Getting a dental implant is usually a very predictable and successful procedure. But like other dental procedures, it may not always work. A failed dental implant is an unusual situation, but if it happens to you there's no need to panic. Read on to learn how to recognize when your new dental implant needs additional work.
The Anatomy of an Implant
Most implants have three parts: a titanium implant body that is inserted into the bone, an attachment called an abutment, and a crown that is fixed to the abutment and aligned with your remaining teeth. Issues can develop with all three parts if one becomes loose or broken.
Implants are made of metal, but it is a biological process that allows them to function. In a process called 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 the implant is inserted.
Recognizing a Failing Implant
When bone doesn't grow properly around an implant, the main sign is often mobility. At first, the mobility may be slight and only recognizable by a dentist, but over time an implant that has failed to integrate will feel wobbly and may move when the person chews or talks. A totally failed implant will be consistently movable.
Other signs of an dental implant that has lost osseointegration may include pain, swelling or infection, but that's not always the case. If your dentist notices that your implant is mobile, they may recommend an X-ray to check on your bone growth. An X-ray of a failed implant will likely show significant loss of bone around the metal portion.
Risk Factors for a Failed Dental Implant
But what causes a failed dental implant? The success of an 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 a healing implant, while diseases like osteoporosis that attack bone strength and density can make it difficult for the implant screw to anchor. Ongoing cancer treatment may also be cause to pause an implant, writes the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, since radiation therapy for the head and neck can sometimes inhibit the bones' ability to heal.
Some medications can also put you at risk for implant failure. According to the University at Buffalo, a compound in antidepressants that affects your rate of bone metabolism can cause osseointegration problems for people who take these medications.
Dentistry IQ also notes that smoking may 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 until bone integration is complete.
The good news is that a failed dental implant is easily removed with local anesthesia. If your dentist determines that 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, your 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, your dentist may 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.
Prior to 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 is also 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.