Why Do Tooth Implants Fail?

There you are, having your first dinner with your significant others’ parents. Everything was great until you bite into your lasagna and a jolt of pain bites back in your mouth. Now you not only have a dental emergency on your hands but must do your best to save face with the parents.

A dental implant is a metal pillar that serves as a substitute for the root of a tooth and serves as the foundation for crowns, bridges and other artificial means of preserving your bite and smile. While dental implants are usually quite reliable pieces of equipment, they do have a failure rate of 5-10%.

What Causes Dental Implants To Fail?

There are several different things that can influence a dental implant’s chance to fail.

  1. Gum disease. Gum health is crucial to getting a dental implant. In fact, no sane oral surgeon will perform the procedure if you have gum disease. Gum disease damages both the gums and jawbone and can lead to infection around the implant’s spot in your mouth and subsequently lead to the implant’s failure.
  2. Smoking. Smoking can restrict blood flow within the gums and subsequently slow down healing after the surgery to install an implant. This is severe enough to raise the failure rate of implants among smokers to one in five. Smokers looking to get a dental implant should tyr to stop smoking one week prior to the surgery and stay off of the habit for a minimum of two months after the surgery.
  3. Jaw Bone. A proper dental implant requires that the patient has sufficient bone in the jaw to support it. Issues like osteoporosis, where bones lose density, or fractures can make it difficult to install or support an implant. As covered in the gum disease section, severe gum disease can also weaken bones within the mouth.
  4. Certain Medical Conditions or Medications. Anyone who struggles from autoimmune diseases or a condition like diabetes, health issues that impair the body’s natural healing factor, can make it impossible for the implant to successfully meld with the body. Certain medications, most notably those intended for treating heartburn or depression, can also affect “osseointegration.”

5. Poor Dental Hygiene. You can have the best dental implant in the world but it will only last so long without good oral care. Barely brushing and flushing can quickly diminish the lifespan of an implant. Furthermore, a failed dental implant is only going to worsen your oral problems.

6. An Inept Surgeon. Not every surgeon is going to have the same level of skill, meaning you may run into an oral surgeon with little experience. A proper surgeon knows the number of implants necessary to replace a tooth and that not using enough can lead to the stress and failure of the implant. A proper surgeon will also know how to avoid “iatrogenic trauma,” injuries around the teeth caused by dental work.

Do not be scared to ask questions during a consultation with your oral surgeon. Consider asking them questions like the following.

“How many years have you been a practicing surgeon?”

“How many dental procedures do you do in a year?”

“What is your success rate? Why do you think it is at that percentage?”

What Are The Early Signs That A Dental Implant May Be Failing?

Dental implant failure generally break down into two main causes.

Cause #1: Peri-Implantitis

This is when you fail to keep up with your dental hygiene. After enough time passes without caring for your teeth and gums, peri-implantitis manifests as a gum disease. To understand why this is bad, just scroll back up to the last section where it specifically addresses why gum disease is problematic for a dental implant.

Cause #2: Failed Osseointegration

This is a circumstance where the jawbone fails to grow around the implant. The factors that influence this condition would be the quality of the section of jaw bone connected to the implant, your surgeon’s expertise in bone grafting and the type of technique used in installing the implant. The one “upside” to this failure is that it only happens when the implant is new, meaning it stops being a concern after only a few weeks.

What Are The Options When Dental Implants Fail?

The approach to handling a failed dental implant is decided by what caused the failure in the first place. If peri-implantitis is the issue, you may just need to clean up the implant and work on your oral hygiene routine. In cases where the bone surrounding the implant has been damaged or stressed, a bone graft may be necessary as an implant can only be installed in a jaw with sufficient density.

Regardless of the approach, removing the failed implant is the first step toward having a replacement installed. Again, the viability of having a replacement implant installed depends on the state of your jawline after the failure.

Will Health Insurance Cover My Replacement Dental Implant?

The issue of whether or not your health insurance will cover a procedure like replacing a dental implant depends on your particular insurer’s stance on dental work. I.e. does your insurer include dental or does it consider a replacement implant to be cosmetic in nature?

The good news is that if your insurance company will probably cover some or all of the costs of a replacement implant if it was involved with installing the initial implant.

In Summary

A dental implant is a sturdy piece of dental equipment but it is not indestructible. Failures can and do happen in a small fraction of mouths that house one or more dental implants. While the reasons for these failures are not always the fault of the person who receives an implant, steps can potentially be taken in order to recover and replace the failed implant with a proper one.

When looking into having a replacement dental implant installed, it is best to check with your insurance company to understand their opinion on the procedure and whether or not they would be willing to help you pay the considerable costs.