When us lay people hear dentists, doctors, surgeons, and nurses talk with each other, it can sound like a foreign language. They use lots of words ending in “itis,” “osis,” and “ology.”
When it comes to dental implants, we hear terms like “fixed” and “permanent,” but do those mean what we think they mean? Can’t dental implants be removed?
Can Dental Implants Be Removed?
Dental implants may be removed in order to change the position of overall restorative strategy or the implant fails. Typically a dental implant failure is where the implant is lost due to infection or host rejection.
The possible reasons for the failure are many, but there are two main categories: early and late failures.
Early Implant Failures
An early failure happens within the first few months after the implant placement. Whether the failure is from infection too much movement happening during the healing process, or because the implant didn’t integrate with the bone properly (called the osseointegration period), a specialist can remove the implant because it has not fused to the jawbone.
A late failure can happen anytime after a year from the placement. It could have failed due to infection (like peri-implantitis), too much force, or the implant just becoming loose, these are also easy to remove.
Are Some Dental Implants Easier To Remove Than Others?
The main factor that determines the difficulty of an implant removal is the jawbone quality. Generally speaking, implants in the lower jaw are more difficult to remove, but implants in the upper jaw can also be feisty too.
Another thing that can make the process more difficult is the amount of time that has passed. If it has been longer than two years since an implant, the implant will have fused more firmly and will be tougher to remove.
And yet another deterrent to removing an implant is its size. Obviously, the longer and wider an implant is, the harder it will be to get out of the jaw. On the other hand, very thin implants can be tough too because they are more likely to fracture when the specialist tries to do the removal.
Also, if an implant is near a nerve or a sinus cavity, the specialist will need to be extra careful and steady-handed. Damaging either would not be good.
Dental Implant Removal Procedure
If a dental implant does need to be removed, there are two situations where the removal procedure is necessary: a non-osseointegrated implant and an osseointegrated implant.
In both cases, the removal procedure would look similar to the placement surgery. You would probably go under anesthesia and the specialist would use their tools to remove the crown (the part that looks like a tooth), take out the abutment (the part that the crown connects to), and finally remove the implant (the part that screws into the bone).
Removal Of A Non-Osseointegrated Implant
If absolutely necessary, a specialist can remove an implant that has not integrated with the bone within 48 hours of the placement. The situations that may require the removal of a non-osseointegrated implant include complications with the placement surgery, poor positioning, broken pieces of the implant, infection, or simply if the patient asks for it to be removed.
Removal Of An Osseointegrated Implant
If a dental implant has successfully integrated with the bone, it’s up to the specialist to determine if the implant should come out. Reasons for removal can include, unsatisfactory osseointegration, infections like peri-implantitis, poor positioning of the implant, or if the patient asks to have it removed.
Dental Implant Removal Method And Tools Used
The tools a specialist will use to remove an implant work in a similar way to a screw and screwdriver. The tool fits into a notch or groove in the implant (the crown must first be removed) and the specialist will, basically speaking, unscrew the dental implant. They will need to drill away the bone from around the implant order to remove it.
Obviously, it’s more nuanced than that, but that’s just to give you a general idea of the procedure.
Removing Stripped Dental Implant Screws
A “stripped” implant screw is an implant that can no longer engage with the removal tool. Basically, the groove of the implant has been misshapen so much that it doesn’t match the corresponding hexagonal shape of the tool.
So what happens in this case?
The specialist will make a “slot” or a new groove in the implant. Then they will use a different tool that fits that new slot, and therefore be able to remove the implant.
What To Do After Dental Implant Removal
After you get a failed dental implant removed, there are a number of follow-up options. The choice you and the dental specialist make depends on your specific situation.
But here are a few treatment options after the removal of a dental implant:
- Getting a new dental implant: if the surgical site is clean, without infection, and has sufficient amount of bone for support, you can get a brand new implant placed right away.
- Getting a bone graft: after the bone graft to restore bone support, it will require 4-6 months of healing before placing a new dental implant.
- Not getting immediate treatment: the specialist may want to let the gum tissue heal for about two months before re-examining the site to see if it’s ready for a new implant. A bone graft may enter the discussion as well.
Pain After A Dental Implant Removal
Many people wonder: is removing a dental implant painful? The short answer is yes.
You will most likely have pain after getting the implant removed, but it shouldn’t be too intense or long-lasting. The level and duration of pain you can expect is similar to when you get a tooth removed– pain that responds to medication and lasts a few days to a week or so.
If the pain persists or gets worse longer than four to five days contact your dentist right away.
Dental Implant Removal Cost
Most surgeons probably won’t charge for the removal of an implant if it’s an early stage failure. But the cost of getting an implant removed (within the U.S.) could cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000.
This range can also vary depending on if any bone regenerating procedures are necessary (like a bone graft), how many dental implants should be removed, and if a new dental implant will replace it.
Sadly, sometimes it’s necessary to remove a dental implant. The reasons for and timing of the removal will be different for everybody, but it’s still a reality.
Hopefully, this often confusing topic is now a little clearer to you.