Dental implant surgery, a procedure that most people would prefer to delay, is not always as painless as dentists would have us believe.
A survey by a health ministry research team uncovered at least 300 instances in the past five years where patients encountered post-treatment pain.
The Japanese Society of Oral Implantology is now drafting procedural guidelines for dentists that include steps to prevent such things from happening.
An implant involves placing a small post made of titanium into the bone socket of the missing tooth. This forms the foundation to make a false tooth.
The survey covered dental associations in all 47 of Japan's prefectures and 96 hospitals affiliated with university departments of dentistry and medicine.
Ninety percent of dental associations and the majority of university hospitals responded.
The results show that between fiscal 2006 and 2010, there were 307 instances in which university hospitals provided care for patients who had suffered some sort of injury during an implant procedure. Dental associations were also aware of 150 such instances.
The problems encountered involved damage to pathways inside the lower jaw bone that contain nerves or blood vessels, as well as artificial roots penetrating a cavity in bone near the nose.
A separate survey by the Japanese Academy of Maxillofacial Implants also discovered 421 incidents over three years starting in 2009. Nearly 40 percent involved paralysis or numbness of the lower jaw, tongue or other body parts caused by nerve damage when boring into bone. There have even been cases of necrosis of the jaw bone caused by a failure to consider the effect of medicine used to treat osteoporosis.
The Japanese Society of Oral Implantology is drawing up guidelines explaining problems that are apt to occur during a procedure and ways of preventing untoward side effects, along with a checklist to determine whether an implant procedure is appropriate.
"There have been problems that were caused by dentists using poor techniques, but surgery to insert an artificial object into a bone does entail a certain amount of risk," said Kanichi Seto, director of the Japanese Academy of Maxillofacial Implants.
"If a patient experiences any post-procedural numbness or the like, I would recommend they visit a hospital with an oral surgery ward or a facility certified by our academy right away."
(This article was written by Masahiko Idegawa and Hiromi Minami)
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