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Dental implant design and clinical practice have reached a state where almost any patient can receive implant treatment and expect it to last for many years.  It’s an impressive achievement, which is why I get irritated when I see it overstated to the public. Here’s a typical “statistic” I saw the other day, claiming an almost perfect track record for implants:

SUCCESS RATE

Implant-supported crown, single tooth

Lower                  Upper

100%                   97-98%

Well let’s just have a look at that claim…

In the first place, what do they mean by “Success”? A year’s trouble-free service? Five years? Ten years? Even if we pick the relatively modest five years, I can assure you there are far more failures than is implied by these figures.

And does “success” include dental implants that work OK, but look unsightly because of poor prosthodontics?

Secondly, there’s no distinction made between the various regions of the mouth. In reality, implants in the rear of the mouth, particularly the upper jaw, are markedly more prone to failure. Don’t get me wrong – the success rate is still high, but nowhere near what this chart claims.

Then there’s age. In general, the older a patient is when they have an implant, the more bone they will have lost, among other age-related issues. Severe bone loss can be made good by grafting, but this introduces another level of surgical complexity, and carries a greater risk of failure.

I could go on, but one last factor will suffice – implant choice. Over 300 brands of implant are approved for use in Australia, but some perform much better than others.

I have devoted my career to implant dentistry, and I’m proud of my record of success. And if I chose to treat only the least compromised cases, I suppose I could “improve” it.

But I take on challenging cases, and I occasionally have patients who neglect the oral hygiene essential to preserve implants. In other words, I treat real people, who have lived real lives. And I believe they should know the true prospects of success, small though the risk of failure may be.

So I never guarantee 100% success to a patient, and I’m careful to tell them about any factors in their cases which may compromise their treatment. Success always depends on careful adherence to an oral hygiene routine, and a “bound to succeed” attitude is not helpful.

Successful implant treatment depends on profound clinical knowledge, careful assessment of each patient, and honest discussion with them of what they can expect.

If you’d like to know more about how dental implants could help you, send us a request for a pre-treatment consultation here.