Corrosion of Dental Implants

Corrosion is a major concern in implant dentistry as it can result in implant and treatment failure. Dental implants are commonly composed of titanium, known for its high resistance to corrosion due to the formation of a stable oxide layer on its surface. Despite this, localized pitting or crevice corrosion can occur due to specific conditions such as high mechanical stresses, an acidic environment, and galvanic coupling with dissimilar metals.

Illustration of a corroded dental implant

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that provide a permanent base for fixed or removable replacement teeth. They are typically made of biocompatible materials such as titanium or zirconia, which fuse with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration. Here are the main procedures involved in inserting a dental implant:

  1. Consultation and examination: A comprehensive assessment of the patient’s medical and dental history is conducted, followed by a clinical examination of the teeth, gums, and jawbone to determine if dental implants are appropriate.
  2. Implant placement: The implant is surgically placed into the jawbone using specialized instruments. The implant is usually positioned beneath the gum line, allowing for osseointegration to take place.
  3. Abutment placement: Once the implant has fully fused with the jawbone, an abutment is fixed on top of it to serve as a connector between the implant and the replacement tooth/teeth.
  4. Dental restoration: A dental restoration, such as a crown or bridge, is attached to the abutment. The restoration is custom-made to match the size, shape, and color of the patient’s natural teeth, resulting in a seamless and natural-looking appearance.
  5. Follow-up appointments: The patient is required to attend regular follow-up appointments after the procedure to ensure proper healing and maintenance of the implant and surrounding tissues.

What causes the corrosion of dental implants?

The insertion of dental implants is expensive and painful with a long recovery time. Therefore, clients expect the implant to be permanent. However, several factors can contribute to the corrosion of dental implants and ultimately lead to a new appointment with the mouth magician.

One of the main causes is the presence of an electrolyte in the oral cavity, which can come from saliva, food debris, or other fluids. This creates a conducive environment for the electrochemical reactions that lead to corrosion. Another contributing factor is the material used for the implant. Most dental implants are made of titanium or titanium alloys, which are known for their excellent biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion. Additionally, mechanical stress from normal use or grinding of teeth can cause small cracks or fractures in the implant surface, which can act as initiation sites for corrosion. The cyclical mechanical stress from chewing is particularly dangerous as it helps to propagate the cracks in a corrosive environment. The presence of other metals in the mouth, such as dental restorations or orthodontic appliances, can also create galvanic corrosion with the implant. Poor oral hygiene and lack of regular dental check-ups can exacerbate these factors and increase the risk of corrosion. Ultimately, the combination of these factors can lead to implant failure, inflammation, and other complications.

How to recognize corrosion of dental implants?

The corrosion of dental implants can be a challenging issue to recognize, as it is often asymptomatic and not easily visible. However, certain signs, including discoloration or darkening of the implant, inflammation or swelling around the implant site, and a metallic taste or odor in the mouth, can indicate corrosion. In some cases, dental x-rays can reveal changes in the implant’s density or appearance, although specialized diagnostic techniques such as a cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) scan may be necessary for accurate detection. Regular dental check-ups and follow-up visits with a dental implant specialist are recommended to detect and monitor any potential corrosion issues, as it is often not visible to the naked eye.

How to prevent the corrosion of dental implants?

Prevention of dental implant corrosion requires a multidisciplinary approach involving the dentist, surgeon, and patient to ensure proper material selection, surface treatment, placement, and maintenance. Selecting the appropriate material for the implant is crucial to prevent corrosion, and materials such as titanium and its alloys, zirconia, and ceramics have been found to be corrosion-resistant and commonly used for dental implants. Surface treatment techniques, such as etching, anodizing, and passivation, can also improve the corrosion resistance of implant materials. Proper placement of the implant during surgery is critical to prevent the buildup of stresses that can lead to implant failure and corrosion. Regular dental check-ups can detect any signs of corrosion early, enabling prompt intervention to prevent further damage. Good oral hygiene practices, including regular brushing and flossing, can also prevent bacterial infections and inflammation that can contribute to corrosion of dental implants. Additionally, avoiding acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus fruits, soda, and wine, can help prevent corrosion of dental implants.