Dental Implant Removal: Causes, Methods, Pain & Cost

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When us lay people hear dentists, doctors, surgeons, and nurses talk with each other, it can sound like a foreign language. They use lots of words ending in “itis,” “osis,” and “ology.”

When it comes to dental implants, we hear terms like “fixed” and “permanent,” but do those mean what we think they mean? Can’t dental implants be removed?

Can Dental Implants Be Removed?

Dental implants may be removed in order to change the position of overall restorative strategy or the implant fails. Typically a dental implant failure is where the implant is lost due to infection or host rejection.

The possible reasons for the failure are many, but there are two main categories: early and late failures.

Early Implant Failures

An early failure happens within the first few months after the implant placement. Whether the failure is from infection too much movement happening during the healing process, or because the implant didn’t integrate with the bone properly (called the osseointegration period), a specialist can remove the implant because it has not fused to the jawbone.

Late Failures

A late failure can happen anytime after a year from the placement. It could have failed due to infection (like peri-implantitis), too much force, or the implant just becoming loose, these are also easy to remove.

Are Some Dental Implants Easier To Remove Than Others?

The main factor that determines the difficulty of an implant removal is the jawbone quality. Generally speaking, implants in the lower jaw are more difficult to remove, but implants in the upper jaw can also be feisty too.

Another thing that can make the process more difficult is the amount of time that has passed. If it has been longer than two years since an implant, the implant will have fused more firmly and will be tougher to remove.

And yet another deterrent to removing an implant is its size. Obviously, the longer and wider an implant is, the harder it will be to get out of the jaw. On the other hand, very thin implants can be tough too because they are more likely to fracture when the specialist tries to do the removal.

Also, if an implant is near a nerve or a sinus cavity, the specialist will need to be extra careful and steady-handed. Damaging either would not be good.

Dental implants fail, sometimes within a couple months of the procedure and sometimes after a year or longer. In both cases, the implants will have to be taken out.

Dental Implant Removal Procedure

If a dental implant does need to be removed, there are two situations where the removal procedure is necessary: a non-osseointegrated implant and an osseointegrated implant.

In both cases, the removal procedure would look similar to the placement surgery. You would probably go under anesthesia and the specialist would use their tools to remove the crown (the part that looks like a tooth), take out the abutment (the part that the crown connects to), and finally remove the implant (the part that screws into the bone).

Removal Of A Non-Osseointegrated Implant

If absolutely necessary, a specialist can remove an implant that has not integrated with the bone within 48 hours of the placement. The situations that may require the removal of a non-osseointegrated implant include complications with the placement surgery, poor positioning, broken pieces of the implant, infection, or simply if the patient asks for it to be removed.

Removal Of An Osseointegrated Implant

If a dental implant has successfully integrated with the bone, it’s up to the specialist to determine if the implant should come out. Reasons for removal can include, unsatisfactory osseointegration, infections like peri-implantitis, poor positioning of the implant, or if the patient asks to have it removed.

Even if an implant has successfully fused to the jaw bone, it still may need to come out. The reasons could include infection, poor positioning, or a complete failure to fuse.

Dental Implant Removal Method And Tools Used

The tools a specialist will use to remove an implant work in a similar way to a screw and screwdriver. The tool fits into a notch or groove in the implant (the crown must first be removed) and the specialist will, basically speaking, unscrew the dental implant. They will need to drill away the bone from around the implant order to remove it.

Obviously, it’s more nuanced than that, but that’s just to give you a general idea of the procedure.

Removing Stripped Dental Implant Screws

A “stripped” implant screw is an implant that can no longer engage with the removal tool. Basically, the groove of the implant has been misshapen so much that it doesn’t match the corresponding hexagonal shape of the tool.

So what happens in this case?

The specialist will make a “slot” or a new groove in the implant. Then they will use a different tool that fits that new slot, and therefore be able to remove the implant.

When removing a dental implant, the specialist will basically do the original procedure but in reverse. They’ll remove the crown, unscrew the abutment, and take out the screw.

