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Failed Dental Implant Symptoms: Early Warning Signs and What to Do

failed dental implants symptoms

If you have recently gotten dental implants, one thing you need to be vigilant about is dental implant failure, or, more specifically, you need to watch out for failed dental implant symptoms.

These signs of implant failure may be apparent or hidden, but they’re literally the only means to spot the failure in the initial stages and halt it before it progresses to an irreversible stage. Therefore, recognizing these signs is crucial for the longevity of your oral health as well as for the preservation of the investment you’ve made in getting implants.

In this blog, we’ll explore dental implant failure and discuss its early signs. We’ll also discuss what steps to take if you suspect your implant is failing.

What Is Dental Implant Failure

In simple terms, dental implant failure refers to the loss of connectivity/integration between the implants and the surrounding jawbone, causing the implants to become unstable and eventually resulting in implant loss. Although the occurrence rate of failed dental implants is quite low compared to the success rate of dental implants, it’s still a possibility that implant recipients should be mindful of.

The failure can happen shortly after implant placement (in which case the failure is termed as ‘early failure’) or it can also happen years after the implant placement (in which case the failure is termed as ‘late failure’).

Whether the failure is early or late, it’s important to get to its root cause and treat it accordingly. The following are the main causes of dental implant failure:

  • Implant infection (more specifically, the type called peri-implantitis) causes severe deterioration of the soft and hard tissues surrounding the implants.
  • Insufficient bone density around the implants, leading to poor osseointegration (jawbone fusion with implants).
  • Poor oral hygiene, leading to gum disease and peri-implantitis.
  • Smoking, as it impedes healing and hinders blood flow to the gums.
  • Medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, immune disorders, or bone disorders all of which interfere with implant healing and integration.
  • Improper placement or inadequate sterilization of implants.
  • Premature placement of the prosthesis (artificial teeth) on the implants, leading to excessive force on the implants and gums.

Failed Dental Implant Symptoms That Show Up Early On

Dental implant failure doesn’t just pop up all of a sudden; it follows a trajectory where it first shows subtle signs and failed dental implant symptoms, and then those signs gradually intensify before they culminate into a full-fledged failure (leading to implant loss). The good part about this is if you catch the failure in the early stages, there’s a very good chance to reverse it completely. This becomes possible by being aware of the early signs of implant failure, which are as follows:

Pain And Discomfort 

Persistent or worsening pain (not moderate pain – which is normal and expected) after implant surgery could be an early sign of implant failure. The pain becomes all the more concerning if it’s concentrated around the implant site and escalates to the level of being unbearably sharp and throbbing. Such pain is usually indicative of the underlying cause behind implant failure, like an infection or poor osseointegration.

Inflammation And Swelling 

While some swelling and inflammation is expected after implant surgery, it should naturally subside after a few days. However, if the swelling persists and worsens around your implant denture, then it may indicate an underlying issue (like an allergic reaction or an infection) that may potentially lead to implant failure. If the inflammation is accompanied by pus and discharge, then it’s a definitive sign of an advanced stage of peri-implantitis, which could surely lead to implant failure if left untreated.

Gum Recession/Implant Exposure

Normally, your implants would hide behind your gums and appear almost virtually invisible. However, in case of an early failure, your gums may start receding (i.e., the gum tissue would start detaching from the underlying bone), thereby revealing the implant posts. This can either be due to bone loss or infection, both of which jeopardize the implant’s stability.

Implant Mobility 

A healthy implant should be firmly positioned in your jaw (like natural tooth roots) and shouldn’t move or feel loose. However, if you feel like your implants have suddenly started to feel loose or mobile, then it’s a pretty clear indication of an implant failure. This could also lead to changes in your bite, which further confirms the presence of early implant failure.

Difficulty Chewing 

Implants are designed for the very purpose of restoring normal oral function, including chewing and eating. Hence, if you feel like you’re having difficulty chewing or experiencing discomfort/pain while chewing, then your implants could possibly be experiencing an early failure.

What To Do If You Suspect Early Implant Failure 

Now that you have the necessary foreknowledge required for the detection of early implant failure, it’s time to get educated on what steps to take for timely confirmation of the diagnosis and for appropriate treatment. Here’s what you should do about it:

Contact Your Dentist 

Consult with your dentist/surgeon as soon as possible – they’ll take a detailed account of your symptoms, clinically assess your implants, and prescribe an appropriate treatment based on the failure’s underlying cause. This may include antibiotic therapy (to treat implant infection), bone grafting (to add volume and strength to the deteriorated jawbone), surgical intervention (for cleaning the implant site in case of the presence of irritants), and implant removal or replacement (in severe cases). 

However, if it’s not possible for you to consult your dentist immediately, then it’s advised to continue practising proper oral hygiene in the meantime to prevent further bacterial invasion near the implant site, thereby keeping the infection (if there’s one) from worsening. Use an antibacterial mouthwash to keep the area clean. Also, avoid biting on hard/crunchy foods to prevent trauma to the implants. You should also avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, as it may worsen the symptoms.

Take Medications As Prescribed 

If your dentist prescribes antibiotics or painkillers, then make sure to take them as prescribed. Do not discontinue the medication without the approval of your dentist, even if you feel like your symptoms have improved after a few doses. Discontinuing the medications prematurely may lead to the recurrence of the symptoms.

Conclusion 

Despite its rare occurrence rate, dental implant failure is a possibility that every implant recipient should be wary of. Being aware of the early signs of implant failure and knowing what steps to take can help ensure the success of your dental implants.

For more insights into dental implants and their post-surgical complications, book a FREE consultation with Atlanta Implant Clinic, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Our team of qualified implant surgeons will provide you with tactful advice related to your implant health, helping you preserve your healthy and beautiful smile for years to come.

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