Who’s at Greatest Risk for Peri-implantitis?

Dental implants have long been considered the Cadillac of tooth replacements. Comprising a metal post that permanently secures to the jaw and a ceramic crown that secures to the top of the post, the result is a beautiful, durable, natural-looking tooth or teeth. In fact, most dental implants look so natural most people don’t even realize they’re not “real” teeth.

Under ideal circumstances, after implantation, the surrounding jaw tissue and bone heals around the metal post, allowing it to remain in place. But on occasion, the screw fails to implant to the rest of the jaw. This is known as implant failure. One of the main causes of implant failure is a condition called peri-implantitis. While peri-implantitis has many causes, it generally has the same devastating results. That’s because in addition to implant failure, peri-implantitis can cause permanent tissue and bone loss. A form of gum disease, peri-implantitis can be caused by a bacterial infection during the implant process – but some patients are more susceptible to this condition than others.

Cosmetic dentist Dr. Alexandra George operates a clinic in Wexford, Pennsylvania, where she routinely performs full mouth restorations, including dental implants. She says that, in her observation, peri-implantitis occurs at higher rates among patients with certain high-risk lifestyles, but until recently there was no empirical data to back her up.

But now, a new study published by researchers at Temple University is backing up what George has seen in her own practice, and it could save a lot of trouble – and a lot of teeth.

Temple researchers looked at data from 33 journal articles on peri-implantitis. What they found was that patients who had poor oral health, smoked, or had illnesses such as periodontitis (gum disease), heart disease and diabetes were at a higher risk of developing peri-implantitis.

“The study didn’t really reveal anything we dentists didn’t already know,” says George. “But what it did was confirm our suspicions and give us something tangible to show our patients and say, ‘This is one more reason why it’s so important to quit smoking or take better care of your health before you attempt this procedure.’ Because for the time and money you invest in getting dental implants, you want to make sure they work – and you certainly don’t want to cause permanent damage to your teeth, jaw and gums in the process.”

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