Dental Implant Failure – Am I At Risk?

Dental implants are a popular and highly successful way to replace a missing tooth. While they have a high success rate and most patients do not experience complications following dental implant surgery, problems do occasionally occur. As with any surgical procedure, there are a variety of factors that can cause problems with dental implants. It is important to understand the symptoms and treatment of dental implant failure before getting an implant.

There are several distinct types of dental implant failures. First, the implanted screw can fail to fuse to the bone. Once the titanium screw has been inserted into the jawbone, it is left alone for several weeks so that it has time to fuse to the bone, a process known as osseointegration. If this does not happen, the screw will be loose, the artificial tooth will not have a strong anchor, and it could be pulled out of the mouth. Failed osseointegration is usually apparent to the dentist prior to placing the artificial tooth, at which point the implant may be left for several more months to give it more time to fuse to the bone.

dental-implant-failureIt is also possible for the body to reject the implant. Similar to organ transplants, it is possible that the patient’s body will recognize the dental implant as a foreign object, rejecting and physically pushing it out of the bone and gums. This may require a second surgery to remove the implant from the mouth.

The implant itself, though made of a strong titanium screw, could bend or break. This type of implant failure is uncommon, but it is a possibility. Tooth grinding may increase the risk of a broken implant. Broken implants are much less common today than they once were, thanks to improvements in the strength of the titanium screws used for dental implants.

Infection is another potential problem leading to implant failure. Infection can set in when bacteria enters the implant site either during or following surgery. Inflammation of the gum or bone around the implant can cause implant failure. Although it is treatable in some cases, in most situations the implant will need to be removed. To avoid the risk of infection, be sure to follow your dentist’s post-surgery guidelines.

Finally, some potential failures of the implant are actually related to the artificial tooth placed atop the implant. The force of chewing can cause this artificial tooth to crack or break. In such instances, it is usually possible to replace the artificial tooth without any alteration to the underlying metal screw.

If you notice any potential problems with the implant, be sure to visit your dentist. Some of the above problems may be treatable, if caught early enough. If not, the implant may need to be removed. Regardless of the underlying cause of dental implant failure, in many instances, the implant can be replaced after giving time for the site to heal. In such situations, the implant will be removed, and then the process will be restarted after several months of healing time.

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