Most dental implant treatments last a lifetime, but the slim possibility of dental implant failure does exist. Knowing the typical failure symptoms of dental implants can prevent the problem from becoming worse. In many cases, the implant can still be salvaged or successfully replaced.
The most important thing is not to panic. In the hands of a skilled dentist or oral surgeon, options are always available.
Our guide below will help you understand the signs and symptoms of dental implants failure and what you should do as soon as you notice it.
Early Symptoms of Dental Implant Failure
A certain amount of pain and swelling are to be expected after surgery on your jaw bone, gums, and teeth. However, the discomfort will usually start to wane after five to seven days of surgery. If you experience any of the following symptoms during the three or four months after receiving your implant, this may indicate a problem.
Continuing Pain and Discomfort
Persistent or severe pain after the initial week or so after surgery could be a sign of infection or damage to the surrounding nerves, teeth, and/or blood vessels. If you suspect that the pain is out of the ordinary, notify your surgeon immediately so that the problem can be dealt with promptly.
Swelling, Inflammation, and Bleeding
Redness, swelling, inflammation, and bleeding around the implantation site is a bad sign after the initial few days. Infections can and do occur—especially in smokers, people with an autoimmune disease or diabetes, and those with poor oral hygiene. It’s important to have this checked and treated right away to prevent eventual implant failure.
Gum recession is often a result of plaque buildup and gum disease, and it can also be caused by aggressive brushing. Gum recession around an implant can occur if you are not keeping the area sufficiently clean or are brushing too aggressively (particularly during the healing time). Ultimately, gum recession around an implant can lead to symptoms of dental implant failure.
Dental implants are designed to be just as strong as natural teeth—if not stronger. In addition, the presence of an implant should stimulate bone growth that holds the post in place (a process known as osseointegration). An implant that feels wobbly indicates that the post may not have fused properly with the jaw bone. Notify your surgeon immediately if your artificial tooth feels loose so that the problem can be diagnosed and resolved.
Implants should feel and function like any other teeth and should not cause discomfort when you eat. If you have difficulty chewing, there might be a problem with the angle, size, or shape of the implant, or the tooth might have become slightly loose. Have this checked sooner rather than later to prevent implant failure and dietary issues.
Late Symptoms of Dental Implant Failure
While some dental implant failures present symptoms in the first few months, other problems can appear several years down the line. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above as well as the symptoms mentioned below, it’s important to contact your oral surgeon.
Nerve or Tissue Damage
When an implant is placed too close to a nerve, you might feel a tingling or numb sensation in your face, tongue, lips, and gums. This can impact your ability to eat and drink normally and should never be ignored.
Foreign Body Rejection
Sometimes, the body rejects foreign objects—including things like organ transplants, prostheses, and replacement teeth. If you experience pain, inflammation, chills, or fever even years after your dental implant surgery, your body might be rejecting the titanium alloy implant.
A trauma, poor planning, or changes to your facial structure can lead to a dental implant that protrudes into the sinus cavity. This can usually be resolved with a sinus bone graft and a new implant that is placed after a long gap for healing.
Trauma to the mouth or face can knock artificial teeth loose just as they can knock out your natural teeth. See your surgeon immediately after the accident to find out whether the tooth replacement can be saved and to replace any newly missing teeth.
Preventing Dental Implant Failure
The good news is that most dental implant failure symptoms are preventable if you choose an experienced dental surgeon and do everything you can to look after your oral health. The true dental implant failure rate is only around 5-10% of cases, with some estimates as low as 1.6% when best practices are followed to the letter.
Treat Gum Disease First
Dental implants cannot be used if there are other oral health problems present—especially periodontal (gum) disease. Gum disease can be treated using non-surgical and surgical treatments and prevented with proper oral hygiene.
Addressing gingivitis and periodontitis before surgery helps to prevent infection and gum recession around the replacement tooth. It also means that you’ll know gum tissue infection is a symptom of dental implant failure rather than a symptom of periodontitis.
Have a Bone Graft If Needed
Dental implants can only be successful if there is adequate bone density in the jaw to support the post. Patients with insufficient bone (due to osteoporosis or other health issues) should not receive dental implant surgery unless a bone graft is performed first.
An experienced surgeon will be able to assess where the bone graft is needed and how many crowns can be supported by the posts. This should prevent the tooth replacement(s) from coming loose.
