Why are my dental implants failing?

When faced with tooth loss, more and more people are opting for dental implants. Dental implants are more expensive than dentures or other treatment options. This causes people to question whether getting a dental implant is worthwhile. The most common question patients ask Dr. Sudhakar Reddy. K, Oral & Maxillo Facial surgeon and Implantologist at the Dental Implant Studio in Bengaluru, is, ‘How long do dental implants last?’ 

“Dental implants are made to last for 15-20 years. However, in practice, this may vary depending on a variety of factors such as oral hygiene, habits, placement of the dental implant, and so on,” says Dr. Reddy. 

Poor oral hygiene, according to Dr. Reddy, is the primary cause of dental implant failure. “People believe that because implants are artificial teeth, they don’t need as much care as natural teeth,” explains Dr. Reddy. However, this is a disastrous approach. Oral hygiene is essential for preventing bacterial buildup and bone loss. Dental implants, like natural teeth, require bone to which they can be anchored. As a result, any bone loss will result in implant failure. 

“I’ve had patients ask if they can drink or smoke after getting an implant. “My response to them has always been to avoid these habits for at least a couple of weeks after surgery,” Dr. Reddy says. Tobacco and alcohol use can have a negative impact on dental implant healing, causing premature failure. Other habits that affect the longevity of dental implants include teeth grinding, jaw clenching, eating hard foods, and using teeth to open bottles or plastic covers, among others. 

The position in which a dental implant is placed is also important in determining the implant’s longevity. When chewing food, the teeth at the back of the mouth are typically subjected to greater pressure than other teeth. As a result, the chances of wear and tear for dental implants in this position are high. “Patients are advised to follow a soft diet for a few months after receiving a dental implant in order to heal properly. This relieves pressure on the back teeth, extends the life of the dental implant, and lowers the risk of implant failure,” explains Dr. Reddy.

Certain pre-existing medical conditions can also shorten the life of dental implants. A compromised immune system, diabetes, and other conditions can significantly shorten the life of a dental implant. “I always advise my patients to control their blood sugar levels before and after getting a dental implant. Diabetes not only affects one’s overall health, but it also has a significant impact on gum health, and thus on dental implants,” explains Dr. Reddy.

Dr. Reddy recommends that people considering or having dental implants visit a dentist or implantologist at least once a year for a dental checkup. “Just like your car, dental implants require regular maintenance by an expert to ensure long-term longevity,” says Dr. Reddy. 

Dental implants allow many people to live a confident, normal life in which they can eat whatever they want, smile happily, and not be self-conscious about their appearance. “Dental implants can last for many years if properly cared for. They are so effective that many people forget which teeth are implants and which are natural after a few years,” Dr. Reddy says.

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