Dental implant failure: Symptoms and treatment

A failed dental implant is an unusual situation, but it does occur. If that happens, there’s no need to panic as there are treatment options available. Sometimes the cause of failure is preventable too. Dental implants are usually a predictable and successful procedure, but it requires a great deal of training and experience to place correctly.

A failed dental implant is easily removed with local anesthesia. If an implant needs to be replaced, they will take it out and gently clean the area. If the bone is intact around the area of the removed implant, no bone graft will be necessary. If there is bone loss, dentist may place a bone graft to improve the site for replacing the implant. Healing from a bone graft can take several months before a new implant can be placed. During healing, dentists will discuss ways to reduce the risk factors that caused the implant to fail, such as quitting smoking or waiting for a course of cancer treatment to be finished.

The Anatomy of an Implant

Most dental implants have three parts:

  • a titanium implant body inserted into the bone
  • an attachment called an abutment
  • a crown that is fixed to the abutment and aligned with your remaining teeth.

If even one becomes loose or broken, issues can develop with any of these three parts.

Implants are made of metal, but it is a biological process known as osseointegration that allows them to function. During osseointegration, your body produces living bone cells to grow around the implant surface and anchor it to your jawbone. Over time, healthy bone continues to surround the implant. If osseointegration doesn’t happen the way it should, it can occasionally cause problems after implantation.

Types of Dental Implant Failure

In general, there are two categories of implant failures that are based on timing. We have “early failures” that occur within the first few months of the implant and “late failures” can be considered occurring a year or later after the tooth has been in function.

7 Factors That Cause A Dental Implant Failure?

7 Factors That Cause A Dental Implant Failure

Whether you need a single tooth or multiple teeth replacing, dental implants and All on 4 can give you a beautiful, natural smile while enhancing the quality of your life. The procedure can also have a truly exceptional track record of success when done properly. However, some factors can cause dental implant failure. And although it is rare, when it happens, it can cause severe discomfort, and even lead to further complications.

Below are 7 of the main reasons why a dental implant can fail:

Misalignment of The Implant

One of the challenging aspects of implant dentistry is positioning the implant so that it’s fully surrounded by bone. Sometimes the ideal position in the bone is not the ideal position for the implant. So the implant and the bone can end up misaligned. When the implant doesn’t align with the bone, the crowns can look unnatural, gums can recede and the dark grey metal of the implant is visible around the gum.

Rectifying implants that are positioned in the wrong place can be tricky. The removal process can damage the bone and the adjacent teeth. Which is why it is so important to get it right the first time. And so is choosing a dentist with the knowledge and experience to deliver the best results.

Poorly Taken Impressions

Impressions are moulded by the dentist and sent to a laboratory for the crowns to be made. If the impressions are not precise the replacement teeth may not fit properly. Just a subtle misfit can result in a gap between the crown and the gum, enough to compromise the look and function of the teeth. This can allow bacteria in to the gums and eventually lead to infection. An infection can be treated, but might require the implant to be replaced. Essentially doubling the cost of the treatment.

Another factor is the cement that binds the new dental crown onto the implant post, which can also cause an infection if it leaks onto the gums. This is why the skill of the implant dentist is so important. They must be comfortable to perform the procedure accurately under high magnification, which in turn, lessens any possibility of gaps or mistakes.

Peri-Implantitis And Other Infections

Peri-implantitis is one of the main causes of dental implant failure. There is some debate about whether it should be classified as a disease, or as a complication due to a foreign body being placed in the oral cavity. Regardless, an inflammatory response can sometimes occur shortly after the procedure is completed, caused by a formation of bacteria in the mouth.

Peri-implantitis can damage both the gum and bone that surrounds the implant, and potentially lead to subsequent bone loss or implant failure. While the condition can be treated, more often than not, the implant will need to be replaced. Those most susceptible to bacterial infection or peri-implantitis are patients with diabetes, smokers and those with bad oral hygiene.

Failed Osseointegration

Osseointegration is a term used to describe the development of the structural link between the bone and the newly inserted titanium implant. This process normally takes a few weeks to several months to happen.

Occasionally the implant doesn’t fully merge with the jawbone. This can leave the implant loose, or could even fall out. The main reason for this is insufficient bone for the implant to insert into.

Bone density and the overall health of your bone is an important consideration when it comes to implant dentistry. An evaluation of the health of your bone is something your implant dentist will do before the procedure. If there is insufficient bone, a bone graft or sinus lift procedure is an option, to recreate the correct conditions for the implants to be inserted.

Nerve Damage

While nerve damage is rare, it can happen when an implant is fixed too close to the nerves that surround the mouth. Incidence of this is more common with inexperienced dental implant dentists, or when the dentist doesn’t use treatment planning as part of their practice. A treatment plan is what helps the dentist to identify all of the factors that could impact the implant procedure, such as identifying the ideal placement of the implant in relation to the critical structures and nerves in the mouth.

Nerve damage is normally indicated when there is numbness, lingering pain or a tingling feeling around the gums, lips, cheek or tongue.

Failure of The Implant Itself

Despite being made of a strong metal, it is possible for the metal implant post to become loose. When the implant post becomes loose, the movement can cause the implant to fracture.

