Why Do Dental Implants Fail?

Dental implants have an extremely high success rate, higher than most other types of dental treatments available today.  Failure of a dental implant is rare.  In many cases, the reason for failure is unknown.  In others, the reason is a little more obvious.  This blog will explain some of the known reasons implants can fail.

What is Dental Implant Failure?

The job of a dental implant is to attach to the bone in the jaws and provide a firm anchor for restoring a missing tooth or teeth.  A dental implant failure includes both the failure of a new implant to attach and the loss of attachment of an established implant.  The implant does not have contact with the bone.

Interestingly, dental implant failures typically do not hurt.  Most people are completely unaware that there is a problem with the dental implant until it becomes loose.  Those who see the dentist regularly for yearly x-rays may find out before any looseness occurs because the x-rays will show the loss of bone attachment.

A failed dental implant may simply fall out.

What Causes an Implant to Fail?

There are two different types of implant failure that occur during two different phases in the life of an implant.  The first is during the implant’s initial healing phase.  In failure to attach, the implant does not attach to the bone during the healing process.  The usually occurs within the first year after the implant placement surgery.

The other type of failure occurs when a healed and fully functioning dental implant loses its attachment to the bone.  This can occur at any time in the implant’s lifespan.

Failure to Attach

The most important factor in a dental implant’s healing is blood flow to the surgical site.  Blood brings the cells and nutrients necessary for building bone onto the surface of the dental implant.  Therefore, anything that compromises or restricts blood flow leads to a very high risk for implant failure.

The two biggest culprits in early dental implant failure are smoking and diabetes.  This is because they both cause the tiny blood vessels in the gums (and many other areas of the body) to constrict, reducing the amount of blood that can get to them.  Reduced blood flow also affects the nerve endings in the gums, so you typically do not feel any type of problem.

This does not mean it is impossible for people who smoke or have diabetes to get dental implants.  It means you must take some pre-operative measures to improve blood flow to improve your chances for success.  Smokers should stop smoking for the longest period possible.  Diabetics should work to control their blood sugar as strictly as possible.

Loss of Attachment

Loss of attachment around a fully healed and normally functioning implant is a completely different ballgame.  This is an implant that did have an attachment to the bone and lost it.  If you are familiar with chronic or severe periodontal disease, then the phrase “loss of attachment” may ring some bells.

A dental implant can lose its attachment to the bone for some of the same reasons a tooth can lose attachment in periodontal disease.  The bone “backs away” from irritants, pulling away from the tooth.  These irritants can be toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque and tartar buildup.  They can also be inappropriate bite forces that stress the implant-bone interface.

For these reasons, consistent follow-up care is essential to maintaining a healthy dental implant!  Professional teeth cleanings ensure that you are not building up large accumulations of plaque and tartar around your dental implant.  Dental evaluations of the implant can catch “bad” bite forces and remove them before they cause damage to the bone connection.

More Questions about Dental Implants?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He has many years of experience in dental implants and can help you get the highest possible success rate from yours!

Tags: , , , , , ,