By: Dr. Lahiru Chandraweera

January 01, 2023

Why Some Dental Implants Fail and How to Prevent It

Dental implants are a popular teeth replacement option. They offer a long-term, more stable recourse to address tooth loss. Unfortunately, despite the advances in dental technology and implant materials, the dental implant procedure is not 100% foolproof.

But why do dental implants fail? What could possibly go wrong?

In this blog post, we will discuss the causes and consequences of dental implant failure. We will also talk about how to care for them properly so you can prevent your dental implant from failing and get the most out of your investment. Read on to learn more.

What Is Dental Implant Failure?

Dental implant failure occurs when dental implants fail to fully fuse with the jaw bone and surrounding tissues. This can happen for a variety of reasons and can pose health risks that are not merely confined to oral structures.

Recognising the early signs of dental implant failure is important. It can help prevent further damage and more costly procedures in the future.
Dental implant failure is categorised into two, based on timing. They are as follows:

Early dental implant failure

Successful integration between a dental implant and jawbone is critical for the long-term health and sustainability of the implant. Early dental implant failure occurs when a dental implant does not integrate well with the patient’s bone during the healing period, preventing the implant from staying secured in place. Early failure usually occurs in the first few months following dental implant surgery.

Patients need to recognise early signs of early dental implant failure. This is so they can address issues before severe damage ensues. The signs and symptoms associated with early implant failure include:

  • Loose implant
  • Pain or discomfort around the implant site
  • Bleeding at the implant site
  • Infection, abscesses, and swelling
  • Gums receding, resulting in the exposure of the implant in the oral cavity
  • Uneven bone growth around the implant

Late dental implant failure

Late dental implant failure occurs when an initially successful dental implant deteriorates over time due to unfavourable conditions in the mouth or improper care. This type of failure differs from early failure, where the implant does not integrate well with the jawbone shortly after placement.

Generally, late dental implant failure occurs after several years of successful osseointegration and can be attributed to poor oral hygiene, gum disease, heavy occlusal load, and excess traumatic stress placed on the implant.

To mitigate late dental implant failure, you must practice diligent post-operative care. Follow your dentist’s instructions and regularly visit them for check-ups and maintenance. Doing so will enable them to catch problems early and address them before they worsen.

Signs and symptoms present in late dental implant failure are:

  • Severe, persistent pain at the implant site
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Drainage near the implant
  • Gum tissue discolouration
  • Implant mobility

In cases where late dental implant failure has occurred, removal of the affected implants may be necessary to prevent further complications, such as infection’ and bone loss.

What Are the Common Causes of Dental Implant Failure?

Dental implant failure is often caused by various factors, such as:

  • Allergies:
    An allergic reaction to implant materials can cause it to fail. Allergy symptoms include a tingling sensation, loss of taste, and swelling.

  • Heavy biting forces:
    Heavy force caused by grinding or clenching teeth can cause the implant to fail prematurely. This is because the implant cannot withstand very strong forces.

  • Implant rejection:
    This occurs when your body’s immune system sees the titanium implant as a foreign body and rejects it. It can cause inflammation, pain, and swelling.

  • Inadequate bone volume:
    The dental implant requires adequate bone structure to hold it securely in place. If there is not enough good-quality bone, the implant may not fuse with the bone properly and be less stable and more vulnerable to failure.

  • Incorrect implant placement:
    Sometimes, the implant is placed too close to adjacent teeth or needs to be deeper into the bone. It can reduce its stability and increase the chance of failure. The implant should be in the proper position to succeed.

  • Infection:
    Bacteria in your mouth can cause implant failure and may require additional treatment or removal of the implant. Plaque and bacteria found on the implant surface may also seep under the gumline. This can lead to gum disease (periodontal disease) and peri-implantitis.

  • Osteoporosis or jawbone atrophy:
    Patients with osteoporosis may not be suitable candidates for dental implants. They lack sufficient bone structure in the jaw to support the implant.

  • Poor oral hygiene:
    This increases the risk of infection and inflammation and can lead to implant failure. Patients should practice good oral hygiene habits, including regular brushing and flossing.

  • Poor quality implants:
    Implant materials of inferior quality can affect the success rate of the procedure.

  • Presence of medical conditions:
    Certain medical conditions are risk factors for implant failure. This includes autoimmune disease, uncontrolled diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. They are known to interfere with the healing process and prolong recovery.

  • Prolonged inflammation:
    If a patient has an untreated infection, it can cause inflammation around the implant site, weakening the implant and leading to failure.

Other factors contributing to implant failure include smoking, bruxism (teeth grinding), and taking certain medications such as steroids.

Are There Any Complications That Can Occur With Dental Implant Failure?

Dental implant failure can lead to several complications with serious implications for oral health. Complications can affect the adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.

Here are some complications that may occur when a dental implant fails:

  • Bone deterioration and loss:
    If a dental implant is not replaced, the bone surrounding the implant site can deteriorate due to a lack of stimulation from chewing and biting. This can lead to subsequent bone loss.

  • Infection:
    An untreated dental implant can cause a bacterial infection in the surrounding gum tissue and bone. This can cause pain and swelling.

  • Damage to adjacent teeth:
    If a dental implant fails, the adjacent teeth may become damaged due to misalignment or excessive force.

  • Nerve damage:
    In some cases, a dental implant procedure can cause damage to the nerves in the mouth, leading to pain and numbness.

  • Jaw changes:
    Dental implant failure can cause changes in the shape of the jaw due to bone deterioration, which can make it difficult to chew.

