The failure of dental implants is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. While dental implant failure is not necessarily an indication of malpractice, when coupled with deviations from standard of care, it may be.
There are four basic categories of dental implant failure. These categories are:
- Perforation of Body Cavities – There have been cases where dental implants have perforated the mandibular lingual space, nasal sinuses, and the nose. This causes discomfort and can lead to infection and other problems. This usually results from inadequate diagnostic procedures.
- Loose Implants – Implants can become loose when they are placed under load too soon or if they are placed in bone that is inadequate with regards to volume or quality, they can become loose. This may result from factors not in the dentist’s control. Or the doctor may have cut corners in diagnostic procedures.
- Infection – Both perforation of body cavities and loose implants can result in persistent or recurring infection.
- Nerve Impairment – When a dental implant impinges on a nerve it can result in persistent numbness, tingling, or pain. In most cases, if a nerve has been impinged upon it would be considered a violation of the standard of care, because it would have arisen from a lack of diligence and care in how the implant was placed.
Dental implant failure is not necessarily a sign of malpractice. However when it is the causes of the negligence include:
- Shortcuts during the diagnostic phase – Three-dimensional CT scans are expensive. So in order to keep costs low, the dentist may attempt to place the implants with only a two-dimensional panographic x-ray. While it is adequate for most dental treatment, it fails to reveal the amount and quality of the bone available to support the implants or the exact positions of blood vessels and nerves.
- Taking an inadequate medical history – This is important because there are several medical conditions that may adversely affect the success of dental implant treatment.
- Poor communication between the restorative dentist and surgeon – The surgeon needs guidance from the restorative dentists to ensure that the implants are placed exactly where they should be. Failure to do so can cause excessive stress on the fixture, potentially leading to failure. There have even bee cases where an oral surgeon has placed fixtures before the patient has even seen a restorative dentist or has had any restorative treatment plan.
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