Implantology is arguably the most important development in dentistry within the past century. Since the 30 years since it’s initial development, just how reliable and permanent are today’s dental implants?
I recall working at the University of Washington with the chief researcher, Professor Brånemark, who stated at the time he development of the new treatment that it would always require specialist teams of Prosthodontists and Surgeons (rather than one individual practitioner) with over 30 years of combined experience to ensure optimum prescription, application and patient care.
Sadly, once the direct control of manufacturing of tools and materials necessary for this attracted the attention of big investment, cheaper implant ‘kits’ were developed accompanied by 1-3 day courses aimed at the wider market of general practitioners. It wasn’t long before patients with missing teeth would become a potential implant patient, overlooking all the previous conventional options because they were no longer regarded as ‘sexy’ and with patients under the belief that their new implants will be a long-term permanent solution.
Even well established and relatively conservative dental authorities actually stated that the management of patients who had lost all of their teeth should be universally prescribed a few strategically placed implants to make their dentures more secure. They even went as far to state that this would actually save money in the long run because of the spurious belief that remakes and costs of maintenance would be reduced.
But with the lack of experience and training, more patients were inappropriately selected for implants. As time passed, the failures began to surface with disastrous consequences.
Patients are disappointed, civil action suits are spiralling exponentially and the costs of putting right the damage are huge with re-treatment often complex and emotionally draining – a far cry from their ‘permanent’ solution.
Thankfully, new research has prompted general practitioners to inform patients of the risks and likely life-span of their implants so they are able to make an informed decision.