What Are My Options With An Infected Cheek Implant?

Q: I had cheek implants placed over10years ago and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon told me one of them is infected. It started with a visit to the dentist.I had 2 fillings done in my upper molars.The freezing was in the same area the implants are and this somehow caused one of them to get infected. It is swollen and I am upset it happened and worried about the infection. I have been  on antibiotics for about a month.I know infection is rare but I got unlucky and I was wondering how many times you’ve had to take one or both implants out?

A:  You are correct in that infections with cheek implants are rare, but they are not unheard of. It has been reported that cheek implants can get infected with local anesthetic injections during dental treatment. An upper vestibular or intraoral nerve block puts the needle very close to a cheek implant and could very easily, unknowing to the dentist, touch or penetrate into the implant. This would be a source of bacteria brought into the implant capsule from the needle track.

Once a cheek implant, or any facial implant for that matter, gets infected, it is likely that it will eventually require surgical treatment. An implant is an avascular surface, that once contaminated, can not easily get rid of an infection. Antibiotics are a logical first choice but they will tend to only suppress it for the duration that you are them. Once off, the swelling and infection usually returns. If this does not work after a month or so, I would re-operate, remove and clean off the existing implant and either replant it or replace it with a new one. This approach will work. The opposite cheek implant is at no risk from the infection of the other one.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana