A dental implant is used to support one or more false teeth.
It is a titanium screw that can replace the root of a tooth when it fails. Just like a tooth root, it is placed into the jawbone. However, implant treatment is not for everyone and this something your dentist will need to assess.
Whether implant treatment is something for you will depend on the condition of the bone in your jaw. Your dentist should arrange several special tests to find out the amount of bone present. If there is not enough, or if the bone isn't healthy enough, it may not be possible to place implants without grafting bone into the area first.
Responsibilities of the patient and dentist
The patients must be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits.
Heavy smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders - such as diabetes or heart disease - or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head/neck area need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
Your dentist should carefully assess the situation and discuss the options with you. Your dentist should explain all the risks associated with the treatment and a failure to do so might constitute a breach of duty if the alternative treatments would have been chosen by you given the risks of the implant.
Remember to ask the following when considering dental implants:
- Exactly what treatment is proposed
- What experience the dentist has in this work
- The total cost of the treatment
- What the alternatives are
Dental implant aftercare
Once the treatment is completed, your dental team will give you instructions on how to look after your implant(s).
You may feel some discomfort during the week after the surgery, which is normal, however if the symptoms progress or you feel that the pain is more severe than you would expect, you will need to contact your dental practice.
It is important to be aware that after your implants have been placed, the bone in your jaw needs to grow onto them and fuse to them. This usually takes a few months. Sometimes the implants may be stable enough when they are placed for the false teeth to be fitted sooner than this.
If you are having one, two or three teeth replaced, you may have a temporary denture in the meantime. If you already have full dentures, you can keep wearing these while your implants are healing.
Your dentures will need altering, to fit properly after the surgery, and a ‘healing cap' will usually be placed onto the implant site to protect it. The aftercare is important if you are going to have a long-lasting, successful implant.
Your dental team should give you detailed advice on how to look after your implants. Cleaning around the teeth attached to the implants is no more difficult than cleaning natural teeth.
However, there may be areas that are difficult to reach and you'll be shown how to clean them. You may need to visit your hygienist more often, but your dental team will be able to talk to you about this.
Dental Negligence Examples
Besides the failure to properly consent the patient, the dentist may also make the following mistakes that could constitute a negligent treatment:
- Loosening of the implant due to a failure to fuse to the bone. An infection surrounding the implant (peri-implantitis) could also cause the loosening of an implant, or the jawbone could be of insufficient quality to secure the implant.
- A poorly designed or poorly fitting crown, bridge or denture can cause implant failure and/or gum infection.
- Penetration of the sinus cavity.
- Poor care leading to nerve damage.
- Failure to diagnose gum disease before fitting an implant.
- Incorrect implant positioning.
- Dental implants being imbedded in the jaw at the wrong angle.
- Poor implant maintenance, causing them to fail prematurely.
- Damage to the surrounding teeth caused by poor care.
If you had a treatment involving dental implants and you are not happy with how the treatment was carried out or the aftercare that you received, your dentist may have been negligent.