“Have you ever seen this stat before?” Dr. V recently asked, showing us an image  he’d recently seen on Facebook.
A survey conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology found that over 70 percent of respondents reported being “pleased” or “extremely satisfied” with the results of their dental implants.
Considering the relationship between implants  and chronic illness – and as Dr. Doug Swartzendruber has put it, “Anything implanted into bone will create an autoimmune challenge. The only difference is the length of time it takes for a disease to appear.” – we wonder what the other 30% might have to say about the matter.
Another funny thing: The web page this stat comes from is ostensibly on “Dispelling Myths About Gum Disease” , yet it perpetuates some of its own. For instance, their claim that “dental implants have a 98 percent success rate” is belied by findings published in the Journal of Dental Research. As Dr. Bicuspid reported ,
“Evidence exists that the loss rate of implants is higher than that of natural teeth in clinically well-maintained patient,” they wrote.
* * *
“Based on the critical evaluation of published data and methods used in clinical studies, reported outcome rates for implants may be greatly inflated….”
In addition, the researchers found a lack of funding disclosures in 63% of industry-sponsored implant trials, while 66% had a risk of bias. The authors warned against using a success or survival rate of more than 95% for implants as a promotional tool….” [emphasis added]
Which brings us to an interesting study  on patient “perceptions and expectations” about dental implants, published last month in Clinical Oral Implants Research. Among their findings was the fact that while almost 63% of participants felt they were generally informed about implants, less than 20% – 17.7, to be exact – “felt confident with the information they had.”
If you’re not sufficiently informed about a procedure, how could you possibly give informed consent?
The study also noted that about one third of participants “appeared to maintain dangerous misperceptions” about implants. Earlier research has noted this , as well. Among the “misperceptions” noted in this study:
- Dental implants require less care than natural teeth. (FACT: They require special  care.)
- Treatment with dental implants is appropriate for all patients with missing teeth. (FACT: They’re not. Our position is that they’re never appropriate due to their tendency to become oral foci . But even conventional dentistry holds that bone density, pre-existing health conditions, and lifestyle factors may make implants a bad choice for some people.)
- Treatments with dental implants have no risks or complications. (FACT: Every surgical procedure carries some degree of risk.)
It’s not hard to see how such misconceptions can arise from the way implants are marketed. Constantly, we’re told they’re “the best option for replacing natural teeth,” that they “look and work just like natural teeth,” that placing them is a snap. Heck, there’s even a website called “Implants for Everyone”  (beware the flashing graphics).
What you don’t hear so much about are the potential drawbacks and limitations.
And again, if you don’t know that, how can you possibly give informed consent? Informed consent depends upon your awareness of both benefits and risks, as well as treatment alternatives – including the option of no treatment at all.
As health care continues to be treated as a consumer good rather than a support for your well-being, the more crucial it becomes that you become fully informed about your options. If a doctor doesn’t provide the info spontaneously, you need to ask: How will this help me? What are the risks? Are there other ways of achieving the same goal? Will I need to do anything special after treatment to maintain the benefits you say it will give me?
It’s your right to get the answers you seek.
After all, it’s your mouth and body. After all, you are the author of your own health and well-being.
Image by DRosenbach , via Wikimedia Commons