  • Misaligned bite:
    A failed dental implant can loosen and shift over time. This leads to an uneven bite that may cause discomfort and difficulty chewing.

All of these complications can cause extensive problems and should be addressed immediately if they occur following a dental implant procedure.

How Can Dental Implant Failure Be Prevented?

While implant success rates are high, dental implant failure is still possible. If you want to increase your chances of a successful treatment, the following tips can help.

  1. Understand that insufficient bone density increases the risk of failure. Make sure your jawbone has sufficient density to support the implant. If not, consider having a bone graft before proceeding.

  2. Know what materials are used for the implant. Make sure it meets quality standards and is designed for longevity. Also, make sure that you’re not allergic to the implant material.

  3. Avoid tobacco use before and after the procedure. Tobacco products can cause inflammation in the gums and reduce blood flow in the surrounding bone, increasing the risk of failure.

  4. Work with an experienced implant dentist with knowledge of proper implant placement. Keep follow-up appointments with your dentist to check implant stability and gum health over time.

  5. Practice a good oral hygiene routine by regularly brushing and flossing, so the implant can be kept clean and healthy. Use a soft toothbrush and brush in small circles for two minutes. You can also use a water flosser and interdental brushes to clean between the implant and other teeth.

  6. Avoid eating hard or crunchy foods that could damage the implant, like popcorn, nuts, ice, and hard candy.

Following these tips will help reduce the chances of dental implant failure and allow you to enjoy them for many years.

How Can I Tell if My Dental Implant Is Failing?

With proper maintenance and care, most dental implants will last a long time as a tooth replacement. In fact, the failure rate of dental implants is only 5%-10%. However, failure is still possible. Here are five tell-tale signs to look out for.

  1. Swelling around the artificial tooth may indicate inflammation or infection due to bacteria buildup.

  2. Pain or discomfort when biting down might suggest nerve sensitivity in the tooth root area.

  3. Redness in gum tissue can mean increased inflammation in both soft and hard tissues.

  4. The altered fit of the crown or abutment could also denote a failing dental implant.
  5. Changes in bite or alignment of the artificial tooth could indicate that the implant is moving, risking damage to surrounding teeth and tissue.

What Should Be Done in Case of Dental Implant Failure?

Here are tips on what to do in case your dental implant fails:

  1. Communicate what has happened with your dentist so they can assess what went wrong and what measures should be taken. Depending on the diagnosis, the dentist can then make recommendations for what needs to be done next.

  2. Immediately avoid using the implant for biting or chewing until a dentist has evaluated it and proper care has been taken.

  3. Don’t panic if there is any pain or discomfort associated with the implant. This is normal when an implant fails. These are often easily remedied by further evaluation and appropriate interventions from a dentist.

  4. If loss of bone mass occurs near the failed implant site, bone grafting might be necessary before the implant can be replaced.

  5. An antibiotic regimen may be prescribed to prevent any possible infection before moving forward with other alternative treatment options to replace the failed implant.

With these tips in mind, we hope you are better prepared in case of dental implant failure.

Final Thoughts

While dental implant placement is a relatively successful procedure, there’s always a 5-10% chance of failure. Despite proper planning, implant complications can still happen. To reduce the risk of failure, practice good oral hygiene, observe food restrictions, and visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleaning.

Hills Family Dental Centre aims to provide quality care tailored for each unique patient. If you’d like help regaining your natural smile or have any questions about the procedure, don’t hesitate to book an appointment through our website or call Hills Family Dental Centre today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Dental implants consist of three parts: the metal implant post, an abutment, and a prosthesis.

The metal implant post is usually made from titanium and is integrated into the jawbone for stability.

Through osseointegration, the post fuses with healthy bone, providing exceptional stability. This makes them one of the most secure restorations available.
The abutment connects the prosthesis to the implant post. It supports the restoration and delivers lasting results.

The prosthesis can be a dental crown, a bridge, or a denture. They are fabricated to blend with the natural teeth and improve the patient’s bite for better function.

Dental implant surgery can be a viable option for restoring lost or damaged teeth. However, just like any dental procedure, it comes with risks.

While most risks are minor and not overly concerning, patients should still undergo surgery fully informed about possible risks. These include:

  • Damage to adjacent teeth and surrounding structures
  • Gum recession
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Sinus issues
  • Allergic reactions to the implants
  • Unsuccessful implantation

Thanks to advanced techniques and improvements in procedures, however, risks associated with dental implant surgery have been drastically reduced.

To reduce your risk of complication during or following your procedure even further, follow all pre and post-operative instructions provided by your dentist.

Food restrictions apply after getting dental implants. The main rule is to avoid hard and chewy foods. While indulging in your favourite snacks may be tempting, stick to soft food such as soups, stews, and yogurt after dental implant placement. Avoid food that will put too much pressure on your dental implant while your gums heal.

Cleaning dental implants are crucial in ensuring they last longer and stay healthy. Dental implants need daily care and attention. This helps maintain aesthetics and function like natural teeth.

Here are some tips on how to care for your implants:

  1. Use a soft toothbrush with gentle strokes and brush at least twice daily. This will help remove plaque or food particles that might have lodged around the implant.

  2. Consider using an antibacterial mouthwash twice daily to help remove bacterial plaque buildup.

  3. Always floss between the implant and adjacent natural teeth to prevent food particles from becoming stuck and leading to gum disease.

    Schedule regular visits to your dentist for professional cleaning.