Dental implants are the best way to replace missing teeth. They create the most natural appearance and provide the best chewing function. Implants also have a very high success rate, higher than most other dental treatments. But they are not invincible. This article will highlight some of the most common causes of dental implant failure.
What is Dental Implant Failure?
Simply put, a dental implant failure occurs when there is no attachment between the upper or lower jawbone and the implant body. Implants fail when this attachment never forms initially, or when it forms but later detaches.
When an implant fails, it may not cause any symptoms at all. Most people do not suffer from pain when they lose the bone’s attachment to an implant. The implant simply loosens and can even fall out, like a loose baby tooth does. A failing implant will show visible signs on a dental x-ray, so your dentist may detect failure before you notice anything unusual.
What Contributes to Dental Implant Failure?
Rather than being true causes of the implant failure, the following are factors that lead to a high risk for implant failure. We point that distinction out to emphasize that these conditions do not guarantee an implant failure. They interfere, in some way, with the connection between the bone and the implant body. For example, patients who have diabetes can successfully replace missing teeth with dental implants. They just have a higher risk for failure than someone without diabetes does.
To be specific, we should point out that the risk for implant failure is high for all diabetics, but it is those with uncontrolled blood sugar that fare far worse. Diabetic patients who keep their blood sugar levels under strict control can have great success with dental implants. Before undergoing surgery of any kind, patients with diabetes should work with their medical doctors to adjust diets and medications in order to achieve consistently good blood sugar. By having this under control before, during and after surgery, healing rates are much better!
Diabetes causes a constriction of blood vessels and limits blood flow to the extremities. Healing from surgery requires good blood flow. Healing and success of a dental implant, in particular, requires blood flow for the jawbone to attach to the implant body. Without it, the implant is likely to fail.
Smoking and other tobacco use has a similar effect on healing as uncontrolled blood sugar: it constricts blood flow. Any use of nicotine has this effect on the tiny blood vessels within the gum tissues. This effect is relatively dose-dependent, so those who have used more nicotine for longer will have poorer blood flow, and thus a higher risk for implant failure.
In addition to this effect caused by the nicotine within cigarettes, smoking itself has a negative impact on both tooth extractions and dental implants. Because people have to perform a strong sucking motion to “pull” on a cigarette, that causes an increase in pressure on the surgical sites. In the case of extractions, it can pull the blood clot out of the socket. With dental implants, the pressure can interfere with the delicate attachment forming between the jawbone and implant body.
If you are a tobacco user, you should stop using it at least a week prior to surgery and for up to two weeks afterward so that your body has the best chance at healing. Your surgeon will give you more specific instructions for your unique situation.
Periodontal disease, or progressive gum disease, destroys the attachment between teeth and the surrounding ligaments and jawbone. This disease can attack dental implants in the same way it affects teeth. Technically, we refer to this as peri-implantitis.
The cause of peri-implantitis is the same as the cause of periodontitis: bacteria in dental plaque. Of course, there are contributing factors that may allow increased levels of bacterial accumulation around your dental implant. These include poor oral hygiene, excessive dental cement around the implant crown, and dry mouth to name a few. In order to prevent gum disease around dental implants, you should see your dentist for consistent follow-up visits with professional teeth cleanings.
A less common, but potentially damaging, factor associated with dental implant failure is a problem with the way the dental implant crown bites against the opposing teeth. One important difference between a dental implant and a natural tooth is that dental implants connect directly to the jawbone without the tiny ligament that teeth have. This means implants have no “shock absorber” effect.
Without this force-absorbing ligament, the direction and strength of a biting force has a direct effect on the surrounding jawbone of a dental implant. If the crown built on top of the implant is hitting against the opposing tooth at the wrong angle or with too much force, you can suffer bone loss around the implant body.
Your dentist will assess and address any bite problems with your dental implant crown as you see him or her for follow-up visits and your consistent dental evaluations.
More Questions about Dental Implant Failure?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a consultation with our dental implant experts. We can answer any questions you may have about dental implants and assess your specific risk for implant failure. As we work with you, we can help you achieve the highest possible success rate with any dental implant restorations!