Ask a Dental Implant Surgeon in Plano, TX What Happens to my Dental Implants After I Die?
PLANO, TX - Approximately 3 million people in the U.S. have dental implants. And that is with another 500,000 new implants each year. With other types of implants and surgical devices for both cosmetic and medical reasons, that number is much higher. So, it is probably very commonplace for the TSA to see dental fillings with x-ray scans, and people with pacemakers who couldn't go through a metal detector without disclosing that part of their medical history to the security team. But those are consequences that affect our own quality of life. But what about after we die? What happens to the abutments made of titanium or electronics to keep our hearts pumping, once they cease to beat? Does it cause problems when we are buried? Whether it is dental implants in Plano, Texas or an artificial heart in New York, New York, we are going to find out.
Morticians and Medical Devices
When it comes to burial preparation and medical devices, there are a few ways to go about it. Some people go through a traditional burial process, others opt for cremation. Others want to plan for a more eco-friendly burial. All of them have different processes, and some of them are easier than others. And when it comes to replacement parts, including dental implants, there is an issue of whether they can cause an environmental problem. Or, if the material is too precious to put six feet under.
When it comes to burial, it seems like a lot of this equipment is left alone in the casket. According to BBC.com, "Inert devices such as breast implants and replacement hip does not require removal after death. Largely because there’s no compelling reason to do so, and they pose little threat to the environment. So, it’s likely that the archaeologists of future centuries will uncover peculiar objects in the graves of the millennial dead: silicone bags, plastic teeth, and sculpted metal bones."
However, when it comes to cremation, that is where things get a little tricky. Some metals, for instance, like gold or titanium, can survive in a fire because the amount of heat for cremation is hardly the boiling point for these metals. So, while silicone would burn up, hip replacements, dental implants, or even metal fillings are still left in the ashes. This creates an interesting conundrum. Metals are technically a limited resource on Earth. Especially metals considered precious. So, what can a crematorium do with those dental implants?
Recycling Medical Devices and Dental Implants
The answer might just be recycling. One Dutch company, Orthometals collects 250 tons of metal every year from crematoriums around Europe. But they aren't the ones to come up with such an idea. A U.S. Company, known as Implant Recycling, specializes in recycling and recasting metals. However, don't go thinking that your new abutment is coming from someone's great grandmother either. There are laws forbidding the re-use of implanted medical devices. Instead, what usually happens is that the metals get poured into an ingot specifically based on the metal type, then reuse it for things like parts of an airplane or other devices that require that metal.
Or, alternatively, things like prosthetics and internal devices can be reused in developing countries. Functioning pacemakers that are taken before cremation (to prevent an explosion in the crematorium) are repurposed for patients in India. And those patients who received those second-hand devices showed no evidence of side effects of infection or malfunction. Even spare legs from amputees that have outgrown their extra limbs or passed on a stockpile of them to loved ones made their way to India.
The crematoriums could make a profit from the salvaging of these metals, at a .005% rate. For example, The Mount Pleasant Group, a crematorium in Canada, received $44,000 in a year from the salvaged metals. But most, if not all of them donate the money to charity. Usually things like hospice or palliative care, or covering the occasional funeral cost for people who can't afford it. As long as there is consent from the family members and there are proper respect and precautions taking place, this could be an eco-friendly boon for the environment and help other people within it.
Chances are, if your dental implants are salvageable, they could be put to good use in other ways. Just like donating an organ, talk to your family members about it. Maybe your dental implants can be helpful to your environment and prevent a shortage.