By: Dr. Lahiru Chandraweera

March 03, 2023

A Bite of Reality: Uncovering the Risks and Complications of Dental Implants

Dental implants have emerged as a safe and effective way to restore the look and function of natural teeth, giving thousands of people a renewed sense of confidence and well-being. However, like any dental procedure, dental implants come with risks and complications that must be carefully considered and navigated to achieve the desired outcome.

In this blog post, we will explore the various risks and potential complications associated with dental implants. By providing a comprehensive understanding of these potential challenges, we aim to empower you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision for your dental health and overall well-being.

Summary of The Content

  • Dental implants offer a natural-looking and effective alternative to replacing missing teeth.

  • Before proceeding with the actual dental implant therapy, it is essential to be aware of potential risks and complications.

  • Risk factors include certain medical conditions and lifestyle habits.

  • Common risks: infection, nerve damage, implant failure, bone loss, sinus damage, allergic reactions, periodontal disease around the implant, implant movement, and issues with the replacement teeth.

  • Keep your dental implants healthy with proper oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.

  • Watch for signs of complications: pain, swelling, gum recession, implant movement, difficulty chewing, bad breath, bleeding, or pus/discharge.

  • Causes of implant failure: misalignment, poor impressions, infection, nerve damage, inadequate hygiene, failed bone fusion, or allergies.

  • The failure rate of dental implants is between 5 and 10%.

  • Don’t hesitate to contact your dentist if you suspect your implants are failing.

  • Choose an experienced dental professional for optimal outcomes and guidance.

Risk Factors for Dental Implants

Dental implants are an effective method for replacing missing or damaged teeth, but, like other oral surgery procedures, they are not without risks. Some individuals may have increased risks due to medical conditions or lifestyle factors. Taking a closer look at these factors will help us better understand them.

Here are some medical conditions that can raise the chances of dental implant complications:

  • Diabetes.
    Uncontrolled diabetes can impair healing and increase the risk of infection after dental implant surgery. Individuals with diabetes must work closely with their healthcare team to manage their condition before undergoing dental implant surgery.

  • Osteoporosis.
    Osteoporotic patients may have low bone density, which can affect dental implants’ stability and long-term effectiveness.

  • Autoimmune disease.
    Individuals with weakened immune systems, either due to medications or medical conditions, may face a higher chance of infection following dental implant surgery.

  • Blood clotting disorders.
    If you have a blood clotting disorder, there may be an increased risk of excessive bleeding during implant surgery. Your dentist must evaluate your situation carefully and collaborate with your healthcare team to manage the risks.

  • Cardiovascular disease.
    Patients with heart disease may have more significant risks of dental implant failure. Certain medications, like blood thinners, could affect healing and increase the risk of bleeding.

In addition to health conditions, certain lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of complications of dental implants, including:

  • Smoking.
    Smoking can reduce blood flow to the gums and alveolar bone, which can impair healing and increase the risk of dental implant failure. Before undergoing dental implant surgery, it is highly recommended that you quit smoking.

  • Poor oral hygiene.
    Failing to maintain good oral hygiene can increase the probability of infection and compromise the long-term durability of dental implants.

  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
    Alcohol can slow down the healing process, and excessive consumption may contribute to implant failure. It’s advisable to moderate your alcohol intake before and after implant surgery.

Having an open and honest discussion with your dentist before dental implant surgery is crucial. Your dentist will assess your medical history, current health status, and lifestyle factors to determine if dental implants are a suitable tooth replacement option for you. They can also provide personalised advice on minimising potential risks and achieving the optimal clinical outcome for your dental implant procedure.

Common Risks and Complications

  • Infection
    Infections are a potential risk with any surgical procedure, and dental implants are no exception. Although rare, infections can occur around the implant site. To minimise this risk, your experienced dental professional will maintain a sterile environment during the procedure and may prescribe antibiotics as a preventative measure. Good oral hygiene and regular follow-up appointments are crucial to keeping your mouth healthy and infection-free.

  • Nerve damage
    Nerve damage is another possible dental implant complication. This may occur if the implant is placed too close to a nerve, resulting in temporary or permanent numbness or tingling sensations in your teeth, gums, or lips. To prevent this, your dentist will use advanced imaging techniques to accurately plan the dental implant placement so that nerves are not disrupted during the procedure.

