Dental implant failure: expert information on causes, symptoms, and risk factors

The dental implant failure rate is about 5%. This means only 1 in 20 patients will experience some form of implant complication. It’s still very important, however, to be aware of symptoms and associated risk factors.

The guide below compiles all you need to know about dental implant failure. Together with our dental team we have thoroughly investigated this topic. Discover what dental implant failure involves and how to direct your efforts so it doesn’t happen to you.

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What causes dental implant failure?

Implants can fail at an early or late stage. The first is categorized as implants which have not successfully osseointegrated yet. The latter can happen even 10 years after the placement surgery.

Here are the most common causes of dental implant failure:

Early

  • Infection
  • Micro-movements
  • Sub-optimal implant positioning
  • Insufficient bone support
  • Allergic reaction
  • Lack of adherence to post-op instructions
  • Complications after immediate loading

Late

  • Infection
  • Nerve or tissue damage
  • Rejection
  • Protruding into the sinus cavity
  • Injury

Dr. Richard Hattaway
If your dentist or surgeon does not recommend immediate loading of the implants, do not press the matter. There is a reason you are not a good candidate for immediate implant loading and it’s for your benefit to follow their recommendation.

Dental implant failure risk factors

There are a few things that make failure more likely. Some are patient-oriented, while others are out of your control. Dental implant loss risk factors include:

  • smoking,
  • poor oral hygiene,
  • gum disease,
  • choosing overdenture restorations,
  • bone grafting with sourced material,
  • placement in the maxilla rather than the mandible,
  • non-cylindrical shape of the implant,
  • taking certain medications, and
  • some medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Smokers have a dental implant failure rate reaching 20%. This is because substances in cigarettes can constrict blood vessels reducing blood flow. This way smoking makes healing slower and infections more likely.

Dr. Nichole McKenna
Some providers are unwilling to place implants in smokers due to this unacceptably high rate of failure.

Gum disease must be treated before the implant process can begin, but this condition has a tendency to come back. Those with a history of periodontitis have a higher chance of losing their implant if they don’t do everything they can to prevent relapse.

Overdenture restorations are dentures mounted on 2 or 4 implants. Due to their removable nature they are more likely to suffer damage than permanent solutions.

Bone grafting is a great way to improve implant success, however it seems to work better when bone is sourced from the patient rather than from a donor.

It has been proven that some medicines including anxiety or heartburn drugs can lead to implant loss. This is because they can reduce the rate of bone growth. Each year of taking antidepressants doubles the risk of failure.

What are the symptoms of dental implant failure?

Some things make it easy to spot a dental implant failure. Your dentist, however, is the expert in diagnosing an issue. Make sure to visit the dental office regularly to keep things in check. Here is a list of things you may notice that are cause for concern:

  • difficulty chewing or swallowing,
  • gum inflammation,
  • gum recession,
  • swelling or bleeding around the implant area,
  • loosening of the rod, and
  • severe pain or discomfort.

Remember that you should look for those when your mouth has fully healed. Some of these may also be regular post-operative symptoms which occur often during the implant recovery period.

How to prevent failure of dental implants?

The best way to prevent failure of a dental implant is to plan the treatment out properly. In order for your dentist to be able to do that, you must be completely honest about your condition. Let him or her know about your full medical history, habits, and any medication you are taking.

Dr. Richard Hattaway
Lying to your health care provider only creates more problems down the road that could potentially have been avoided.

Stick to proper aftercare after your initial surgery. When your implant is in place, practice excellent oral hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth, ideally after every meal. Use mouthwash to rinse out any food debris and keep your breath fresh.

See your dentist for routine exams. Most issues can be solved if diagnosed quickly. Implant infection, for example, starts out with an initial phase that can be treated quite easily. If you do nothing, however, it may turn into peri-implantitis, which may cause more serious problems.

Try to refrain from any activities which may damage your implant. The most important thing is not to smoke. Limit your alcohol intake as well. Moreover, if you suffer from bruxism, invest in a mouthguard, which can prevent physical trauma to your dentition.

Dr. Richard Hattaway
Patient’s can also invest in a custom made appliance called a “bite splint.

What are the options for a failed dental implant?

A failed implant is one that has to be removed. When bone loss around the area is large, it may not have to be done with extensive surgery. Removing such an implant is similar to a tooth extraction. One way or another, the patient has to consider what to do next.

Often, a new implant can be placed. You may need 6-8 months of healing before this can be done. What’s more, if implant loss was caused, even just in part, due to bone resorption, you will need bone grafting or sinus lifting. These procedures also come with their periods of healing.

Reimplanted implants have a much better chance at survival as long as the cause for the initial failure is known. Adjustment to error can be applied, thus making the second rod more optimal.

If, for some reason, you are not a good candidate for reimplantation, you can consider a bridge or denture. That might still take some time, as gums may have to heal before a cast is taken and before you can start wearing the new restoration.

FAQ

What is the failure rate of dental implants?

Implants succeeded in about 95% of cases, making the failure rate 5%.

Can a failed dental implant be replaced immediately?

It depends on how much bone is left in the jaw and how much was removed. Usually, early failures can simply be unscrewed without any damage. In these cases, implants can often be replaced immediately.

If there was bone loss while the implant was still in place or if much was removed, you might require grafting. That includes several months of healing before a new rod can be inserted.

Can the same tooth implant fail several times?

Whether an implant can be replaced at all depends on the reason it failed in the first place. In cases such as allergic reaction, implants made of different materials can usually be installed. If there was severe infection due to patient-oriented risk factors such as smoking or a history of periodontitis, it might not be possible.

It is up to the dentist to decide whether the patient is a good candidate for replacement.

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