Of course, as a reality, and not a dream, we have to come to grips with some hard truths about dental implants: not all implants succeed. But this shouldn’t prevent people from getting dental implants, because they are very good treatments. This is confirmed by new research, despite the alarmist headlines that it is being published under.
Failures Aren’t That Frequent
The new data comes from the published thesis of a doctoral candidate at Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden. The thesis looked at a number of different measures of potential complications related to dental implants.
The primary finding of the thesis was that nearly 8% of patients with dental implants had lost at least one implant within 9 years of implantation. Admittedly, this is a little higher than we generally see, and higher than we’d like. We generally report that about 95% of implants last at least ten years, and there’s good data that at least 93% last 17 years or more. So how do we account for the findings in this study?
It’s straightforward: the failure rate listed above is based on the number of patients, not the number of implants. The failure rate for implants is actually only 3%! (This data is, kind of mysteriously, buried on page 54 of the full thesis.) In other words, 97% of implants were still in place after 9 years. The study also notes that failure risks are higher for smokers and patients who were diagnosed with gum disease when they had their implants placed. Both of these factors are known to increase your risk of dental implant failure by a factor of three or more. Considering the population risk factors, an overall failure rate of only 3% is actually quite low.
Is That Really a “Complication”?
The study also notes that “complications” for dental implants occur more frequently than implant failures. What it primarily means by complications is peri-implantitis, or gum disease around a dental implant rather than a natural tooth. This occurred for about 15% of dental implants. Although this might be considered a frequent complication, it really isn’t that frequent when we consider that about half of all American adults have gum disease.
Satisfaction Levels Are High
Looking closer at the other two findings, the third finding of this thesis makes a lot more sense: dental implants have a high satisfaction rate. Overall, over 90% of patients surveyed were satisfied with their dental implant procedures, including the appearance of their implants.
While it’s true that only 80% said they thought the procedure was worth the cost and would do it again, these findings do speak to the overall effectiveness of dental implants.Incidentally, about 95% of Americans rating dental implants on the independent review site Realself report that the procedure was “worth it.”