What To Do After Dental Implant Removal

After you get a failed dental implant removed, there are a number of follow-up options. The choice you and the dental specialist make depends on your specific situation.

But here are a few treatment options after the removal of a dental implant:

  • Getting a new dental implant: if the surgical site is clean, without infection, and has sufficient amount of bone for support, you can get a brand new implant placed right away.
  • Getting a bone graft: after the bone graft to restore bone support, it will require 4-6 months of healing before placing a new dental implant.
  • Not getting immediate treatment: the specialist may want to let the gum tissue heal for about two months before re-examining the site to see if it’s ready for a new implant. A bone graft may enter the discussion as well.
Just because you’ve had a dental implant removed doesn’t mean you’re not able to get another one.

Pain After A Dental Implant Removal

Many people wonder: is removing a dental implant painful? The short answer is yes.

You will most likely have pain after getting the implant removed, but it shouldn’t be too intense or long-lasting. The level and duration of pain you can expect is similar to when you get a tooth removed– pain that responds to medication and lasts a few days to a week or so.

If the pain persists or gets worse longer than four to five days contact your dentist right away.

Pain will happen after you get an implant removed, but it shouldn’t last longer than a few days.

Dental Implant Removal Cost

Most surgeons probably won’t charge for the removal of an implant if it’s an early stage failure. But the cost of getting an implant removed (within the U.S.) could cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000.

This range can also vary depending on if any bone regenerating procedures are necessary (like a bone graft), how many dental implants should be removed, and if a new dental implant will replace it.

It could cost up to $1,000 to take out an implant, but your dental insurance may cover some of that.

Summary

Sadly, sometimes it’s necessary to remove a dental implant. The reasons for and timing of the removal will be different for everybody, but it’s still a reality.

Hopefully, this often confusing topic is now a little clearer to you.

2 thoughts on “Dental Implant Removal: Causes, Methods, Pain & Cost”

  1. 1. What is the life expectancy of dental implants–what is expected to happen at the end of that life expectancy–and what then is planned to be done? Replacement of entire implant–or just of the crown? Or are dentists blindly using implants with no end-game plan?

    2. If we wait ten years, it is possible that dental implants may be better designed so as to be replaced at the end of their lifespan without traumatic injury to the jaw? I.e., is any research being done to make dental implants more easy to remove? It seems to me that implant screw might be made of a 2-piece system, such that an inner core might easily be unscrewed, and then the outer sheath cut away from inside–without drastic cutting of the bone. Or secondly, perhaps a material for the screw could be designed that the entire material can be drilled away. Or thirdly, perhaps the screws can be smaller. I.e.

    I.e. I am confused by two conflicting statements. On the one hand–several websites, as well as my local dentist, vaguely state that “no tooth replacement is truly permanent.” But then when I asked my dentist, so what is the plan for the end of that lifespan? He then looked puzzled and could only say that he had never replaced an implant. I persisted by asking, is an implant easier to remove than an original tooth, or more difficult? He replied, much more difficult, it would require drilling away of the surrounding bone.

    I.e. are we placing dental implants in the jaw with a life expectancy of 20-30 years–and then with the expectation that these will require traumatic surgery at that time? A time when we will be older and less ability to recover? I.e. are we surgically implanting these things into peoples jaws–with the expectation that they will need to be removed–but with no good plan for that removal? And if so–can we expect something much better to be available if we can wait ten years?

  2. I had to have an implant removed, and I believe it failed because of poor placement and misalignment with the upper teeth. It was the last molar on the lower jaw. I thought the dentist was going to unscrew it (that’s what I would have done), but he pulled it as you would a normal tooth. Now, after eight months, he tried to put a new one in, but couldn’t complete the process because the “bone wasn’t there anymore.” I feel he botched it both implanting and removing it. He says I can forget about an implant there now. I am very disappointed. The other three implants, two on the other side, are fine after almost two years. Do I have any recourse?

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