Dental implants are supposed to be the best tooth replacement option. However, as dental implants become more popular, there are more and more people expressing fear that they might actually be a lot more dangerous than we think.

couple embracing in a hug and smilingConventional Wisdom on Dental Implants

The accepted view of dental implants is a rosy one. Dental implants are a tooth replacement option that is modeled on the structure of your natural teeth. It has a tooth root that is implanted in your jaw. The root is made of titanium, a biocompatible metal that integrates with your bone. Atop the dental implant root is an aesthetic dental crown, made of an advanced ceramic that has the appearance of tooth enamel, and is highly durable.

Unfortunately, evidence may not always support such a positive view of dental implants. The concerns range from well-documented to hypothetical, but they all point to people being cautious when considering dental implants.

When it Comes to Longevity, Dental Implants Aren’t Better Than Diseased Teeth

One of the main warnings that people should heed is: don’t pull your natural teeth to have them replaced by dental implants. Even if you have diseased, damaged, or otherwise compromised teeth, you should have those teeth repaired rather than replaced, according to a thorough comparison of studies that looked at either tooth preservation or dental implants.

These studies showed that diseased teeth were more likely to last 15 years than dental implants. According to the studies, tooth loss rate for compromised teeth was between 3.6 and 13%, compared with dental implants which might fail as much as 33% of the time, according to some studies. Even teeth described by dentists as “hopeless” didn’t have a failure rate higher than 33%.

This doesn’t mean that dental implants are bad, per se, but that your natural teeth are better. If you have a damaged tooth and you’re considering whether to replace it or repair it, repairing your tooth with a root canal and later replacing it with a dental implant if necessary gives you the best odds of having a tooth there 30+ years from now.

Dental Implant Infections

Another potential concern that people should consider is the possibility that dental implants lead to serious infections that are different from the ones naturally found in our mouth. According to a 2010 study, the bacteria found around dental implants in the mouth included 22 species that were not normally found in periodontal infections. This could mean that in having dental implants placed, people are exposing themselves to novel infections that might alter the risk of bone loss and implant failure.

However, the overall consensus is that “microbiota of periodontitis also causes peri-implantitis.” There is no extra risk of infection from dental implants, just the same risk that comes with your natural teeth if you do not perform proper oral hygiene and get regular check-ups.

Titanium Allergy

Although the commonly-accepted view is that titanium is the natural choice for dental implants because it is highly biocompatible and can be integrated with the jawbone, there are some who express concerns about the potential toxicity of the metal.

One of the concerns is that titanium allergy could cause not only dental implant failure, but systemic symptoms, such as flu-like symptoms and general feelings of ill health. Currently, estimates of actual titanium allergy rates are low (one study found it in about 0.6% of patients), but this could be a cause for concern.

Unqualified Dentists Offering Procedure

And another potential problem with getting dental implants is that as they have grown in popularity, more and more dentists have come to offer them. Unfortunately, this is problematic, too, because inexperienced dentists seem to be the most important cause of dental implant failure.

This means that patients who are considering dental implants should be cautious in choosing their dentist and should either choose a dentist who has experience with the procedure or who works with an implant specialist who has adequate experience to give reasonable assurance of the success of the procedure.

Should You Avoid Dental Implants?

At this point, dental implants still seem to be, overall, a good choice as long as people keep these concerns in mind:

  • Try to preserve natural teeth rather than extracting them for dental implants
  • Follow recommended oral hygiene to prevent infection
  • Be conscious of titanium allergy, and perhaps get tested if you have other metal allergies
  • Find a qualified dentist

Most people following these recommendations should find dental implants to be exactly as they are represented: a quality tooth replacement option that replaces your natural teeth as closely as currently possible.