Article reviewed by:
Dr Tan Kian Meng • Prosthodontist
Dental implants are an excellent choice for tooth substitutes that look, feel, and function like your natural teeth. They consist of three parts:
- A titanium implant fixture inserted into the bone.
- An attachment named abutment.
- A crown attached to the abutment aligned with your remaining teeth.
With their durability and strength, dental implants can last your lifetime with proper care. However, there are cases when a dental implant will fail. In this blog post, we answer some commonly asked questions about dental implant failure.
Are dental implant failures common?
According to statistics, dental implants have a high success rate of 95%. Implant surgery has an excellent record of success, especially when done correctly and with the right hands. However, as with any form of surgery, some risks and complications may occur.
What are some leading causes of dental implant failure?
While dental implant failures are uncommon, it can still happen due to various reasons such as peri-implantitis, poor post-surgery care, malpositioning of the dental implant and poor impression taking.
Peri-implantitis is a type of inflammatory condition that affects the tissues surrounding a dental implant. It is one of the most common problems among adults with dental implants.
Peri-implantitis occurs when bacteria accumulate around the dental implant, causing an infection that results in bone loss and, eventually, dental implant failure if left untreated.
Reasons for this include poor oral hygiene, smoking, history of gum disease, unfavourable implant placement, and poorly fitted restorations.
Poor post-surgery care
As much as the surgery is done successfully, the standard of post-surgery care is as important to reduce the risk of complications. Typically, you will be instructed to be on a soft food diet and practice good oral hygiene during the healing phase. Be timely for the post-surgery review to make sure that the implant site is recovering well.
Malpositioning of the dental implant
Potential misalignment may occur due to a non-ideal position in the bone for implant. When this occurs, the final outlook of your dental crown and implant may look unnatural. Removing misaligned implants poses another risk where it may cause damage to the bone and adjacent teeth.
Poor impression taking
With imprecise impressions, it can compromise the fit, look and function of the crown. Having a misfit crown enables bacteria to grow into the gums ensuing infection.
Here are some other factors that may affect the bones’ healing ability, resulting in lower success rate:
1. Gum diseases
Before dental implant surgery, your dental specialist or dentist will conduct a routine check to ensure your gums and jaw bones are healthy. The presence of gum disease means that your gums and jaw bones are more prone to infection if left untreated.
2. Bad habits
Some bad habits, such as smoking, can also cause dental implants to fail. Smoking can cause blood vessels to narrow and reduce blood flow, resulting in a slower healing process. Therefore, weaning from smoking would aid recovery and increase implant success.
Another bad habit includes poor oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene enables bacteria to grow, potentially developing inflammation of the tissue surrounding the surgery site, resulting in infection. Negligence in oral hygiene also contributes to gum disease and bone loss.
3. Other medical conditions
Cancer treatment and radiation may slow the healing process after surgery. It is essential to discuss any medications or treatments that you are currently on with your dental specialist or dentist. Constantly update your dental specialist or dentist on any health or medical history changes. With that, your dental specialist can understand your conditions better and have a treatment plan that will suit you the best.
4. Allergy reaction
Every human body is unique to the individual. You may be allergic to titanium alloy, a common material used for dental implants. Some symptoms include swelling, redness of the tongue and a tingling sensation. Your dental specialist may suggest using a different implant material or employing other treatment modalities if an allergy occurs.
5. Teeth grinding
Bruxism is a condition where you grind or clench your teeth. With chronic bruxism, you may feel excessive pressure and persistent pain in your gum. As a result, the integration process between your implant and jaw bones may be challenging.
What are the signs of dental implant failure?
After your dental implant surgery, you may experience some discomfort or sensitivity during healing. Painkillers prescribed by your dentist often manage this pain. However, if you are experiencing excruciating pain and discomfort, it may be a sign of dental implant failure.
Other signs of a failing implant include the following:
- difficulty in chewing or talking
- gum swelling
- gum infection and recession
- a wobbly implant
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above or detect a strange feeling, schedule a visit with your dental specialist or dentist for a check-up before it is too late.
Can a failed dental implant be replaced?
During your visit, your dental specialist or dentist will take an x-ray to examine the implant and its surrounding bones. Should the implant fail, your dentist can easily remove it under local anesthesia. If bone loss is present, a bone graft may be required to improve the site before replacing the implant. This process may take a few months as the area has to heal before inserting a new implant. When in recovery, your dentist will discuss ways to reduce risks that may have caused the implant to fail. Following the recovery instructions and care for your implants is crucial.
What are some tips to prevent dental implant failure?
While some dental implant failures are beyond our control, there are some tips on minimising and preventing the risk of implant loss. Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily and flossing once daily is critical to prevent failure and avoid other dental problems such as cavities and gum disease.
Some other tips include:
- have a healthy and balanced diet
- visit your dentist for routine check-ups every six months
- quit smoking
- avoid teeth-damaging habits