  • Implant failure
    Dental implant failure can be caused by several factors, such as poor osseointegration (the implant not fusing effectively with the jawbone), excessive force on the implant, or an immune system rejection. While the risks of dental implant failure are uncommon, your dentist’s precautions to deliver optimal clinical outcomes, such as carefully selecting the suitable implant material and design and providing thorough post-operative care instructions, can reduce this risk.

  • Bone loss
    Adequate bone density is essential for the stability and effectiveness of a dental implant. In some cases, bone loss can occur around the implant site, potentially leading to implant failure. To provide adequate bone support for the dental implant, your dentist may recommend a bone graft procedure if necessary.

  • Sinus perforation
    Sinus issues can arise when dental implants are placed in the upper jaw, particularly if they protrude into the sinus cavity. This can cause sinus infections, pain, or other long-term complications.

  • Allergic reactions
    While rare, some patients might experience an allergic reaction to the materials used in dental implants, such as titanium. Signs of an allergic reaction can include swelling, redness, itching, or discomfort around the implant site. If you suspect you might be having an allergic reaction, it’s essential to contact your dentist as soon as possible.

  • Peri-implantitis
    This is a form of gum disease that affects the oral tissues surrounding the dental implant. It can lead to inflammation, progressive bone loss, and even risks of dental implant failure if left unmanaged. To reduce the risk of peri-implantitis, it’s crucial to maintain proper oral hygiene and attend regular dental check-ups.

  • Implant migration
    In rare cases, an implant can shift or move from its original position. The condition can be caused by several factors, including insufficient bone density or inadequate healing after the surgical procedure. If an implant migration occurs, it may require additional surgery to address the problem.

  • Artificial teeth complications
    Although dental implants are designed to be durable, prosthetic complications can sometimes occur. This may include issues like a loose or fractured crown, abutment screw loosening, or even chipping of the prosthetic tooth. Regular dental check-ups can help identify and address these issues early on. If you experience any complications with your prosthesis, your dentist can assess the situation and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Prevention and Management of Risks and Complications

Prevention and management of risks and complications are crucial aspects of dental implant treatment. By taking appropriate measures and maintaining good oral hygiene, you can significantly improve the chances of long-term results for your dental implants and avoid potential issues.

The importance of proper oral hygiene cannot be overstated when it comes to dental implants. Although they are made of materials that are resistant to decay, the surrounding gum tissue and bone are still susceptible to bacterial infection. To keep your dental implants in good condition, follow these oral hygiene practices:

  1. Brush your teeth twice daily:
    Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth, making sure that you brush all surfaces, including the areas around the implant.

  2. Floss daily:
    Flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth and around the implant. Consider using a floss threader or interdental brush specifically designed for cleaning around implants.

  3. Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash:
    Using a mouthwash can help reduce bacteria in your mouth and support overall oral health. Consult with your dentist for a suitable mouthwash recommendation.

Regular dental check-ups play a critical role in preventing and managing risks and complications associated with dental implants. By visiting your dentist every six months, or as recommended, you’ll benefit from the following:

  1. Professional cleaning:
    This helps remove plaque and tartar build-up that your regular brushing and flossing routine may not reach, helping keep your gums and remaining natural teeth healthy.

  2. Monitoring the health of your dental implants:
    Your dentist will review the condition of your dental implants, checking that they’re functioning effectively and detecting any signs of complications at an early stage.

  3. Identifying and addressing potential issues:
    Regular check-ups allow your dentist to detect and address any oral health concerns, such as tooth decay, active gum disease or bone loss, before they become more serious problems that could impact your dental implants.

  4. Receiving professional advice:
    During your check-ups, your dentist can provide tailored recommendations for maintaining the health of your dental implants and overall oral hygiene.

What Are the Indications of A Dental Implant Complication?

As with any dental procedure, complications may arise in rare cases. Identifying the signs and symptoms of dental implant complications early can help prevent more severe issues down the line. These include the following:

  • Pain and discomfort:
    While some pain is expected during the initial healing phase, persistent or increasing pain could indicate a complication.

  • Swelling or redness:
    Mild swelling and redness are normal after dental surgery. However, excessive or prolonged swelling and redness could point to an infection or other issues.

  • Gum or gingival recession:
    If the gums around the implant start to recede, exposing the metal abutment or implant post, it could indicate a problem with the implant or surrounding tissues.

