What Is the Failure Rate of Dental Implants?

Every surgery presents the risk of infection and other complications. With that in mind, are dental implants prone to failure, and if so, how often does it occur? Much of what has been concluded about implants leans towards them having fewer instances…

Every surgery presents the risk of infection and other complications. With that in mind, are dental implants prone to failure, and if so, how often does it occur? Much of what has been concluded about implants leans towards them having fewer instances of failure rate. But it has also been shown that how well patients follow their orthodontist’s instruction before, during, and after play a massive role in a successful dental implant.

Before looking at the failure of dental implants it’s great to have an understanding of why they are used and how they are placed. This will give a better glimpse into possible failures that may occur.

Implant failure can be divided into two categories. Early failure describes the situation when an implant is placed but fails to integrate (become solidly embedded into the bone). Late or long-term failure describes the situation where an implant has integrated solidly, but after many months or years, there is bone loss around the implant.

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What is a dental implant?

If you are looking for a solution to a missing tooth or teeth, dental implants provide a firm structure to secure an artificial tooth too. A dental implant is placed within the jaw bone, usually, it is screwed into place after the surgeon drills a small hole. The implant then is allowed time to integrate with the jawbone to essentially become a permanent fixture inside your mouth.

Once the healing process is completed, a crownbridge, or denture can be attached to reveal a natural-looking artificial tooth. The dental implant process can take months to complete, due to the waiting time for the bone to heal and the implant to settle into its place.

For most patients, this type of procedure offers the greatest benefits with the least amount of risks. But there are some issues that can arise after your implant is placed, and some of these problems can lead to implant failure.

What causes dental implants to fail?

For most patients who undergo dental implant surgery, the success rate is 95% for implant longevity of up to ten years. Contributing factors that cause implants to fail are divided into short-term and long-term failures.

When an implant fails it means it is not staying where it was placed. This means it could work its way out of the bone or completely come out of the gum. In most cases, dental implants are placed directly into the jaw bone. Failure is typically due to not having enough bone to support the implant, or the bone loss occurring around the tooth implant. There has to be an adequate amount of bone to work with otherwise the implant will wiggle its way out. If your oral surgeon suggests having a bone graft, and a patient declines this can lead to failure. Bone grafts can be an essential part of the process, they can also mean more time needed to heal.

When you receive a dental implant there will be a cut made into your gum line. This opens you up to infection. The top reason for implant failure is due to infection. If it isn’t controlled the implant will either need to be removed or it will not stay in place. Even though a surgeon can take all the precautions necessary to reduce the risk of infection, it is the patient’s job after surgery to keep the area clean.

The onset of peri-implantitis, or bone loss, can also cause the implant to fail. Peri-implantitis can happen at any time. It could be as short as a week or happen years after the implant has been placed. Peri-Implantitis is an inflammatory disease that restricts blood flow to the bone, causing it to decay. The good news here is this disease doesn’t happen very often. However, if it does occur, it is very difficult to treat. Placing the implant incorrectly, or in an area with not enough bone to support the implant is a leading cause of the inevitable implant failure.

Risk factors for failure happening quickly can include smoking, medications, poor blood supply, poor oral hygiene. Rushing the process can also cause an implant to fail. If your dentist attaches the artificial tooth too soon after the implant has been placed can cause the implant to shift. The implant needs sufficient time to integrate, not giving it proper time and moving forward too quickly can lead to problems.

Long-term risk factors can include bacterial infections, grinding of the teeth, poorly designed procedure, and again bad oral hygiene. Not properly cleaning your teeth can leave food behind near the implant which can break down the seal and cause implant failure. In addition to failure, you can put yourself at risk for a bacterial infection because the area becomes a veritable breeding ground, this will also apply to bone loss. When more bone is lost it will create a space for bacteria to nestle and can end up being painful.

A patient can greatly reduce their risk of implant failure if they follow their dentist’s instructions for care. While not every failure can be prevented, you can help ensure you are giving your implants the best chance possible. Staying on top of brushing and flossing can help significantly. All in all the failure rate for dental implants has been shown to be rather low, especially when the dentist uses the appropriate number of implants for space, and carefully places in areas with sufficient bone to support the implant and artificial tooth.

Stephen Nozaki, DDS, MPH, DIDIA

Dr. Stephen Nozaki is the owner and lead dentist at Image Dental in Stockton. He is a dedicated professional born and raised in California's Central Valley. With a commitment to his community, he brings advanced dental techniques learned from extensive education and continuous training from around the world. A third-generation Japanese American, Dr. Nozaki has a rich background that includes international living and a deep passion for both dentistry and outdoor activities. His focus in dentistry aligns with his passion for cosmetics and dental implants.