Why Dental Implants Sometimes Fail

Elderly man get dental implant checked

In this comprehensive guide, we aim to reassure you that dental implants are both safe and transformative as they restore your smile and confidence. Whether you’re considering dental implants for the first time or seeking answers to specific questions, we’re here to provide you with all the information you need. From understanding the safety of dental implants and why they may occasionally fail to what you can do to ensure their success, we delve into the intricate details with optimism.

Are Dental Implants Safe?

Yes, the success rate of dental implants is generally high, with reported success rates ranging from 95% to 98% over ten years, according to various studies and clinical observations. However, some circumstances can lead to dental implant failure for various reasons. Let’s get into what causes dental implants to fail and what you can do to prevent it.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Neglecting proper oral hygiene can lead to bacterial buildup around the implant, causing infections and ultimately implant failure. This infection is called peri-implantitis, a condition similar to gum disease. Lack of proper care, smoking, and other factors can lead to inflammation that could eventually cause implant failure. However, maintaining proper dental hygiene and good health habits greatly contributes to the success of the implants.

Osseointegration failure

Successful implantation relies on the fusion of the implant with the jawbone (osseointegration). If this process doesn’t occur properly, often due to inadequate bone density or quality, the implant may fail. However, advancements in dental implant technology, materials, and techniques have contributed to improved success rates over the years. Additionally, meticulous planning, proper placement, and adherence to post-operative care instructions are essential for maximizing the chances of a successful outcome.


Smoking can significantly increase the risk of implant failure by impairing healing and reducing blood flow to the gums and bones. This can prolong the healing process after implant placement and increase the risk of complications. Smoking also weakens the immune system, making smokers more susceptible to infections. This heightened risk of infection can compromise the stability of the implant and lead to failure. Additionally, smoking has been linked to decreased bone density and impaired bone healing. Since successful implantation relies on osseointegration, the fusion of the implant with the jawbone, smokers may experience lower rates of osseointegration, increasing the likelihood of implant failure.

To improve the success rate of dental implant placement as a smoker, several strategies can be employed:

  1. Quit smoking: The most effective way to improve the success rate of dental implants is to quit smoking altogether. Quitting smoking before undergoing implant surgery and abstaining from smoking during the healing period can significantly enhance the chances of successful implantation.
  2. Pre-operative assessment: Before undergoing implant surgery, smokers should undergo a thorough pre-operative assessment to evaluate their oral health and overall suitability for implants. This may involve addressing any existing oral health issues, such as gum disease, and optimizing oral hygiene practices.
  3. Optimize oral hygiene: Smokers should maintain meticulous oral hygiene practices before and after implant surgery to minimize the risk of complications. This includes regular brushing, flossing, and using an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce bacterial buildup.
  4. Follow post-operative instructions: It is crucial for smokers to adhere strictly to post-operative instructions provided by their dental implant surgeon. This may include avoiding smoking, following a soft diet during the initial healing period, and attending follow-up appointments for monitoring and maintenance.
  5. Consider alternative treatments: In some cases, smokers may not be suitable candidates for dental implants due to the increased risk of complications. Alternative treatment options, such as removable dentures or implant-supported bridges, may be recommended instead.

By taking proactive steps to address the negative effects of smoking and optimizing oral health practices, smokers can improve the success rate of dental implant placement and maximize the longevity of their implants.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions can have varying effects on the success of dental implants, depending on the condition itself, its severity, and how well it is managed. Some common medical conditions that may impact the success of dental implants include:

  1. Diabetes: Poorly controlled diabetes can impair wound healing and increase the risk of infection, which can compromise the success of dental implants. Patients with diabetes should work closely with their healthcare providers to manage their blood sugar levels before and after implant surgery to improve outcomes.
  2. Autoimmune disorders: Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Sjögren’s syndrome can affect the body’s immune response and increase the risk of complications following dental implant surgery. Patients with autoimmune disorders may require close monitoring and coordination between their dental and medical providers to minimize risks.
  3. Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by decreased bone density, can affect the stability of dental implants by reducing the amount of bone available for implantation. Patients with osteoporosis may require additional procedures, such as bone grafting, to improve the success rate of implant placement.
  4. Cardiovascular diseases: Certain cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertension or heart disease, may increase the risk of complications during dental implant surgery, such as bleeding or cardiovascular events. Patients with cardiovascular diseases should undergo a thorough evaluation by their healthcare provider to assess their suitability for implant surgery and optimize their cardiovascular health before proceeding.

Depending on the condition and its impact on oral health and healing, modifications to the treatment plan, such as optimizing medical management or using alternative treatment modalities, may be necessary to improve the success rate of dental implants. In general, patients with medical conditions should undergo a comprehensive evaluation by their dental and medical providers to assess their suitability for dental implant surgery.

