Understanding the Risk: Can Dental Implants Get Infected?

can dental implants get infected?

“Can dental implants get infected? ” This is a common question that patients have, and is often accompanied by worry and fear associated with the prospect of experiencing an infection. The answer to this question is: Yes, dental implants can get infected, but the risk of an infection is less than what you might be assuming. 

Fortunately, the post-operative infection rate for dental implants (as documented by studies) is a mere 4-10%, which is relatively very little compared to their success. And even with this low risk, the severity of the infection varies from patient to patient, with most cases of infection being easily treatable if caught early.

However, to catch an infection in the early stages and to treat it on time, you need to be aware of its causes and signs. This blog will give you insight into the causes and signs of dental implants infection, along with possible treatment options.

What Are Dental Implants?

Before delving into the topic of dental implant infection, let’s first understand the power of dental implants. Dental implants are a treatment for missing teeth involving the surgical placement of metal posts (commonly known as implants) into the jawbone. These metal posts act as a substitute for natural tooth roots and provide an attachment site for prosthetic (fake) teeth such as crowns, bridges, or dentures.

What Is Implant Infection?

As with every dental treatment, implants come with an inevitable risk of complications. One of such risks, although very little in percentage, is an implant infection – commonly referred to as Peri-implantitis. Peri-implantitis is characterized by swelling and pain in the gum and bone tissue surrounding the implant, causing gradual bone loss and eventually leading to implant failure if left untreated.

There could be other infectious conditions affecting the area around the implant, too – such as Mucositis (an infection causing redness and swelling around the implant but causing no bone loss by itself) – but peri-implantitis is the most commonly occurring implant-related infection. The other infections, however, may act as precursors to peri-implantitis and may eventually lead to symptoms of peri-implantitis if left untreated, highlighting the importance of regular check-ups and proper care across different types of dental implants.

Most Common Causes Of Implant Infection 

An implant infection would continue to progress as long as the underlying cause behind it remains untreated. It’s, therefore, crucial to understand all the causes of implant infection, so you could identify and address the main cause on time and prevent the infection from worsening.

Here are the most common causes of implant infections:

Leftover Cement 

Surgeons sometimes use cement and adhesives to attach the prosthetics (crowns/bridges/dentures) to the implants rather than screwing the prosthetics to the implants. The use of such cement and adhesives should be done with caution, as even a small amount of leftover cement can irritate the gums and lead to an infection.

Over Proximity Of Implants 

Some type of implant treatments (such as all on 4 dentals implants) require the placement of multiple implants in the jawbone. While placing multiple implants in the same jaw, placing them too close to eachother could lead to an infection. Therefore, the distance between each implant has to be carefully calculated.

Poor Bone Structure 

One of the main prerequisites for the success of dental implants is good jawbone quality. While it’s the surgeon’s job to assess your bone quality ‘before’ the implant surgery and prescribe appropriate supplemental treatments in case of poor bone quality, some patients experience a decline in jawbone structure ‘after’ the implant surgery. The causes for such post-surgery jawbone decline include smoking and excessive occlusal forces resulting from compulsive teeth grinding (Bruxism). Systemic conditions like Diabetes could also contribute to it.

Poor Oral Hygiene 

Good oral hygiene plays a crucial role in the success of implants. If you let plaque accumulate in your mouth (especially around the gums and gumline referred to as mucosal lining), it’d harbour harmful bacteria lead to an infection called Mucositis. Mucositis will cause swelling and pain around your implant and may eventually lead to peri-implantitis.

Fracture Of The Implant 

Implant patients are just as susceptible to accidents and falls as any other person, but their consequences are far more troublesome for implant patients than regular people. Experiencing an accident or trauma around the implant area may cause a serious fracture of the implant and may lead to infection.

Early Signs Of Implant Infection 

Catching an infected implant in the early stages increases the likelihood of treating the damage caused by the infection and saving the implant, regardless of its cause. Following are some symptoms and warning signs of implant infection that you should be looking out for:

  • Easy bleeding of the gums (especially while you brush or floss around the implants).
  • Occasional or constant pain and swelling in the gums, accompanied by fever.
  • Deepening of the pockets around the implants.
  • Mild to excruciating pain around the implants.
  • Bad breath.
  • Difficulty in chewing.
  • Implants feeling loose.
  • Lingering bad taste in the mouth.

How Can You Be Sure If Your Implant Is Infected?

There’s no way you can self-diagnose an infected implant, even if you’re experiencing some or most of the symptoms that we’ve discussed above. Only your dentist can make a definitive diagnosis of an infection. Your dentist will obtain details of the symptoms from you. He will then take X-rays of your gums (to see any signs of bone loss associated with implant infection) and correlate the X-ray findings with your clinical history.

Once the diagnosis is made, he will assess and identify the main cause behind the infection and treat it accordingly. He will first disinfect the implant surface using an appropriate disinfecting technique depending on the type of implant used, the location of the implant in your mouth, and the extent of bone loss caused by the infection. Apart from basic disinfection, the treatment may include:

  • Bone-grafting (in case of infection arising from bone loss)
  • Excess cement removal (in case of infection arising from leftover cement)
  • Antibiotics therapy (for mild bacterial infections)
  • Removal and replacement of implant (in case of a fractured implant)

Conclusion 

Dental implant infection doesn’t commonly occur, but it’s still a possibility that patients should be mindful of. There are several causes of implant infection, including leftover cement, poor oral hygiene, trauma, etc.; the infection’s early signs include swelling and pain around the implants, bleeding of gums, bad breath, fever, etc. The treatment would be based both on the cause and the symptoms of infection.

Understanding the risk of implant infection is great for knowledge, but you won’t have to worry about it if you get your implant from an expert surgeon like Dr. Rodion Pinkhasov. Our premium dental practice, Jacksonville Implant Clinic, is located in Jacksonville, Florida. Get FREE consultation from us today for a hassle-free implant experience!

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