Unacceptable or inappropriate placement of dental implants

Our experienced dental negligence lawyers understand the anxieties and concerns caused by an unexpected or unwanted outcome from dental care or treatment. We also understand the additional frustrations and emotional impact if they have occurred as a result of dental negligence. We are true professionals with both legal and dental knowledge and expertise to help you through this difficult time.

Dental claims and dental negligence law is a very specialist area. Our specialist dental negligence lawyers have helped many people make successful claims and receive compensation for their injuries as well as for any corrective treatment that may be required.

What is an implant?

A dental implant is basically an artificial root. It is placed in the jawbone and over time, the bone cells grow towards the implant and so the implant becomes fixed in the jawbone. The process of the bone growing and attaching to the implant is called osseo-integration.

A dental implant can be used to support crowns and/or bridges to replace teeth previously lost. It is possible to build a whole new mouth of teeth with crowns and bridges supported by implants. These crowns and bridges are fixed (usually screwed) to the dental implant and are therefore a permanent tooth replacement and alternative to a denture.

It is also possible to use implants to stabilise and securely hold a denture in the mouth (by clips or magnets) so that the denture can be easily removed by the patient to make it easier to clean the gums around the implants.

Problems with implants

Implants can be affected by gum disease in the same way as a natural tooth. It is therefore very important to be willing to take the time to ensure meticulous oral hygiene of the gum around an implant.

Dental implants require good oral hygiene and most importantly, a non-smoker in order to have the best chance of successfully integrating with the bone. Although the success rate of dental implants is around 100%, in a smoker’s mouth this falls to about 50% – which basically means that dental implants should not be placed in a patient who smokes.

It is therefore essential that anyone considering dental implants is advised to give up smoking before embarking on this treatment. Failure to ask about smoking or to advise a smoker to give up the habit, will most probably cause the implant to fail and may result in a claim for dental negligence.

Dental negligence claims arising from the placement of implants

Implants can be a wonderful solution to tooth loss, giving freedom from the need for dentures or the need to use adjacent teeth to support a bridge.

However, the placement of a dental implant is a complex procedure and requires very careful assessment of the depth of bone available to hold the implant, the angle of the implant and the direction of the occlusal/biting force on the implant.

Although implants come in different sizes and heights, if there is insufficient bone to position a dental implant, a bone graft may be required.

Depending on the type and size of material used for a bone graft (either natural bone, usually from another part of your jaw, or a synthetic substitute), these can be relatively straightforward or very complex surgical procedures. Sometimes, the bone graft fails, usually as a result of infection and/or lack of blood supply. If the graft fails, it must be removed and this may leave a bigger defect than was initially present – as well as further delaying the placement of any implant.

The positioning of the implant within the bone is crucial to its success.

When an occlusal (biting) force is applied to the implant through the crown, bridge or denture it supports, it is very important that that the direction of the biting force goes through the length of the implant. This is called the occlusal loading on the implant.

If the occlusal force on an implant is at an angle, this will cause uneven loading on the implant and the implant may fail (loosen and fall out).

The placement of implants requires additional training and/or specialist qualification. Even if only one implant is being placed to support a single lost tooth, it is vital that the dentist is suitably trained and competent to carry out this treatment and also to deal with any complications that may occur during or after the different stages of the procedure.

Sometimes, a dentist will refer a patient for surgical placement of the implant but will then provide the crown/bridge or denture themselves.

The placement of multiple implants and/or implants for complex occlusal reconstructions requires referral for specialist review and treatment, or at least to a very experienced dentist to ensure that the assessment, placement and loading of the implants is successful.

Treatment consent and costs

The placement of dental implants can be a very complex and costly procedure. It is very important that you are carefully and comprehensively assessed and then given full information about the procedures involved, their associated risks and likely chances of success. You will want to know whether bone grafts may be needed and also whether there are any occlusal issues that may limit the treatment options.

As with all complex or lengthy dental procedures and treatments, you should also be given a clear written estimate and/or breakdown of the costs of entire treatment – from the initial assessments to the dental technician’s fees for making the crown/bridge/denture that is supported by the implant(s) and the ongoing maintenance and reviews to ensure the lasting success of the implant.

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