A dentist at the Riley Hospital for Children Department of Pediatric Dentistry, checks the teeth of Justin Perez, 11, during an office visit in Indianapolis, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. University of Calgary associate economics professor Lindsay Tedds warns the federal dental benefit for children opens families up to the potential for "clawbacks" if they don't spend all the money on their kids' teeth.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Conroy

Ask the Dentist: Dangers of improper dental implant placement

Dental implants have revolutionized the field of dentistry, providing individuals with a reliable solution to replace missing teeth. However, like any medical procedure, the success and long-term stability of dental implants depend on proper placement and adequate post-operative care. Improper implant placement can lead to a range of complications and pose significant risks to the patient’s oral health. I’m exploring the dangers associated with improper dental implant placement, emphasizing the importance of skilled dentists and oral surgeons and comprehensive treatment planning.

1. Infection and Dental Implant Failure:

Improper dental implant placement increases the risk of bacterial infection, leading to implant failure. When implants are not placed in optimal positions, adequate osseointegration—the fusion of the implant with the jawbone—may not occur. This can create gaps between the implant and surrounding bone, providing a space for harmful bacteria to thrive. Without proper integration, the implant may eventually become loose or fail altogether due to a lack of stability. Such failures not only lead to complications but also require costly corrective procedures.

2. Nerve Damage and Sensory Impairment:

An inexperienced doctor may accidentally damage neighboring nerves during the implant placement procedure. The nerves in the jaw are responsible for providing sensory information to the teeth, gums, lips, and chin. In cases of improper implant placement, the surrounding nerves could be affected, resulting in altered or diminished sensation in these areas. Nerve damage can cause various issues, such as pain, tingling, numbness, and even difficulty in speaking or eating properly. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required to repair the damaged nerves.

3. Sinus Problems and Nasal Perforation:

In the upper jaw, dental implants are in close proximity to the maxillary sinus—located above the upper posterior teeth. A poorly placed implant can impinge on the sinus cavity, leading to sinus issues such as sinusitis or chronic sinus infections. Moreover, an implant placed too far upward can result in nasal perforation, where the implant breaches the floor of the sinus and protrudes into the nasal cavity. This complication can cause nasal congestion, pain, infection, and even require the removal of the implant.

4. Bite Misalignment and Jaw Joint Disorders:

Proper dental implant placement is crucial for maintaining the occlusion—the way the upper and lower teeth come together. If an implant is positioned incorrectly, it can disrupt the natural bite alignment, creating problems with chewing, speaking, and jaw movement. Bite misalignment can lead to excessive wear on teeth, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, muscle strain, headaches, and facial pain. Achieving harmony between the implant and the natural dentition is critical for a functional bite and long-term oral health.

5. Aesthetic Issues:

One of the primary goals of dental implants is to restore a patient’s smile and boost their confidence. However, improper implant placement can result in aesthetic issues, such as an imbalance between implant-supported teeth and the natural dentition. Misaligned implants or prosthetics can cause discrepancies in tooth size, shape, shade, and angulation, leading to an esthetically displeasing smile. Correcting such issues often requires extensive and costly restorative procedures.

6: Travelling Patients:

Alberta Medical Services now recognizes as a standalone category a group of patients who have travelled offshore to places like Mexico, Costa Rica, etc. for medical or dental work. When these patients land up our clinics with dentistry gone wrong, this what I refer to as ‘real life stuff’. The reason for outsourcing this care is virtually always cost savings. You simply don’t know the dangers involved, and you get little sympathy from a Canadian health care provider when it backfires.

I’ll conclude by stating that the dangers of improper dental implant placement cannot be overstated. From infection and dental implant failure to nerve damage and aesthetic issues, patients face multiple risks when implants are not positioned correctly. It is crucial to stress the significance of engaging skilled doctors who possess extensive training and experience in implantology.

Furthermore, comprehensive treatment planning, including thorough evaluations, 3D imaging, and mock-up models, helps reduce the possibility of placement errors. Patients should be proactive in their dental health by actively participating in the treatment decision-making process. This includes seeking second opinions, asking relevant questions, and ensuring thorough consultations with their dentist. By prioritizing proper implant placement, patients can increase the likelihood of long-term success, enjoy functional teeth, and maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.

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