Smoking raises the likelihood of dental implant failure to 20% and also increases the risk of bacterial infections. One problem is that smoking reduces blood flow to the surgical site, thereby hindering the healing process. If you smoke and would still like to have a dental implant, stop smoking at least one week before the procedure and do not resume smoking for at least two months afterward.
Another factor to consider is that smoking (like caffeine) stains your teeth. When you are investing in dental implants, bridges, and crowns, smoking cessation is an excellent way to protect your investment and keep your pearly whites “pearly white.”
Practice Good Oral Hygiene Consistently
Poor oral hygiene is one of the principal causes of the buildup of plaque, which can then lead to cavities and gingivitis. In some cases, it also causes gum recession and tooth loss—all preventable with healthy habits.
Follow your surgeon’s oral hygiene instructions to prevent infection around the abutment tooth. This will also protect your natural teeth. Following dental implant surgery, clean your teeth gently to allow the area to heal, and then maintain the oral hygiene habits recommended by your surgeon and go in for your biannual professional cleanings.
Special Cases Where Brushing is Difficult
If you have poor manual dexterity or a disability that prevents thorough flossing and brushing, you may need a special electric or automatic brush to prevent dental implant failure symptoms. In some cases, your surgeon might decide you are not a good candidate for implants.
Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
In conjunction with proper dental hygiene and regular dental checkups, your diet makes a difference when it comes to implants. Firstly, an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals can help to strengthen the bone in the jaw which supports the post, abutment, and crown. Secondly, it’s essential to avoid foods that weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infection. We’ll explore each of these points below.
Foods High in Vitamins and Minerals
It has long been known that calcium is essential for healthy bones, but other minerals and vitamins also play an important role. Be sure to ingest these micronutrients to prevent dental implant failure symptoms:
Calcium (dark leafy greens, dairy)
Phosphorus (legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy)
Magnesium (whole grains, legumes, nuts, dark leafy greens)
Vitamin D (fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, fortified dairy)
Vitamin K (dark leafy greens)
Boron (avocado, nuts, vegetables, grapes, raisins)
Iron (red meat, dark leafy greens, legumes, liver, artichokes)
Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, brassica vegetables, spinach)
Zinc (oysters, seeds, beans, beef, lamb)
Avoid Immunity-Lowering Foods
When your immune system is compromised, your body (and mouth) become more susceptible to infections. Avoid the following ingredients before and after dental implant surgery:
Added sugar (most processed foods and sweets)
Excessive salt (most processed foods)
Omega 6 fats (vegetable oils)
Fried foods (fries, fried bacon, potato chips, fried fish)
Processed and high-temperature-grilled meats (including charred meats)
Selected food additives (processed foods)
Refined flours, cereals, and sugars (white cereals, baked goods)
Artificial sweeteners (diet soft drinks)
The foods that you eat affect your oral health. A whole-food diet filled with a variety of nutrients will strengthen your mouth, promote the healing process, and lower the risk of experiencing symptoms of dental implant failure. A nutritious diet can also help you prevent other dental problems, such as cavities, in the future.
Choose an Experienced Dental Implant Specialist
When all is said and done, the most influential factor in implant success is selecting the right dental implant dentist for your treatment. Experienced dental surgeons assess your oral health in meticulous detail before recommending dental implants and complete the entire process with extreme care.
If you are considering dental implant surgery, ask any friends and family members with dental implants who they would personally recommend. At a minimum, look for the following traits in an oral or maxillofacial surgeon:
Performs a dental X-ray to assess the jaw bone and ideal implant placement.
Asks detailed questions about your medical history, medications, and allergies to see if you’re a good candidate for implants.
Recommends a bone graft if you have signs of bone loss or insufficient bone to support the post.
Installs the post, abutment, and crown of the tooth separately to allow adequate time for osseointegration.
Provides step-by-step aftercare advice, observing your technique to make sure that you’re brushing effectively.
Is easy to contact in the case of dental implant failure symptoms.
A skilled, experienced surgeon like Dr. Glosman will do everything possible to ensure that your surgery is a success. When you’re in good hands, you can always proceed with confidence.
Treat Each Implant Just Like a Natural Tooth
The success rate of dental implants is extremely high, especially with proper care. To give yourself the best chance of success, you just need:
A quality treatment plan carried out by an experienced surgeon
Meticulous aftercare that includes following all instructions followed by the dentist.
An ongoing commitment to your diet, lifestyle, and oral hygiene.
If you do experience pain, discomfort, numbness, or wobbly teeth, get in touch with your surgeon immediately. The sooner you act, the better your likelihood of saving the implant and preventing additional surgeries.