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Dental implant failure 12 years after total body radiation

Posts: 6
Joined: Nov 2009

I had a very successful bone marrow transplant for leukemia in 1997 with total body radiation. I never heard or read anything about the effect of the radiation on bone strength. But I just had a dental implant fail just a few months after placement and am wondering if it could be due to the radiation weakening the bone. My oral surgeon has no knowledge. The failure rate of implants is so low overall - 2-4% I read - that I think its no coincidence.
The alternative is a bridge which I dont hear much bad about, except I am cavity prone and so if cavities develop under the bridge it is alot of work to fix. But I hate to go through another implant attempt and have it fail. It is many oral surgeon visits and many hours in the chair.
So I am eager to hear any information about this topic. Unless my oral surgeon can give me a good reason why the implant wont fail again I am leaning toward a bridge.
Health and peace to all.

slickwilly's picture
Posts: 339
Joined: Feb 2007

I had radiation to my face. Per the Oncologist and radiation team I was told that radiation will thin bone. In my case, so much so that when my neck fell apart there was no way to put it back together. Everything was too brittle to drill and the damage was over too large an area. It kinda makes for a painful life. I have to wonder if there is a way to do a bone density scan on your head so you can have your answer to this question. Best of luck Slickwilly

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2011

I also had a bone marrow transplant which included total body radiation and high dose chemotherapy. That was in 1998 and all my teeth have gone bad since. My dentist wanted to do implants but said I would have to be off the Fosamax for six months before he would do the implants. I talked to my primary care doctor about stopping the Fosamax and he said I could go off the Fosamax but absolutely should not get dental implants. He said it's very risky for me because of the damage done to my bones. He told me to just get dentures. I feel like I'm too young for dentures but it's looking like my only alternative if I want to have teeth. I told my dentist what my PCP said and then he told me he had seen another bone marrow transplant patient who got four implants and two years later, all four of them failed. And you know these implants are very expensive and this person ended up being worse off after the implants. I can't imagine what you would have to go through with four failed implants. Not to mention the cost involved. So I have resigned myself to the dentures, as unhappy as I am about it. I am also interested in hearing from others who have had the radiation treatments and dental implants. Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

jazzy1's picture
Posts: 1385
Joined: Mar 2010

I had 2 implants completed 1 month prior to my chemo & radiation treatments. Now I will tell you my radiation was to the pelvic area as have uterine cancer. Today, being 1-1/2 years post treatments I have no issues with my implants. Looking forward to 2 additional implants to complete my procedure, but trying to save up the money as yes they are VERY EXPENSIVE, but so worth it~~ Sorry to hear dentures are your last resort.

Will tell you the pelvic area where I had radiation has caused pain in my lower back, shooting down my one leg. Oncol docs tell me just wait for another year and they'll look at options or suggest I see my PCP.

Seems like wherever the radiation gets zapped, area is not strong. Yes I've read and heard bone thinning in the areas of radiation is very common.

Guess we're happy about NO CANCER, but now having to deal with side affects. Not fair!!

Wish you both the best...

bluerose's picture
Posts: 1112
Joined: Jul 2009

Within the last 3 years I have had 2 back teeth removed, one just fell apart. That has never happened to me in my life and seemed strange. I too had total body radiation just a few short years after you had your transplant, I had mine - mine was for non hodgkins lymphoma.

I am almost 100% sure it was the total body radiation that affected the teeth/bones. I was also diagnosed with firbromyalgia which seems to be a nerve thing and I know I have nerve damage because of the type of pain and soon will have a nerve conduction test. I know for sure that my arthritis is due to radiation because even back in the early 2000's the radiation tech told me early arthritis might come up as a side effect and it did.

Apparently they don't do total body radiation much or ever anymore so I have heard and seem to be working on localizing treatments more for this very reason too much damage to healthy tissue.

Your oral surgeon should be aware of all of this stuff though, they know how to spot cancers in the mouth and should be up to speed on the latest.

Like other things it's taking the establishment sometime to come out and realize just how much damage some of those earlier treatments caused.

I guess we just have to go with the flow.

Take care.


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