You were excited to receive your dental implants, and you never worried that the procedure might fail. After all, about five million implants are placed in the U.S. each year, and the overall failure rate after 10 years is only 5 – 10 %. But now, unfortunately, you are experiencing symptoms that may point to implant failure. Why does this happen sometimes? Is there anything you can do about it? This page discusses the answers to those important questions.
When Can Dental Implants Fail?
The short answer to this question is “anytime.” However, the timing of dental implant failure can be divided into two categories:
- Early dental implant failure. This occurs shortly after the implant placement surgery, usually within the first three or four months, when the dental implant is supposed to be fusing to the bone around it.
- Late dental implant failure. This occurs after a dental implant has bonded with the body and after a patient has restorations on top of their implants. It can happen six months, one year, ten years, or longer after the initial dental implant surgery.
Because problems with dental implants can arise at any time, it is important that you are always aware of what is happening around your implants. As soon as you begin to notice signs of trouble, contact our team. Dr. Nicosia, an expert periodontist in Houston, may be able to stop an ailing dental implant from becoming a failing one.
Why Do Dental Implants Fail?
The most common reason behind dental implant failure is a condition called peri-implantitis, an infection in the gums that eats away at the bone supporting a dental implant. Other possible causes of dental implant failure include:
- A patient has an allergic reaction to the titanium alloy that composes the implant
- There is insufficient bone to support an implant (which can happen due to peri-implantitis)
- Micromovements of the implant during the healing process affect its ability to bond with the surrounding bone
- Food impaction around the implant leads to an infection
- Excessive stress is placed on the implant
- An injury affects the implant
What Are The Symptoms Of Failed Dental Implants?
Some general symptoms of dental implant failure that you must be on the watch for include:
- Gum inflammation
- Gum recession
- An implant feels loose
- Severe pain or discomfort around an implant
- Difficulty chewing
There are also some symptoms of dental implant problems that are exclusive to both early and late failure. If you recently had your dental implants placed, some discomfort at the surgical site is normal. However, abnormal pain around a new implant that lasts for more than 5 – 7 days is a major red flag. You must also be on the lookout for signs of infection or implant micromovement.
In late dental implant failure, you might experience numbness or tingling, which are indicative of nerve damage, in the tongue, gums, or face. You should also be aware of redness or swelling that points to an infection. If you experience an injury to your mouth, even after your implants are well-established, visit Dr. Nicosia right away so he can assess any potential damage to your implant that might lead to failure.
What Clinical Factors Affect The Risk Of Dental Implant Failure?
As a patient, you have little to no control over some of the factors that may lead to dental implant failure, such as:
- Errors on the part of the surgeon who placed the implants (such as inserting the implants at the wrong location or using too few implants to support the restorations)
- The type of implant used (for example, titanium vs. zirconia implants, and traditional implants vs. mini ones)
- Your jawbone’s density and height
- Your age
- Medical conditions that affect your ability to heal after surgery
- Your oral and overall health, as well as certain medications
What Lifestyle Factors Affect The Risk Of Dental Implant Failure?
In some cases, a patient’s own choices dramatically increase their risk of dental implant failure. Some activities that may endanger your implants include:
- Smoking. Smoking compromises the body’s ability to heal and leaves it vulnerable to infection.
- Inadequate oral hygiene. Proper oral hygiene fights infection-causing bacteria.
- Failure to comply with postoperative instructions. Your surgeon will provide you with detailed guidance on how to care for your mouth following the implant placement surgery.
- Failure to take precautions against physical trauma. If you grind your teeth at night, you should ask Dr. Nicosia about getting a mouthguard to protect your teeth. If you play sports, you should always wear a custom mouthguard.
- Poor overall health practices. A healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and plenty of exercise can protect your body’s overall well-being and help you manage any conditions, such as diabetes, that might affect your dental implants.
My Dental Implant Failed — What Do I Do Now?
If you suspect that one of your dental implants is no longer thriving, schedule a consultation with Dr. Nicosia. He’ll assess the situation and make a treatment recommendation. If your dental implant is ailing rather than failing, adjustments to your oral hygiene routine, along with tissue grafts and other treatments, may be able to save the implant.
However, if the implant is failing altogether, you may have a longer and more complex road ahead of you. The specifics of the treatment will depend on the extent of the damage to your bone, as well as whether you are experiencing early or late dental implant failure. It might be necessary to remove the dental implant altogether so your body can heal. Bone and soft tissue grafts, antibiotic therapy, and chemical detoxification may all play a role in helping your oral health recover to the extent possible. Replacement of the dental implant later on is a viable option in some cases.