Dental implants enjoy a high rate of long-term success when compared to other restorative dental procedures. Industry-wide studies usually cite a 90-95% success rate over a 5-year period, with some literature showing even better results. However, dental implant failure can still happen.
This article will cover the common signs of dental implant failure and factors that can cause or contribute to failure, such as a lack of proper hygienic home care. We will also review surgical practices that can reduce the risks of implant failure over time.
Table of Contents
What Are The Signs of Dental Implant Failure?
There are three main signs that indicate dental implant failure: sensitivity and bleeding, and looseness.
Sensitivity and Bleeding
Implants are non-organic, so they don’t hurt. If you feel sensitivity with hot or cold temperatures or when you chew, then this is either from an adjacent tooth or the tissue around the implant. There can also be bleeding from the gums around the implant.
None of these things are good, and they indicate that the gum tissue (or the bone tissue) around the implant may be infected. If it hurts to push on the implant, then this is likely the case, and you should see a dental professional as soon as possible.
The Implant Is Loose or Moving
If your post is moving around, this is an indication of dental implant failure. Implants do not have a ligament like a natural tooth, which can move when enough force is applied. In other words, an implant in the bone doesn’t move. If an implant is moving around in your bone, then it has failed and needs to be removed.
What Causes Dental Implant Failure?
There are five main causes to dental implant failure: failure of the interior screw, breakage, infection, excessive horizontal force, and an error on behalf of the surgeon.
We’ll cover failure of the interior screw first, as it is rarely discussed and requires the most explanation. As you read, please keep in mind that dental implants can fail due to a combination of causes, rather than one lone factor.
#1 - An Implant’s Interior Screw Fails
Implants can fail due to their design. These types of failures usually occur in the use of what is called a “two-piece” implant. These are the most commonly placed type of implant in implant dentistry. In reality, “two-piece” implants actually have three pieces.
Piece #1 of a two-piece implant is the body. This is the external post that looks similar to a screw. The body is typically completely inserted into the bone, stopping at the top of the bone. It is usually a hollow cylinder.
Piece #2 is the abutment that is affixed on the top and within the implant and is above the gum line. This is the working end of the implant that is used to secure a crown, bridge, or removable appliance.
Piece #3 is the hidden piece that is rarely mentioned - a small interior screw that holds the abutment and the implant together. This little screw is about the size of a screw that holds together a pair of glasses, and is therefore not very strong. It can strip, break, or become loose.
If the little screw comes loose, the crown will become loose and will need to be reattached. If it strips, the implant will probably fail. This is a big problem, because the only way to remove this type of implant is to cut it out of the bone. Cutting a three-piece implant out of the bone involves drilling a large hole around the implantation site, which is a traumatic surgery that can make it difficult to place a dental implant there in the future.
#2 - The Implant Breaks
Another way an implant can fail is that it simply breaks. This is uncommon, especially with single-piece implants, which are not hollow like multi-piece implants.
#3 - Too Much Horizontal Force
Implants can be wrenched out of the bone with enough horizontal force. Though uncommon, this can happen with certain types of chewing. Be sure to ask about the motions that can cause this type of force during your consultation with our team.
#4 - Infection and Poor Hygienic Care
An infection around the dental implant in the gum or bone can cause a dental implant to fail. In fact, the most common cause of dental implant failure is poor ongoing hygiene.
This is why proper oral hygiene remains very important even after you get implants. Though they are non-organic, they still need to be properly cleaned for the sake of your bone, gums, and remaining teeth.
In our office, we usually recommend using water picks and bristle brushes to maintain your oral health with dental implants, and we can teach you how to do this.
#5 - Error By The Dental Professional
Any type of surgery comes with the risk of human error. That’s why it’s important to find a dental professional with a high level of experience in implant dentistry when selecting your implant provider. More experience often translates to a higher level of performance, and well-performed surgery decreases the chances of dental implant failure.
Fortunately, our team has over 80 years of combined experience in dental implant care and has focused exclusively on implant dentistry since 2007 (that’s 15 years at the time of this article). To give you an idea of how many dental implants we’ve placed, our founder, Dr. Steve Brown, as personally placed over 12,000 implants alone. Our team’s level of experience and skill with dental implants is rare, and we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our office as you move forward in your search for a provider.
How to Lower the Risk of Dental Implant Failure
At our dental implant office in Fort Worth TX, we intentionally reduce the risks of dental implant failure through through multiple unique practices. We also show our patients how to maintain proper hygiene, which is critical for long-term implant success.
- Single-piece implants
- More implants per arch
- Minimally invasive surgery
- Proper hygienic home care
Single Piece Implants vs Multi-Piece Implants
Earlier this article explained how multi-piece implants can come with an additional risk of failure through their hollow shape and their interior screw. To avoid this type of dental implant failure, our office commonly utilizes single-piece dental implants.
Single-piece implants are one solid piece with no moving interior parts. These attributes make them less likely to break and remove the possibility of interior screw failure. By using single piece implants, our office has managed to reduce the risk of implant failure in our patients.
More Implants Decreases Risk of Failure
At The Dental Implant Place in Fort Worth TX, we will give you as many dental implants as your bone can healthily support. We do this at no additional cost. So for example, to get a full arch zirconia bridge, most offices would only give you 4 dental implants to support it. In our office, our patients almost always receive significantly more than 4 implants at no additional cost (10 implants per arch is our average for this procedure).
Having more implants increases your chances for dental implant success, because it distributes the weight evenly and provides a firmer foundation. It’s the same principle in building a roof - more beams means more support. We offer this service because we want to do all we can to ensure that your dental implants last and perform exceptionally.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Our DFW dental implant office uses a highly unique surgical process for placing dental implants. We call it the Minimally Invasive Approach. The vast majority of implant providers will cut open your gums and drill a large hole into your bone in order to place a dental implant. With the minimally invasive approach, we avoid unnecessary cutting and drilling. Instead, we place a tiny pinhole in your gums and then gently rotate your post into place by hand.
Our approach significantly reduces surgical trauma, leading to increased comfort and quicker healing. We are one of only a handful of offices in the world that offer this treatment.
The Minimally Invasive Approach increases long-term dental implant success in a number of ways. First, reducing surgical trauma means that your bone and gum tissue need significantly less healing after surgery. To put it another way, fewer wounds mean less opportunity for infection.
Second, the minimally invasive approach makes it easier and less traumatic to remove a dental implant if it does fail. Because the implant was gently rotated into the bone in the first place, it can be removed the exact same way. With this method, the surgical site will have a much better chance of healing over properly so that an implant can be placed in the same site in the future. The procedure is also significantly less painful.
Proper Hygienic Care
While risk of dental implant failure can be reduced by the type and level of treatment, it must be noted that failure to protect your oral health with simple everyday hygiene can absolutely cause your implants to fail.
No matter who you choose to place your dental implants, you should know and practice proper hygiene to keep your surrounding teeth, gums, and bone healthy. At our practice, we always review best home care practices with our patients before and after their procedure. Some of these practices can vary depending on the type of dental implant service you select.
Learn More With A Consultation
Our office, The Dental Implant Place, has placed thousands of dental implants in the past 15 years and offers every step of your treatment in one place. To learn more about increasing your chances of dental implant success, schedule a free consultation with our team.
A consultation with our highly experienced staff will give you extremely valuable insight and will massively help you in your search for a provider. Fill out the form below to get started!