  • Implant mobility:
    An adequately integrated dental implant should be stable and secure. Any movement or loosening of the implant could suggest a failure in osseointegration or other risks of complications.

  • Difficulty chewing:
    Pain or discomfort while chewing may indicate issues with the implant or the surrounding tissues, warranting further investigation by a dental professional.

  • Bad breath or an unpleasant taste:
    Persistent bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth can be signs of infection or other complications related to the dental implant.

  • Bleeding:
    Unusual or excessive bleeding around the implant site after the initial healing period could signify a complication.

  • Pus or discharge:
    The presence of pus or discharge around the dental implant often indicates an infection that requires immediate attention.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it’s essential to contact your dentist as soon as possible.

What Is Dental Implant Failure?

Dental implant failure happens when the titanium post fails to fuse properly with the jawbone due to an infection, low bone density, or poor oral hygiene. This can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty chewing or speaking.

If you’re worried you might be experiencing dental implant failure, immediately make an appointment with your dentist. They’ll be able to conduct a dental exam to determine the problem with your implant. Treatment for dental implant failure will depend on the cause and severity of the issue. In some cases, the implant may need to be removed and replaced, while in others, antibiotics or other medications may be prescribed by your dentist.

Causes of Dental Implant Failure

While dental implants boast high success rates, it’s essential to be aware of the factors responsible for their failure. Let’s delve into the common causes of dental implant failure:

  • Implant misalignment
    Proper alignment of the dental implant is crucial for its stability and functionality. If the implant is not placed properly, it can lead to complications such as difficulty chewing, uneven wear, and even implant failure.

  • Inaccurate impressions
    Dental impressions are used to create a custom-fit artificial tooth or crown for the implant. If the impressions are inaccurate, the prosthetic may not fit properly, leading to discomfort, implant instability, and potential failure.

  • Infection
    Infections around the dental implant, such as peri-implantitis, can compromise the health of the surrounding gum and bone tissue. Without treatment, these infections can lead to bone loss and implant failure.

  • Nerve damage
    During the implant placement process, there is a risk of damaging the nerves surrounding the implant site. Nerve damage can result in numbness, pain, or discomfort, possibly contributing to implant failure.

  • Poor oral hygiene
    Maintaining good dental hygiene is essential for the longevity of dental implants. Poor oral hygiene can lead to plaque build-up and other dental problems, reducing the effectiveness of dental implants.

  • Failure of osseointegration
    Osseointegration is the process where the dental implant fuses with the jawbone, creating a stable foundation. If osseointegration fails, the implant may become loose or unstable, ultimately resulting in implant failure.

  • Allergic reaction
    Although rare, some patients may be allergic to the materials used in dental implants, such as titanium. An allergic reaction can cause inflammation and discomfort around the implant site, causing the implant to fail.

How Often Do Dental Implants Fail?

The failure rate of dental implants is relatively low, ranging from 5 to 10 percent. While the risk of failure exists, it’s important to remember that with proper planning, skilful execution, and diligent aftercare, your dentist can help you reduce the likelihood of experiencing dental implant failure. By choosing an experienced dental professional and following their recommendations, you can have confidence in your dental implant journey and enjoy the numerous benefits they provide.

What Do I Do if My Dental Implant Fails?

If you experience any complications with your dental implant, it’s essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of implant failure can help prevent further damage and increase the chances of a full recovery. Your dentist will evaluate your implant and may recommend imaging tests to determine the extent of the damage.

Once the issue is diagnosed, your dentist will discuss treatment options with you. The treatment options for implant complications may vary depending on the severity of the problem. In some cases, a simple adjustment or repair may be sufficient, while in more severe cases, the implant may need to be removed and replaced.

Final Thoughts

Dental implants are an effective and transformative way to restore a beautiful smile. However, they come with potential risks and complications. While the failure rate of dental implants is relatively low, it’s essential to choose an experienced dental professional and follow their recommendations to minimise the risk of implant failure.

As discussed above, various risk factors, complications, and preventative measures exist to improve dental implant outcomes. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you will be better prepared to make informed decisions.

Hills Family Dental Centre, a trusted dental clinic, is committed to providing top-quality care and personalised guidance throughout your dental implant journey. You can count on our team of experienced dentists to keep your overall health on track. Visit us today and confidently take the first step towards enhancing your smile and quality of life.