydration aids in the healing process.
It’s normal to experience some discomfort, swelling, or bruising after the procedure. Follow your dentist’s instructions regarding pain relief and, if necessary, use prescribed medications.
Follow Dentist’s Instructions
Your dentist will provide specific aftercare instructions based on your unique situation. Follow these instructions diligently for the best results.
While most patients have uneventful recoveries, dental implants do come with some inherent risks and side effects. However, these are generally minor, uncommon, and manageable.
Remember, dental implants require time to heal properly. If you notice any unusual symptoms, such as severe pain, persistent bleeding, or signs of infection, contact your dentist promptly.
Working closely with your dentist before, during and after treatment minimizes complications. Following all post-op care instructions reduces implant side effect risks as well.