Dental implants are a great tooth-replacement option, but they aren’t invincible.
Every year, the rate of implant failure in the US decreases as dentists perfect their art and send patients home happy. A 10-year study even showed that the average implant success rate in the US is 97%, and as impressive as that is, Dr. Bentz has been able to achieve a much higher success rate by investing in dental technology and actively refining his technique.
There are cases when a dental implant fails though. Knowing what the causes are and how to appropriately deal with them when something happens can help you avoid an implant failure or know exactly which path to take for a fast recovery.
Dental implant failure can be divided into two different categories. The first category is early implant failure that occurs before implant osseointegration (where the bone heals around the implant, anchoring it in). The second is late implant failure that occurs after osseointegration, once a patient begins putting pressure on the implant.
Below are some of the more common causes of implant failure, and the good news is that understanding their causes and knowing what you can do about them can give you a greater chance of avoiding a failure or speeding up your recovery should any of these happen.
Peri-implantitis is a disease caused by a bacterial infection that attacks the implant site, causing inflammation of the soft tissues as well as damage to the supporting bone structure before or after osseointegration. This can cause pain around the implant, and with additional loss of bone structure, the implant can become loose and even fall out.
As well as the above, additional symptoms of peri-implantitis include bleeding gums and redness/swelling of the oral mucosa (the skin inside of your mouth).
The most common causes of peri-implantitis include bad oral hygiene and smoking, since poor oral hygiene allows bacteria to accumulate in the mouth in high populations, which increases the chance of an infection forming in and around the implant. Smoking constricts blood vessels and therefore limits the supply of oxygen and nutrients needed for the healing process at the implant site, creating an opportunity for infection.
Other things that increase the risk of peri-implantitis include diabetes, periodontitis, and a genetic predisposition in some individuals. The best steps that you can take to avoid peri-implantitis is to avoid smoking and maintain healthy dental hygiene routines. If you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure to contact your dentist.
There is a wide range of reasons why the bone structures in the implant site fail to osseointegrate with the implant. If too much time has passed between the original tooth being removed and the implant being inserted, then the bone material may begin to degrade and weaken to the point where it never grows around and anchors the new implant. This is why many dentists will try to avoid long waits between removing a tooth and inserting an implant, and you should keep this in mind as well.
Osseointegration may also fail if, during surgery, the bone is overheated by the dentist inserting the implant, if the implant is placed in areas with poor-quality bone or not enough natural bone, or if the implant surface is contaminated, leading to an infection. Similarly, if you suffer from bisphosphonate necrosis, if the implant site has been irradiated in the past as a result of cancer treatment, or if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, then you will likely have a higher chance of a failed osseointegration.
To improve your chances of successful osseointegration, your first step is choosing an experienced and well-recommended dental surgeon with a proven history of performing your chosen operation. Use all of the prescribed antibiotics and antibacterial mouthwashes given to you, follow all of the recovery instructions, and be open with your dentist about your medical history and any details that may affect the health of your implant. By understanding your specific medical history, your dental surgeon can then decide which option will be the most successful for you.
Occlusal Overloading of the Implant
Occlusal overload is by far the leading cause of dental implant failure, which can lead to a loosening of the implant, a fracture in the implant, or damage to the supporting bone structure, which prevents successful osseointegration. Occlusal force is essentially the bite force that any tooth or implant experiences, with occlusal overload occurring when the bite force is more than the implant can withstand.
Your best chance of avoiding occlusal overload is by thoroughly researching your dental surgeon and choosing someone who has a proven track record of successful implant procedures. This is because it is their surgical precision and prosthetic treatment that plays the largest role in the success of your implant when the time comes to start putting load on it after the healing phase.
You can, however, do your part by going to all post-surgery examinations and following your dentist’s advice at each stage. Studies have also shown that regular maintenance and hygiene practices can have an effect on occlusal overload, with plaque accumulation and bad oral hygiene weakening the supporting bone structures and reducing the amount of occlusal load that an implant can withstand.
This is why it is important to avoid smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol while maintaining a healthy oral hygiene regimen that includes cleanings from your dentist as well as regular flossing at home.
Despite these risks of implant failure, dental implants are still the tooth replacement solution that most closely resembles your natural tooth in both look and function. If you are ready to embrace a new smile or have questions about whether dental implants are right for you, feel free to call us or schedule a consultation so we can help you get on the path to healthy, happy teeth.