While dental implants do have a very high success rate of 98%, complications can arise during and after treatment. Many of these issues are avoided by performing a thorough medical history and instructing patients on proper home care and maintenance. However, there are variables that may come up regardless of preparation.

What causes dental implant problems?

Dental implant vs. natural tooth with nerves

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Problems can arise with dental implants from a variety of reasons. Some can be avoided, while others occur spontaneously. Find a walk-in dentist nearby if you need emergency dental care.

Causes of dental implant failure include:

Potential dental implant complications

You should understand the potential implant complications prior to your surgery so that you can help prevent them as much as possible. Any concerns you have should be discussed with your surgeon during the consultation appointment.

Poor healing

Poor healing could be the result of someone who smokes or someone who has uncontrolled diabetes. In both cases, the body does not heal well, which can cause problems as the implant heals and tries to integrate with the bone.

A patient could also experience poor healing if they have uncontrolled periodontal disease, which is a disease of the gum tissue that destroys the surrounding bone.

Infection

While a dental implant can’t decay, it can get infected. Infection directly following dental implant surgery could be caused by a bacterial source or be caused by the same reasons for poor healing. Smoking, periodontal disease, and uncontrolled diabetes can all cause an infection of the implant during the recovery process.

Gum disease

Without proper care and maintenance, dental implants can get infected and cause gum disease, just like your natural teeth. An infected implant causes peri-implantitis, which is a form of gum disease specific to dental implants.

Peri-implantitis can be caused by improper care, dental cement (leftover from cementing the implant crown), poor implant angulation, placing an implant too close to another implant, bone loss, or poor bone quality. It can also occur as a result of systemic issues like uncontrolled diabetes and smoking.

The treatment for peri-implantitis depends on the severity of the infection, as well as the type of implant used, the location, and the amount of bone loss around the implant. The surface of the implant must be cleaned to remove the source of infection. This can be done by performing a local debridement and surface decontamination.

If the infection is severe enough and includes bone loss, the implant may need to be removed.

Implant micro-movements

Implant micro-movements are very slight (or micro) movements, which cause the implant to not integrate with the surrounding bone. It will become loose if this occurs.

One cause of micro-movements is when the implant is loaded too quickly and a crown is placed prior to osseointegration. That is why there is usually three or four months of healing time prior to placing the crown.

Nerve or tissue damage

Occasionally, nerve or tissue damage can occur during dental implant surgery. While not common, it will occur more frequently when placing an implant in the mandibular (lower) arch. If the implant is placed too deep, it can penetrate the inferior alveolar nerve.

If this occurs, the patient can experience several different symptoms: numbness, pain, or tingling. The sensation can be felt in the teeth, gums, chin, or lips. The damage to the nerve is permanent.

Sinus issues

While nerve damage is more common in the mandibular arch, sinus problems can occur when an implant is placed in the upper arch. The floor of the maxillary sinuses can often be close to the roots of your maxillary teeth. That’s why some people experience tooth pain when they have a sinus infection.

A dental implant could perforate the sinus cavity during placement. If it happens during treatment, your dental surgeon will need to place a bone graft to close the exposure. If your surgeon thinks a sinus perforation is likely or definite, they will perform a sinus lift prior to placing the implant.

Allergic reaction

Dental implants are made of titanium. If you have an allergic reaction to titanium, you will experience hives or bumps in the oral cavity, dry gum tissue, tissue inflammation around the implant, and tissue swelling. The implant will have to be removed if you have a titanium allergy.

In some cases, the body will reject the implant for reasons other than allergies.

Can you prevent dental implants issues?

Limited dental exam

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Deciding to get a dental implant is an important decision. As you may know by now, dental implants are also not the cheapest option you have to replace missing teeth - they are the best option, though. Since you are investing in your implant, you should also prepare and do everything you can to help ensure success.

Prepare for dental surgery

A variety of dental providers can place implants. You may want to research the dental specialists in your area before you decide which one you’d like to perform your dental surgery. You should also have a routine checkup at your general dentist’s office to make sure your gum tissue is healthy. You may need to have other treatment prior to the implant placement.

Consult with your medical doctor

You may also want to consult with your medical doctor, especially if you have untreated systemic conditions. As we mentioned earlier, uncontrolled diabetes can result in implant failure. If you have other autoimmune diseases, check with your medical doctor to see if there are any contraindications for dental implants.

Stop smoking

Now is a great time to stop smoking. This is another reason to consult with your medical doctor. They can provide you with the tools you need to quit smoking. You’ll increase the chance of your implant succeeding and improve every other aspect of your health.

Avoid hard foods

Once you’ve had the implant placed, avoid eating any hard foods on that side of your mouth. Hard foods are another thing that can cause implant micro-movements, even before the implant crown is placed. Try eating on the other side of your mouth whenever possible.

Perform proper oral hygiene

You’ll need to keep the tissue healthy before and after implant placement. Perform proper home care as instructed by your dentist and have routine exams and cleanings. You can brush and floss your implant just like any other natural tooth.

FAQ

Are dental implant complications common?

Complications with dental implants are rare. Implants have a 98% success rate, and 97% of them last for a lifetime. Complications are more common in patients who are unhealthy.

What symptoms may indicate dental implant problems?

You can have a variety of symptoms that may indicate problems with your dental implant. The symptom will vary with the cause. Most notably, you could experience difficulty or pain when chewing, gum and tissue inflammation, gum recession, swelling, or implant mobility.

Can your body reject a tooth implant years after placement?

It is rare for your body to reject an implant years after placement, but it can certainly happen. Also, if you have uncontrolled periodontal disease or peri-implantitis, it could cause the implant to become mobile and be lost for reasons other than being rejected by the body.

References

  1. Complications in implant dentistry - NCBI
  2. Pre- and post-operative management of dental implant placement. Part 1: management of post-operative pain - Nature
  3. Management of peri-implantitis - NCBI
  4. Methods to Improve Osseointegration of Dental Implants in Low Quality (Type-IV) Bone: An Overview - NCBI
  5. Inferior Alveolar Nerve Injuries Following Implant Placement - Importance of Early Diagnosis and Treatment: a Systematic Review - NCBI