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My dentist gave me an implant despite knowing there wasn’t enough bone in my jaw.

I had to have a tooth pulled recently, and I felt self-conscious about the gap in my smile. So when my dentist recommended an implant, I agreed. My dentist said that the bone in my jaw was ready for an implant, so we scheduled the procedure. But after the surgery was done, my dentist told me that the bone wasn’t that good after all. He said the implant will be weak, so he now recommends removing the implant and placing a dental bridge to fill in the gap.

Now I’m wondering why my dentist put the implant in if he knew that the bone wasn’t strong enough. I originally wanted an implant instead of a bridge, but I feel like my dentist should have told me it wouldn’t work out. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have wasted $4,000 like this.

Could I get a refund for this?

— Theresa from Seattle

Hi Theresa,

You went through the trauma of losing a tooth and then sacrificed all that time and expense to replace the tooth with an implant, so it’s only natural to be very disappointed when you’re told the implant won’t succeed.

The good news here, however, is that you are probably entitled to a full refund and then some.

We can only say “probably” because we don’t know the full details of your situation. But based upon what you’ve shared with us, it looks like your dentist is responsible for this disappointing outcome.

Here’s why:

1. You have every right to expect a dental implant to support a replacement tooth when your dentist says you are a candidate for an implant. Dental implants have a very high success rate and modern dental technology allows dentists and oral surgeons to precisely plan the outcome of dental implant surgery. But since your dentist placed an implant and realized later that it couldn’t do that for which it was intended (support a replacement tooth), the implant is totally useless and you deserve a refund for it.

2. It seems your dentist demonstrated some clinical negligence by not properly assessing your jawbone before starting the dental implant surgery. Experienced professionals will thoroughly evaluate the quality of the bone tissue before recommending a dental implant procedure. Your dentist either did not use the right diagnostic equipment, did not take enough time to thoroughly examine the bone in your jaw, or lacked the expertise needed to interpret the diagnostic images and determine whether there was enough bone tissue to support an implant.

3. Finally, assuming your dentist did his due diligence while examining your jawbone and was still surprised when he opened up the gums on the day of the surgery, he should not have gone ahead and placed the implant. According to your account, your dentist realized there was not enough bone to support the implant, but he placed it anyway.

So in summary, yes, it looks like you are fully entitled to a full refund for your unsuccessful dental implant.

The good thing is that your dentist sounds like he was being honest with you. Some dentists unethically try to hide a poor implant job by placing a dental crown and then not informing the patient that the implant could fail within a year or two. So there’s a good chance your dentist made a genuine mistake and will work with you to make your situation right again.

Ask your dentist directly for a refund for the failed treatment. If he puts up any resistance or tries to talk you into letting him do a bridge instead, perhaps for a reduced rate or as compensation for the implant, then it’s probably time to start looking for a new dentist.

Also, keep in mind that there’s no need to settle for a bridge. You can always seek a second opinion from a dentist with a more solid reputation for placing dental implants. You might be a candidate for bone grafting to build up the weak spot in your jawbone so that you can get a successful dental implant some day.

This post has been published on behalf of Dr. Heng Lim, an Owasso dentist who places dental implants.