Dental Implant Failure – What Causes It?

Bedford dentist, Dr David Nolte, explains how to minimise the risk

Dr David NolteThe success of dental implant placement is very high and failures are rare, particularly where the procedure has been completed by trained and experienced professionals.

However, failures can result where implant procedures and materials are less stringent, for example in some countries overseas.

Due to the strict regulations surrounding implant placement in the UK, this is unlikely to happen, but it still makes sense to do your research and seek out clinicians with a proven track record.

Although implant failure is very rare, it can be distressing when it does occur. Dental implants are a significant but very worthwhile investment when it comes to replacing missing teeth, so it makes very good sense to take good care of them when placement is complete.


An important part of dental implant treatment is the planning stage. This requires a thorough examination and a discussion with the patient about their lifestyle and even their eating habits. Not everybody is immediately ideal for implants, although with some lifestyle changes, this can change. A good example of this would be a patient who smokes but agrees to stop smoking for a period of time either side of the treatment. However it should be stressed that starting again increases the risk of periodontal diseases and will put the implant at risk.

Where oral health issues are detected during the initial examination, it is usually necessary to treat these. For example, where gingivitis or periodontitis is present, there is no point in placing the implant without treating it first as there is a high chance that the osseointegration of implant and bone would be unsuccessful and failure would occur.

Occlusion problems

During the initial healing stage following the treatment, a new dental implant is vulnerable to damage and we always advise patients to start by eating liquidised or very soft foods (yoghurts etc). It is important to transition to harder foods very gradually so as not to put undue stress on the teeth.

When we examine your teeth before your implant procedure, we will look for signs of excessive force being used in certain areas of the mouth. This may not necessarily have occurred when eating and could be a result of clenching or grinding your teeth together, a habit known as bruxism. If this cannot be controlled, the patient may not be a suitable dental implant candidate.

Soft tissue problems

Whilst a lot has been written, and quite rightly, about the importance of healthy bone for an implant to be placed into (please see our previous blog post), the same applies to the soft tissue of the gums. As we mentioned earlier, it is important that there is no gum disease when the implant is placed. Previous gum disease though may have resulted in gum recession which could leave the ‘root’ part of the implant more exposed, not only potentially visibly, but also exposed to bacterial infections of the surrounding bone tissue.

Where gum recession is present, we may need to consider a gum graft before implant placement can proceed.


Looking after dental implants is obviously important. We have written about this before but to briefly recap, should include.

  • Keeping them clean. We will offer immediate aftercare cleaning advice at the time as you won’t be able to brush them initially. Life time good cleaning is important and patients should never presume that because it is a ‘false tooth’ nothing can go wrong. It can.
  • Smoking puts your dental implant at risk as well as your general health. Hopefully your new smile will spur you on to make an effort not to start again.
  • Excess alcohol can also have a negative effect and increase the risk of periodontal problems. Try to keep to advisory levels.
  • Make sure to see your dentist as requested for follow up checks and ongoing routine dental examinations. Never neglect this important factor.

Ongoing hygienist care

As part of your ongoing oral health care, you should have your gum health checked and managed by seeing our dental hygienist. In many cases, this will be on a six monthly basis, but we will advise the required frequency.

Even the most diligent patient who does everything that they can to keep their new implant healthy, can have a change in medical circumstances. Diseases that are more likely as we get older may lead to us taking medications or having treatment that can have a knock on effect on our oral health. Please be honest with our dental and hygiene team when we ask for updates on these matters. They are really important to ensure that you receive the best care possible.

We started this blog by saying implant failure is very rare, and especially where the patient looks after them and follows our advice. Implants are a fantastic way to replace any missing teeth and offer a strength and longevity that other methods simply cannot. If you have missing teeth or currently wear dentures and would like to find out more about implants as an alternative, why not arrange to have an initial consultation at The Dental Centre Bedford by calling us on 01234 819868. Our team will be pleased to advise.