Thanks to the advancements in implant technology, this happens less today, however failure can still happen. Particularly with low cost providers and overseas laboratories, who may use inferior materials, leading to complications with the size and fit, which will compromise the stability of the implant.

You want to ensure that your implant dentist is using materials that meet the Australian consumer safety regulations, to ensure a quality treatment, and reduce the chances of implant failure.

Foreign body rejection and Allergic reaction

whenever something foreign is put into your body, there is a chance of side effects. Dental implants and other materials used for the implant procedure may cause a localised reaction. In order to make sure the best materials for your treatment, dentist should check whether you have any allergies.

Risk Factors for a Failed Dental Implant

The success of a dental implant procedure depends on many factors, but certain habits and medical conditions can increase your risk of a wobbling implant. Gum disease and bruxism can damage an implant that is healing. Diseases like osteoporosis that attack bone strength and density can make it difficult for the implant screw to anchor. Ongoing cancer treatment might also be a reason to pause an implant procedure, according to a study, since radiation therapy for head and neck cancers may inhibit normal bone healing.

Some medications also can put you at risk for implant failure. According to researchers, a compound in antidepressants that affects your rate of bone metabolism can cause osseointegration problems for people who take these medications.

Researches also notes that smoking might increase your risk of dental implant failure, depending on where in your mouth the implant is placed. Your dentist may advise you to stop smoking completely or at least until bone integration is complete.



If you have one of the below symptoms it is urgent to see your dental professional as soon as possible to correct the implant according to the reason for failure.

Radiating Pain and Tooth Discomfort

Radiating Pain and Tooth Discomfort

While it is expected to have some intermittent pain during the healing process, pain can be tricky as it can also be a sign of a burgeoning failure. One way to decipher between the two is to keep in mind that pain that occurs just after the implant has been seated is normal. This is part of the healing process and will last for a few days. If your pain however, occurs long after the procedure after having no incidents; than that might surely be sign of implant failure. It is best to schedule a visit with your dentist as soon as possible. Even if it turns out to be nothing the old saying rings true; “better safe than sorry.” The bright side if it is indeed a failure, dealing with it sooner will yield a better outcome than letting it linger and cause a bigger problem.

Inflammation Of The Gums

While some minor swelling is par for the course after you have had an implant procedure, if it persists and gets inflamed that is definitely cause for concern. When gums become red and inflamed it is a sure sign of infection. An infection if left untreated can spread to other parts of the mouth and in some cases the infection can spread to the blood, creating a very dangerous condition. It is best to notify your dentist at the first discovery of inflammation so it can be treated in its initial stage. Once an infection gets full blown it is much harder to treat and will cause intense pain. Your dentist will most likely prescribe a regimen of antibiotics and anti-bacterial mouthwash three times a day to fight off any further infection. Naturally, everyone situation varies but this is a sign that should not be ignored.

Implants That Don’t Feel Secured

When an implant is properly seated it should feel as normal as your own teeth. In fact if it is done properly you really wouldn’t know you have an implant. One thing it should never feel like is a foreign object in your mouth. Implants should be as secure as a natural tooth and not have one bit of wiggle or looseness. This is one of the easiest signs to spot as it is easily verifiable. A loose implant can actually do more damage to your mouth and is not an issue that should be put off. It is important to remember that under no circumstances is this sign ever a normal result of the procedure. In some severe failures of this nature the implant must actually be taken out so that more damage isn’t done. This is why setting up a consultation with your dentist as soon as the problem is discovered is the key to a successful correction. If left untreated you could be looking at severe damage to your mandible and gums which can even alter the appearance of your smile and affect daily living.

Difficulty Chewing Or Biting

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort while chewing food or simply biting down on substances this could be a sign that failure is imminent as well. As stated before, implants should not feel different at any time. They function, look and feel like a natural tooth so if you are experiencing pain while chewing this is just as much a sign of implant failure as if it were a tooth.  Just like pain while chewing with natural teeth is a sign of a cavity, pain with an implant is also not a good sign. You should consult your dentist right away as the problem will not go away, it will only get worse.

What Do I Do if My Dental Implant Fails?

What Do I Do if My Dental Implant Fails

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s possible that your dental implant failed – so what can you do?

First, you should contact your dentist to determine the cause of the failure. Treatment of your implant depends upon why it failed, so talking to your dentist is the best way to achieve proper treatment.

If your implant is infected, you can gently clean the area regularly until you can meet with your dentist and receive additional treatment. As always, good oral hygiene is also extremely important. If the infection is detected and treated early, you are likely to recover quickly.

If your implant is failing due to stress or damage, however, you may need to get a bone graft to secure the implant. Dental implants can only be placed where the bone is dense enough to support the implant – therefore, if bone damage or loss has caused the implant to fail, a graft of stronger bone will be needed to secure the implant. This process may require removal of the implant and time for the area to heal before performing more procedures.

Avoiding Complications

Avoiding Complications

Before your implant placement, have a discussion with your dentist about any risk factors that can limit the success of your implants. A change in your medical condition or medications can affect healing and osseointegration, so always inform your dentist or dental specialist of any changes to your health and medical history.

Good oral hygiene also is key to avoiding implant problems. Brushing twice daily and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash can help keep your gums healthy and bacteria at bay while your new tooth settles into place.