I am often asked (by patients) my opinion as to the pros and cons of dental implants. Usually this is occasioned by the dentist recommending an implant either as an alternative to endodontic treatment, or to replace an extracted tooth, or to anchor an unstable denture. I cannot say that I have any easy answers.
Most (but not all) of my dental colleagues like dental implants. Implants seem to be safer and more predictable than endodontic (root canal) therapy. Also they can be placed in locations where bridges are not an option. Unlike bridges, no collateral damage occurs to the enamel of adjacent teeth. And they provide stability to dentures for those patients with significant bone loss. Lastly, patients like them and their track record over the last two decades is good – from a dental perspective.
However the neural therapist (and some biological dentists) might look at the situation from another angle. Implants, whether of stainless steel, titanium or zirconium (ceramic) are foreign bodies and challenge the immune system in a number of ways. Nickel in stainless steel is well-known to be allergenic. Titanium is less so, but still provokes a lymphocytic immune response. Zirconium seems to be of low allergenicity, but doubts have been expressed as to its durability.
A second cause for concern is the implant’s location. Every tooth sits on an acupuncture meridian and we know that the implant (like a root canal) will put stress on the organs and structures that share that meridian. And thirdly implants are subject to infection, as one might expect when so close to the “dirtiest cavity in the body”.
These risks are obvious, but are there others? A Pubmed literature search shows almost nothing. Many papers study pre-existing medical conditions’ effect on implants, but nothing about implants’ effect on systemic health. This should not be a surprise as almost all the literature on implants is found in dental journals.
For the most part implants seem to be safe, but I have seen a few cases that make me cautious. One was a woman in her late thirties whose implant was infected soon after placement. Within a month she had full-blown generalized rheumatoid arthritis. Removal of the implant sadly had no effect and she was left with the disease.
Another case was a 70-year old woman with chronic neck pain. The pain so limited her neck movement that she had given up driving her car, as turning her head to look at the side mirrors was impossible for her. I did my best treating her in conventional ways to no avail and finally suggested that perhaps the implants were the cause. She was reluctant to give them up because they had help secure her wobbly lower denture, but finally asked the dentist to remove them. While in the dentist’s chair, after the second implant (of two) was removed, she suddenly felt her neck free up and her neck pain disappear.
Another case of implant trouble appeared in my office recently. A vigorous, athletic 67-year old man presented with oro-mandibular dystonia that had begun 2 ½ years before. The onset was sudden. He was giving a presentation to a group of athletes when he felt difficulty moving his lower jaw. This progressed to the point that his jaw frequently protruded forward especially when trying to speak. Characteristically distraction, (as while picking a tooth) controlled the movement, as did lying on either side.
He had two adjacent dental implants placed in his left lower jaw two years before the onset and veneers bonded to his upper incisors in the preceding year. On examination using autonomic response testing he had a therapy localization sign on the left side (see chapter 5 of http://www.neuraltherapybook.com) and interference fields in his first two left lower molars (3.6 and 3.7) (18 and 19 in the American system) that matched the therapy localization sign.
At this point it is premature to say that his dystonia was caused by the dental implants. However the literature reports oromandibular dystonia being triggered by dental procedures. Other causes include medication, trauma, genetic factors, neurodegenerative disease, cerebellar and tardive disease. According to Neychev et al, dystonias “can arise from a vast array of acquired insults to the nervous system”.
This last statement is consistent with Speransky’s theory that pathological processes arise from an “irritation” of the nervous system. It also fits with the experience of neural therapists who have seen a wide variety of syndromes develop from seemingly innocuous interference fields.
I am in the process of investigating this patient further before confronting the issue of whether the implants should be removed. This is a difficult call because there is no guarantee that his syndrome will improve. Also the two-year interval between placement of the implants and the onset of symptoms gives pause. Has some other factor entered the picture to tip the balance?
The pioneers of neural therapy taught that any syndrome, no matter how complex, could be caused by interference fields and that neural therapy should always be tried – knowing full well that some efforts would fail. But surgical removal of implants is a bigger step than simply injecting procaine into an interference field.
Prevention is always better than treatment. Until some good medical follow-up studies appear, I will continue to caution my patients about dental implants.