Dental implant treatment is considered a permanent tooth replacement option. Once the implant is in the jawbone, and you’ve healed from the surgery, it usually stays there for the rest of your life (or at least 10-20 years). But as can happen with medical and dental treatments, sometimes the procedure needs to be reversed.
Dental implant removal is rare. But it does happen. So it’s important to understand:
- why they need removing
- how a dental implant is taken out
- what happens to the mouth afterwards.
First, let’s look at what a dental implant is and how they work.
What are dental implants, and how do they work?
Tooth implants replace one or more missing teeth.
The treatment is done in two stages.
Stage one involves fitting a titanium screw-like implant into the jaw. This screw performs the job of a tooth’s root, and will anchor the prosthetic tooth securely.
Stage two involves attaching a natural-looking ceramic crown to the implant. The crown is the visible replacement for your lost tooth, and will match your other teeth.
Technically speaking, the implant is the titanium screw-like part. It’s the bit that’s implanted into the jaw. But to make things easier the entire thing—implant, abutment and ceramic crown—is referred to as ‘a dental implant’.
Implants come in different sizes, and yours will be chosen based on:
- the tooth it’s replacing
- the size of your mouth and jaw
- the gap being filled.
What’s so great about dental implants, anyway?
- They’re fixed to the jawbone, so there’s a lot less chance of them coming out when eating, talking or sneezing.
- Implants are cleaned in (almost) the same way as cleaning natural teeth.
- You don’t need to keep putting them in and taking them out as you do dentures, which reduces the risk of damaging the surrounding teeth and soft tissue.
But if they’re so good and considered a long-term option, why would a dental implant need to be removed?
Common reasons for removing a dental implant
Implant failure in Australia is rare. A study on dental implant treatment conducted at the Adelaide Dental Hospital found that implant survival rate was 87%. Another large-scale study in China found the implant success rate was as high as 96%. These figures are very impressive.
But implants can sometimes fail.
Before removing an implant, a dentist will assess:
- why the treatment didn’t work
- whether the implant can be saved
- whether any other oral health challenges need correcting that either resulted from the implant or led to its failure.
The reasons for the implant failure, or the need to take an implant out, can be lifestyle-related, treatment-related, or simply bad luck.
Peri-implantitis is the dental implant equivalent of gum disease. It occurs when bacteria grows in gaps between the gums and the crown, and is usually the result of poor cleaning and a lack of oral hygiene.
The first stage of treatment is to clean the gum and implant to remove the bacteria (and improve the patient’s at-home oral care). This will ideally get rid of the peri-implantitis and avoid the need for removal. However, In severe cases (i.e. when the implant has already started to come loose due to the disease) the implant can’t be saved and will be removed by your dentist.
Dental implant treatments involve a healing period. And as with any surgery, infections can occur during the healing process. Your dentist will give you tips to minimise the risk of infection as you heal, such as:
- prescribing antibiotics if needed
- applying Curasept Gel to the site
- washing the mouth twice a day with Savacol.
But sometimes infection is unavoidable. And if it can’t be treated effectively, or has affected the implant’s stability, the implant will need to be removed.
Smoking leading to implant failure
The carcinogens in cigarettes change the conditions in the mouth. Smoking increases the chances of peri-implantitis and periodontal disease, and even affects bone metabolism. The chemicals in cigarettes can prevent the bone from healing as well (compared to the bone in a non-smoker), partly because smoking reduces blood supply to bones. That’s why you’ll be encouraged to stop smoking before getting your implants and, ideally, avoid smoking afterwards to minimise the risk of implant failure due to tobacco smoke.
An implant that’s placed into a healthy mouth and jaw with strong bone to fuse to is unlikely to fail. When a dental implant comes loose or falls out it’s usually a sign that:
- there wasn’t enough bone for it to anchor to
- an underlying oral health challenge wasn’t addressed before the implant was placed.
Medications and treatments
Some medications and treatments have side effects that can weaken bones or dry the mouth out. This can increase the risk of implant failure. It’s similar to the risk of natural teeth falling out due to the same medications and treatments, as the tooth root can’t be supported.
If you’re due to start any treatments or medications that have these side effects, you should let your dental practitioner know. Removal may only be needed if the implant starts to loosen. Knowing that implant failure is a possibility will allow you and your dentist to prepare, and make sure all preventative measures (e.g. great oral hygiene) are in place.
Conditions that affect your bones and how strong they are (e.g. osteoporosis, diabetes, some cancers) can lead to implant failure. If the jaw can no longer support the implant, it may fall out. You may also choose to have it removed before this happens.
The body is an amazing thing. But sometimes it has a mind of its own when it comes to accepting or rejecting foreign bodies. As with all medical procedures that put something new into the body, the body may reject it. And this can be the case for a small number of dental implant patients.
When this happens, the treatment site may become inflamed, feel painful, or simply not heal despite there being no underlying causes. The body is simply rejecting the implant, and so it would need to be removed.
Your dentist or an oral surgeon will make the decision as to whether the dental implant needs taking out. And the steps to remove it will depend on how long the implant has been in your mouth.
How a dental implant is removed
This will depend on how long the implant has been in your mouth, and how your healing is progressing.
Implant failure generally becomes apparent 48 hours after treatment. But that’s not a bad thing. At this point the bone hasn’t had time to fuse to the screw, and so getting the implant out is relatively simple. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic, and the implant will be taken out in much the same way a tooth is extracted.
If you’ve had your implant for a while, a couple of things may happen. If it’s really loose, the dentist can remove the implant with their fingers. But if that’s not possible then the procedure will be performed in hospital with you under a general anaesthetic.
The crown and abutment will be removed, and then the screw-like implant will either be cut out, or removed with ultrasonic waves or a small laser.
After the implant is removed
Much like when the implant was inserted, you can expect some tenderness around the treatment site in the days after removal. Before you leave the hospital your doctor or surgeon will provide advice on how to manage any pain and keep your mouth clean to lower the risk of infection.
The next step is deciding how you’ll replace the missing tooth. Will it be another implant or a completely different tooth replacement option?
Delivering dental implant treatment and care in Central Queensland
Getting dental implants isn’t something you decide on a whim. Treatment costs, expected outcomes and time needed all need to be understood, evaluated and planned for before hitting ‘go’.
Whether you’re at the start of your dental implant journey or ready to take the next step, Keppel Dental can help. Using the latest digital dentistry technologies and high-quality dental implant products, we can deliver the best dental implant care possible for patients in Central Queensland and beyond.
Contact us, and one of our friendly staff will book your free first consultation with me, Dr Luke. We’ll discuss your concerns, the procedure, the timelines and the estimated cost for your treatment.
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