Poor Surgical Technique

Inexperienced dentists or inadequate surgical techniques can lead to improper implant placement, which may result in complications and failure. It’s important to have a trained periodontist place dental implants for several reasons:

  1. Specialized training: Periodontists undergo extensive specialized training beyond dental school specifically focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of periodontal disease and the placement of dental implants. This specialized knowledge and experience enable them to handle complex cases and manage potential complications effectively.
  2. Expertise in oral health: Periodontists have a deep understanding of the oral structures, including the gums, bones, and supporting tissues. This expertise allows them to assess the patient’s oral health comprehensively and determine the most appropriate treatment plan for achieving optimal outcomes with dental implants.
  3. Advanced techniques: Periodontists are skilled in advanced surgical techniques required for successful dental implant placement, such as bone grafting, sinus lifts, and soft tissue management. These techniques are often necessary to ensure proper implant stability and long-term success, especially in patients with compromised bone or gum tissue.
  4. Management of complications: Despite careful planning and execution, complications can arise during or after dental implant surgery. Periodontists are trained to recognize and manage these complications effectively, minimizing the risk of implant failure and ensuring the best possible outcome for the patient.
  5. Continuity of care: Periodontists often provide comprehensive care throughout the entire implant process, from initial evaluation and treatment planning to implant placement and post-operative care. This continuity of care ensures that the patient receives consistent and coordinated treatment, resulting in better outcomes and patient satisfaction.

While general dentists may also have training and experience in dental implant placement, they may not possess the same level of specialized knowledge and expertise as periodontists. For complex cases or patients with specific periodontal concerns, seeking treatment from a trained periodontist can offer additional peace of mind. It can also improve the likelihood of successful implant outcomes in the long term.

Incompatible Materials

In rare cases, allergic reactions or tissue rejection can occur due to the materials used in the implant. Currently, the most commonly used materials for dental implants are titanium and zirconia.

Titanium implants:

Titanium has been the standard material for dental implants for decades and is known for its excellent biocompatibility, strength, and durability. Titanium implants have a high success rate and are well-integrated into the surrounding bone tissue through a process called osseointegration. They are also lightweight and corrosion-resistant, making them a popular choice for dental implantation.

Zirconia implants:

Zirconia implants are a newer alternative to titanium implants and are made from a ceramic material called zirconium dioxide. Zirconia implants offer several advantages, including excellent aesthetics, as they closely resemble natural teeth in color and translucency. They are also hypoallergenic and may be a suitable option for patients with metal allergies or sensitivities. However, zirconia implants may have slightly lower osseointegration rates compared to titanium implants, and their long-term success is still being evaluated through ongoing research.

Both titanium and zirconia implants have been shown to be successful in replacing missing teeth and restoring oral function and aesthetics. The choice of implant material depends on various factors, including the patient’s individual needs and preferences, the location of the implant, and the recommendations of the dental implant surgeon.


Placing excessive pressure on the implant during the healing process or after it has integrated with the bone can lead to failure.

The amount of pressure or load that a dental implant can withstand before breaking or becoming damaged depends on various factors, including the type of implant, its size, design, and the quality of the surrounding bone.

In general, dental implants are designed to withstand the forces exerted during normal chewing and biting activities, which typically range from 150 to 250 pounds of pressure. This is similar to the force exerted on natural teeth.

However, it’s essential to note that excessive forces, such as those resulting from teeth grinding (bruxism), clenching, or chewing on hard objects like ice or hard candies, can increase the risk of implant failure or damage. Additionally, inadequate bone support or improper implant placement can also compromise the implant’s ability to withstand forces.

To minimize the risk of implant failure due to excessive pressure or load, it’s crucial for patients to:

  1. Follow post-operative care instructions provided by their dental implant surgeon, including dietary restrictions and guidelines for oral hygiene.
  2. Avoid habits that can exert excessive force on the implants, such as teeth grinding or using teeth as tools to open packages.
  3. Wear a custom-made nightguard if bruxism is a concern, as this can help distribute forces evenly and protect the implants from damage during sleep.
  4. Attend regular dental check-ups to monitor the health and stability of the implants and address any issues promptly.
  5. Maintain good oral hygiene practices to prevent gum disease and ensure the longevity of the implants.

By following these guidelines and working closely with Dr. Scharf, patients can help ensure the long-term success and durability of their dental implants.


Physical trauma to the implant site, whether due to accidents or injury, can cause implant failure. For example, a direct impact to the implant site, such as a blow to the face or mouth during a sports-related injury or accident, can cause damage to the implant or surrounding bone. Similarly, habits such as teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching can exert excessive force on the implant over time, potentially leading to damage or implant failure.

To minimize the risk of implant damage from trauma, patients should:

  1. Wear a custom-made mouthguard during high-risk activities such as sports to protect the implants and surrounding teeth from injury.
  2. Seek prompt treatment for any trauma or injury to the face or mouth to assess the condition of the implants and address any damage or concerns.
  3. Avoid habits that can exert excessive force on the implants, such as teeth grinding or using teeth as tools to open packages.
  4. Follow post-operative care instructions provided by their dental implant surgeon to ensure proper healing and stability of the implants.
  5. Maintain good oral hygiene practices and attend regular dental check-ups to monitor the health and integrity of the implants and address any issues promptly.

By taking these precautions and working closely with Dr. Scharf, patients can help minimize the risk of implant damage from trauma.


Infections can occur during or after the implantation procedure, leading to inflammation, bone loss, and eventual failure.

While complications such as infection, implant failure, or bone loss can occur, they are relatively rare when implants are placed by an experienced professional, like Dr. Scharf, and when patients maintain good oral hygiene and follow-up care. Overall, dental implants have proven to be a reliable and effective long-term solution for replacing missing teeth and restoring oral function and aesthetics for many individuals.

If you have questions about dental implants and want to talk to Dr. Scharf, one of the best periodontists (implant dentists) in Long Island, NY, call today to schedule an appointment.

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