Dental implants, often fabricated from titanium metal alloys, are great permanent replacements for natural teeth because the metal is often accepted by the body without problems. However, in some cases, a patient's body will not accept the implant, and the patient begins to experience titanium rejection symptoms. If you recognize any of the symptoms or complications outlined below, see your dental provider for a complete diagnosis.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a method of replacing one or more teeth. As the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) explains, during this procedure, a dental professional will place a small screw, often made from bio-compatible titanium, within the jawbone to act as the root for the new tooth structure that is then attached to the screw above the gumline. The combination of the implant screw and the new tooth crown fills the space left by the removed tooth and will help the patient chew and speak as they normally would.
Implant Placement and Healing
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, while a general dentist may place an implant, it's also quite common for a periodontist to be involved with the placement of an implant since they are the branch of dentistry that specializes in gum tissues and underlying bone attachments. After implant placement, the titanium screw usually requires time to heal so it can integrate with the bone in the patient's jaw. After it has healed, which can sometimes take several months, according to the EFP, the dental provider can then place a crown.
Titanium Rejection Symptoms
After receiving a titanium implant, a small fraction of patients may experience problems. A review in the International Journal of Implant Dentistry notes that, while titanium generally causes fewer allergic reactions than other metals, some patients have reported titanium rejection symptoms after an implant placement.
The International Journal of Implant Dentistry review notes that the symptoms associated with a titanium allergy or sensitivity include:
- Urticaria — a hive-like condition that results in red bumps on the skin or gum surface
- Eczema, or dry, itchy patches of skin or gum tissue
- Erythema, which causes redness in the tissues around the implant
- Swelling or pain at the implant site
- Bone loss
Exposure to titanium may also lead to yellow nail syndrome, which is a rare condition that causes the fingernails to yellow and affects the respiratory and lymphatic systems. A report from Principia Scientific International states that titanium implants may also be linked to autoimmune and other systemic health conditions, such as diabetes or Crohn's disease. This is why it's critical to discuss your implant plans with your dentist, as they will take a close look at your health history before making any treatment recommendations.
Diagnosing Titanium Allergy
The first step for diagnosing a sensitivity or allergy to titanium is a thorough assessment by a trained professional. An article in the Indian Journal of Dermatology notes that medical and dental professionals will likely take diagnostic tests, such as a patch test or blood samples, to assess your titanium allergy. They may also conduct a memory lymphocyte immuno-stimulation assay (MELISA) test, which is an effective method of determining sensitivity to titanium and other metals. The International Journal of Implant Dentistry review notes that, depending on the results of the tests, your dental or medical professional may recommend removing the implant to improve your symptoms.
Rest assured that before your implant is placed, your dental specialist will assess your risk of titanium rejection. Fortunately, alternative implant materials are available for those with a titanium allergy, and alternative treatment options can be discussed after your diagnosis. If you suspect you're having an allergic reaction to a titanium implant in your mouth, see your doctor or dentist as soon as possible.