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Dental implants and bone loss

Bone loss around dental implants more common than previously thought
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
close-up of woman receiving dental exam

19th January 2010 - Bone loss around dental implants is far more common than previously realised and around a quarter of people who have them lose some degree of supporting bone. The statistics are revealed in a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden where implants were pioneered in the 1960s.

The study analysed X-rays from more than 600 patients. The more implants a patient had in their jaw, the more common it was to find loss of supporting bone. Just over a quarter - 28%- of patients had lost some degree of supporting bone around their implants.

Consultant dental surgeon, Christer Fransson, who wrote the thesis said in a news release that the bone loss accelerated with time. "This is a new discovery that shows just how important it is to detect and treat bone loss around implants at an early stage."


Smoking is one of several factors that increase the risk of bone loss. In the study smokers had more implants with bone loss than non-smokers.

The thesis also shows that the soft tissues surrounding an implant with bone loss are often inflamed.

"It's important to examine the tissues around implants in the same way as we examine the tissues around teeth," says Christer Fransson. "In that way we can notice early signs of inflammation and treat it before the bone loss has any serious consequences."

Damien Walmsley, Scientific Advisor to the British Dental Association says successful implants shouldn’t lose any bone at all.
However, in a telephone interview he cautions that having implants is not a reason to sit back and relax, “To have implants and walk away and think there’s nothing else to be done is a recipe for disaster. You must keep an eye on them.”

He believes for those with implants good routine dental hygiene is as important as it ever was which means good brushing, regular trips to the dentist and hygienist.

Dental Implants

Hundreds of thousands of Swedes have dental implants, which are a type of artificial tooth root made from titanium. A surgical procedure is carried out to insert a titanium screw into the jawbone, where it integrates and forms a base for crowns, bridges or prostheses. There are several types of titanium implants, but all are based on the finding that titanium has a unique property to integrate with the bone.

According to Damien Walmsley data on how many people in the UK have had implants is hard to come by, often because the work is carried out privately and not through the NHS.

He says the highest rate of implants in the world is in Sweden but even there only 44 people out of 10,000 have had implants according to the latest available statistics which were compiled in 2003. To find out more about good dental hygiene click here.

Reviewed on January 19, 2010

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