Patients are frequently referred to us for the management of various complications related to their dental implant treatments. Such complications have a significant negative impact on the patients’ lives and their hopes of getting healthy and functional teeth. Many of these patients find themselves in a state of ‘less’: less confidence, less money, and less bone. They often describe their poor experiences as traumatic, frustrating, painful, and difficult.
Complications noted among these patients include failed implants, infection, poor cosmetic results, uncomfortable bites, food impaction, and other functional problems that lead to undesirable results and dissatisfaction. Less than 10% of these complications seem to be idiopathic (no known obvious causes) while the other 90% may be linked to specific known causes. While unforeseen events can happen during any dental treatment, the majority of dental implant complications are completely preventable with proper diagnostics, planning, deep understanding of biology, a team approach, properly trained dentists, and an appropriate execution of the treatment. According to a recent study reported by Dental Tribune, 12% of implants failed when clinicians had less than five years of experience in the field. Implants were also twice as likely to fail if the surgeon had performed less than 50 implants in his career. These results highlight the importance of experience when it comes to successful outcomes for dental implants.
When patients present with such experiences, they are hurt, depressed, and disappointed. They come to us to find solutions and the right path that can lead them to their originally intended outcomes. Our first step in helping patients with a history of complications is to understand their perspective, feelings, and the psychological, physical, and financial effects they have experienced. We gather information on which treatments were completed, by whom, and how they were done. We contact their previous doctors to learn as much as possible about specific treatments, materials, and timeline.
Next, we perform a series of diagnostic studies to understand their current condition, health of remaining teeth, and state of their bone and soft tissue structures. Patients also see one of our team prosthodontists for a complete evaluation, cosmetic assessment, and restorative planning..
Finally, together as a team, we formulate solutions that can resolve the complications and guide patients to achieve their desired results. We discuss possible treatment strategies, limitations, and a timeline that can overcome the complications and give them results that they can be happy with.
This journey is often more difficult and costly than the first treatment and patients often need to prepare themselves physically and psychologically before beginning their re-treatment. My advice to them is take a deep breath, put the past behind, and start again with the end in mind. As professionals, we also prepare ourselves for this journey by being compassionate and sensitive to patients’ needs and work hard to get them to a better place than where they started, with patience, careful planning, collaborative efforts, and a staged treatment process. The journey is often difficult, but achieving successful outcomes and restoring patients’ confidence is worth every bit of effort.