‘Concern’ over peri-implantitis

Earl Howe announced that ‘clear and consistent’ guidelines were being drawn up for dentists, in the wake of warnings that bone loss is a ‘time bomb’ set to cause growing misery.

A working group, led by chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft, would also examine how to provide better information for patients considering implants.

The dentistry minister said the rapid rise in the treatment – a titanium screw inserted into the jaw, which fuses with the bone – had been ‘very welcome to many patients’.

But he warned: ‘On the other hand, alongside this rise, the General Dental Council has seen an increasing number of complaints, particularly regarding the lack of informed consent for treatment, damage to the tissue and bone surrounding the implant, and failures.

‘It is important that people travelling abroad for this sort of treatment understand that, without the ongoing clinical care and support that this type of treatment requires, what looks like a low-cost option initially might ultimately turn out to be high-cost – both financially and from a health outcome perspective.’

The minister pointed out there were ‘many other treatment options to be considered, including bridges or dentures’.

And he added: ‘My officials and the chief dental officer have already recognised the issue as a potential area for growing concern.’

The comments came in response to a call from Baroness Gardner of Parkes, a Conservative peer and former dentist, for the Government to recognise the ‘growing risks’.

Baroness Gardner said she had been ‘unaware’ of the threat posed by peri-implantitis, which was almost unknown just a decade ago.

And she likened the disease to the danger to women from cheap silicone breast implants, which later had to be removed or replaced.

The peer also condemned online adverts reading ‘Get smiling again with our same-day dental implants’ – arguing people tempted by such offers could not be properly assessed and informed.

And she referred to a recent Daily Telegraph story about a woman who developed peri-implantitis 12 years after spending £13,000 on four implants.

Baroness Gardner said: ‘An implant is not a treatment you just have and forget.

‘Some studies suggest that one-third of implant patients will be infected and, because jawbone loss is silent and invisible, people do not realise that they are at risk.’

The House of Lords debate was told that half a million adults have at least one dental implant, according to the latest Adult Dental Health Survey.

It is thought that one third of those patients have a milder disease – peri-implant mucositis – which, if their swollen gums are not treated, can develop into peri-implantitis.

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