What Causes Dental Implants to Fail

Dental implants have become increasingly common. It’s a perfect solution for patients with missing teeth for whom partial dentures seem like too much of a hassle. But while the success rate of dental implants is high, an estimated 5% to 10% of implants still fail. 

Dental implant failure happens for a variety of reasons. And, while it’s important to remember that the odds of implant failure are low, there are measures you can take to increase your chances of success while also improving your oral health overall in the process.

Reasons Why Dental Implants Fail

During your initial dental visit, your doctor will examine the condition of your mouth to assess what needs to be done before starting your dental implant procedure. In addition, they will likely ask you some questions concerning your oral maintenance and hygiene. 

To get an idea of what your doctor may be looking for, the following are a few common issues that impact the success of dental implants:

  1. Thin Jaw Bone

The jaw bone needs to be sufficiently thick to place a dental implant. If the bone is too thin, the implants may become loose or even fall out altogether. If your doctor determines that your jaw bone is too thin to place the dental implants as is, they will recommend a bone graft. 

A bone graft is a procedure whereby a section of bone (either real or synthetic) is placed on the area where the implant is to be placed. The bone is then allowed to fuse over time. Once the graft is complete, the jaw bone should be thick enough to continue with the implant procedure. 

  1. Dental Health 

Poor oral hygiene can lead to a host of dental issues, any number of which can cause complications with dental implants. It’s important to listen to your doctor regarding appropriate aftercare and proper hygiene practices. 

  1. Medical Issues

Pre-existing dental issues aren’t the only medical issues that can increase the chances of dental implant failure. Autoimmune disease or conditions like arthritis and diabetes cause the body to heal more slowly, potentially preventing the process by which the bone fuses to the implant. 

  1. Gum Disease

Healthy gums are essential for the success of dental implants. Gum disease damages gums and potentially weakens the jawbone. If left untreated, gum disease can also infect the area around a dental implant, ultimately leading to failure. Because of this, your doctor will need to treat your gum disease before proceeding with your dental implant procedure. 

  1. Smoking

Smoking restricts blood flow to the gums, causing them to heal more slowly. The slower gums heal, the greater the potential for complications like infection becomes. These complications make implant failure more likely. Studies have shown that smoking increases the chances of implant failure by a whopping 20%. 

If you’re a smoker, it’s best to refrain from smoking one week before the beginning of your dental implant procedure, and two months after implant placement. 

Other Causes of Dental Implant Failure

While there are measures you can take to reduce your chances of dental implant failure, factors remain that are simply out of your or your doctor’s control. These factors include: 

  • Allergic reaction: You develop an allergy to the implant material. 
  • Implant micro-movements: Implants shift following surgery due to lack of stability. 
  • Infection at the implant site: Slow recovery or poor hygiene leads to an infection.
  • Trauma to the implant site: An unexpected injury causes the implant to fail. 

Preventing Dental Implant Failure

After your dental implant procedure, your doctor will provide you with clear, detailed instructions on proper aftercare and oral hygiene practices. The best way to ensure that your dental implants are a success is by following these instructions to the letter. 

Another way to ensure that your dental implant is a success is by staying attuned to any unexpected developments during recovery. While minor swelling and discomfort at the implant site are to be expected, significant swelling or constant throbbing pain may indicate infection. It’s important to consult a dental professional as soon as these warning signs develop. Treating complications early can prevent implant failure while saving you a great deal of discomfort.