On the whole, dental implants are very successful. Well over 90% of dental implants are expected to last 20 years and more. But that means there are still many implants that may be at risk.The most common risk for dental implants is peri-implantitis, gum disease for implants, and it affects many implants.
Still, an at-risk implant isn’t lost, yet. It’s important to get help for your implant as soon as possible to see if it can be saved. But how can you tell the difference between an implant that might be saved versus one that’s lost? Here are some things to look for.
Gum Problems Are a Warning Sign
The first potential sign of trouble with dental implants is in the gums. The gums around your implant should be pink, healthy, and should stay at the same level on your implant. If your gums are red, inflamed, or are starting to recede around the dental implant, it’s time to be concerned. Fortunately, when we notice problems at this stage, we can typically reverse them and save the implant.
Most often, the treatment required at this stage is just a change in hygiene and maybe some antibiotics. The gums will recover, and can even regrow around the implant, especially if you have a metal-free implant, which is more compatible with both bones and gums.
Severe Gum Recession Means Bone Loss
If gum recession progresses further, and you have more exposed dental implant, then you’re experiencing bone loss around the implant. Some amount of bone loss is normal and may be expected, but it’s not a major concern. It does become a concern if the bone loss is exposing too much of the implant or is progressing too rapidly.
Bone is less likely to heal without intervention, so once you have bone loss, we’ll want to address it. One of the most common strategies is to do a bone graft similar to what was done when the implant was placed. Usually, though, the implant can stay in service, as long as it’s still firmly anchored in the bone.
A Loose Implant Is in Trouble
The most serious situation occurs when your implant is loose. Your implant should be firmly anchored in your jawbone and shouldn’t move. However, if your dental implant does move, it’s a sign that the implant may be failing. We might be able to stabilize it, but once the implant is loose we might have to remove it, heal the site, and replace it.
Complications Are Rare, but Vigilance Matters
As we said above, dental implants are, on the whole, very successful. Some clinical studies have shown 100% survival of implants up to 30 years, although most studies show survival rates of around 95% over 10 years.
But an important part of ensuring that your implants last 10, 20, or 30 years is taking proper care of them, watching for complications, and telling your dentist if anything does come up.
It’s also important to have a dentist who is your long-term partner for ensuring the health, beauty, and function of your implants.