Dental implants are an excellent solution for missing teeth, but there are a few factors that can cause them to fail. Before investing time and money in a dental implant procedure, it's important to be aware of the most common causes of dental implant failure and how to set yourself up for success.

The Top Reason Dental Implants Fail

The number one reason for dental implant failure is an infection around the implant. There are two kinds of infection that occur around dental implants:

  • Peri-implant mucositis - an infection affecting the gum around the implant. This can often be reversed.

  • Peri-implantitis - an infection affecting the gum and bone around the implant. This frequently leads to implant failure.

When the gum around the implant becomes infected, the gum pulls away from the implant, allowing bacteria to enter the jawbone. Once this happens, infection and bone loss follow, leading to implant failure.

People who have diabetes, who smoke, and who have poor oral hygiene are the most likely to develop an infection around an implant, so if any of these factors are relevant to you, it's important to let your dentist know and deal with your risk factors before getting implants.

Other Reasons Why Dental Implants Fail

We've shared the most common cause of dental implant failure, but there is a range of other factors that can lead to a failed dental implant. Fortunately, 90-95% of dental implants last for 15 years or longer without issues. However, you still don't want to have one of the 5-10% of implants that fail. 

Dentist-Related Issues

Some of the reasons dental implants fail are related to the skill of the implant dentist and the materials used. Most of these problems can be avoided by choosing a reputable, highly skilled dentist who is experienced in implant dentistry.

Sub-Par Materials

The materials that we use for dental implant treatment at our Beverly Hills office are strong and designed to last a lifetime. However, some cheap providers have been known to use sub-par materials to save on costs, leading to breakage and implant failure. This is a rare issue in the United States, but it can still happen, which is why it’s important to research dentists carefully. 

Poor Impressions

The impressions that are taken after the abutment is placed are used to ascertain the best shape for your prosthetic tooth. If the impressions aren't clear, the shape may be off—leaving gaps between the gum and crown that can lead to bacterial growth and peri-implantitis.

Poor Placement

Dentists who are inexperienced in implant dentistry sometimes place dental implants incorrectly or without making reference to the structure and shape of your upper and lower jaw. Incorrect placement can cause:

  • Nerve damage

  • Sinus rupture

  • Bite problems

  • Implant failure

Patient-Related Issues That Can Affect Implant Success

Other reasons a dental implant might fail relate to the patient. A responsible dentist will evaluate these factors before recommending dental implant surgery.

Insufficient Bone Density

In order for the post to fuse correctly with the jaw bone (a process known as osseointegration), there needs to be sufficient bone tissue to support the implant. Insufficient bone can lead to failed osseointegration and a failed dental implant, which is why reputable dentists often recommend a bone graft before dental implant surgery if the bone tissue is thin.

Gum Disease

Gum disease raises the likelihood of peri-implantitis and implant failure. An experienced dentist will always treat gum disease and ensure that your gums are healthy before recommending a dental implant procedure.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding can put high amounts of vertical pressure on your new implant, jeopardizing the process of osseointegration and causing your implant to become loose. If you grind your teeth, consider TMJ botox therapy before having implants placed.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Certain medical conditions and medications increase the likelihood of dental implant failure. Tell your dentist if you:

  • Take any medications, particularly antidepressant medications

  • Have (uncontrolled) diabetes

  • Have any type of cancer

  • Have osteoporosis

  • Have an autoimmune disease

  • Have gingivitis or gum disease

  • Have had previous radiation therapy on the head and neck

While not a medical condition per se, smoking also increases the likelihood of complications and dental implant failure. If you currently smoke and want to get dental implants, talk with your dentist and doctor about a cessation schedule and effective smoking cessation techniques.

Allergic Reaction or Foreign Body Rejection

While dental implants are usually safe, some patients have an allergic reaction to the titanium post after implantation in the mouth. Sometimes, a patient’s body simply rejects the implant—referred to as foreign body rejection. If you know you are allergic to any metals, including titanium, ask your dentist about using an alternative material (usually zirconium) for the post. 

Signs of Dental Implant Failure

If you notice any of the following symptoms at the implant site after the initial healing period (around 10 days), contact your dentist right away:

  • Bleeding gums

  • Swelling

  • Pain

  • Redness

  • Implant mobility (an implant that is loose or wobbly)

These are usually signs of infection.

If you develop hives or eczema, or if your face swells (edema) after an implant procedure, you might be allergic to titanium. Notify your dentist immediately so that you can have the titanium removed.

Ensure Dental Implant Success

In most cases (90-95%), dental implants provide a successful and highly satisfactory solution to missing teeth. However, it's still important to be aware of the reasons for implant failure so that you can prepare properly and look after your implants well.

As stated near the beginning of the article, infection is the number one reason for dental implant failure, which can usually be prevented with proper dental implant care. Other causes of implant failure (poor placement and inadequate patient screening) can be avoided by choosing an experienced implant dentist.

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