Recognizing the Signs of Dental Implant Failure: What to Watch Out For

dental implant failure

Dental implants are generally considered a very safe and durable option for tooth replacement, with an average lifespan of 10-30 years. However, as with every dental treatment, implants can’t be said to have a 100% success rate (it’s simply impossible to guarantee 100% success for any treatment). Hence, implants, too, possess a very natural (yet small!) risk of failure. Considering this, every implant recipient should educate themself on the signs of dental implant failure to get their implants fixed before the situation gets too complicated. Recognizing these signs will save the patient’s time and money in the long run and potentially keep him from the grave oral health consequences of prolonged failure.

This blog will explain the signs of implant failure and provide tips on preventing it.

Implant Failure: How Much Is The Risk?

Dental implants offer an effective and long-lasting solution for replacing severely decayed, damaged, or missing teeth, boasting an impressive survival rate of 90-95% after a 10-year follow-up period, according to certain studies. This means that dental implants have an average failure rate of about 5-10%.

If the failure rate of implants is viewed in comparison to that of other restorative treatments (recorded for the same amount of time as for implants), then we’d realize that it’s much lower. For example, the success rate of traditional crowns after a 10-year follow-up period is 80%, making its failure rate almost 20%, which is way higher than that of implants. This explains why people are now shifting to getting implants instead of traditional crowns or bridges.

However, despite the risk being low, it’s still there, and you should do everything in your power to prevent it. Knowing the early signs of failure is one of the ways you can prevent it.

What Are The Signs Of Dental Implant Failure 

Following are the early signs of dental implant failure, which you must be wary of. If you notice any of the following signs, report them to your dentist at the earliest so you may escape the potential complications associated with it.

Unbearable Pain And Discomfort 

While some pain and discomfort are a normal part of the healing process after getting implant surgery, it shouldn’t be to the extent of being severe or unbearable. But how do you figure out if the pain you’re experiencing is within the normal limits or above it? Well, it’s simple. If you feel pain only for the first few days after implant surgery, and the pain subsides with painkillers, then it’s most likely normal pain, and you have to worry about it. However, if the pain suddenly pops up many days after the surgery, is excruciating, and you feel like you can’t stand it, then it’s a big red flag (i.e., a sign of implant failure)! 

Recession And Inflammation Of The Surrounding Gums 

Imagine you’re brushing/flossing your teeth, and you notice that the teeth on your all-on-4 dental implants seem unusually long; upon closer observation, you further notice that the surrounding gums also feel inflamed. What should you do in this situation? The answer is to report to your dentist as soon as possible, as gum recession and inflammation are very common (and serious) signs of implant failure. The good news is there are very specific and identifiable causes for gum recession following implant treatment, and you and your dentist can prevent it from happening by preventing the underlying causes (more details on this in the next section!).

Difficulty In Chewing And Biting Normally 

Permanent dentures should feel as natural as your own teeth, and therefore, you should be able to chew and bite with them as you do with your natural teeth. If you feel any difficulty or uneasiness while biting or chewing with your implant, it may be a sign of failure which you shouldn’t ignore. This sort of difficulty is similar to the one you’d feel while biting down with a broken/cavitated tooth and hence should be addressed before it gets worse.

Sudden Shift/Loosening Of Implant 

 Implant dentures that are done correctly integrate so naturally with your gums that you won’t even feel their presence in your mouth. However, those that aren’t positioned correctly or those that have loosened over time will occasionally or continuously irritate you, wobbling around the mouth as you eat or talk. This is a very important sign to watch out for implant failure and also the easiest sign to detect, as it requires no analysis or close monitoring whatsoever.

Unanticipated Allergic Reactions

While implants are made up of biocompatible materials (titanium, zirconia, and the like), some people might still experience allergic reactions to implants, either because their body is having trouble adjusting to the material of the implant or because it’s rejecting the material altogether. The most common symptoms of this is loss of taste or smell or tingling in the mouth. If you experience any of these symptoms, report them to your dentist for a better and more timely prognosis.

Prevention – Knowing The Signs Of Dental Implant Failure

Implant failures don’t happen by default; they arise from certain risk factors. The following are the most common risk factors for implant failure:

  • Bruxism – this condition involves excessive teeth grinding, and the forces resulting from such grinding make it difficult for implants to integrate with the surrounding bone, possibly resulting in implant failure.
  • Osteoporosis – this condition involves brittle and porous bone structure. People with Osteoporosis, therefore, have low bone density/mass, and hence, their gums will not be able to support implants, which may result in implant failure.
  • Other conditions (besides Osteoporosis) that cause poor bone structure.
  • Peri-implantitis – an inflammatory condition where excessive and uncontrollable amounts of bacteria accumulate in the oral cavity, causing damage to the tissues supporting the implants, and eventually leading to implant failure. 
  • Smoking – slows down the implant healing process and also contributes to peri-implantitis.
  • Poor treatment execution (including wrong positioning of the implant, premature loading of the prosthesis, etc.). 

By educating yourself on the above-mentioned risk factors, you and your dentist can take appropriate measures to prevent implant failure. For example, if the patient has poor bone structure (resulting from Osteoporosis or any other related condition), the dentist can perform bone augmentation procedures on him as a preventive measure for implant failure. Similarly, the patient can cut down on smoking and other destructive habits to let the implants have a successful healing and retention. Since dental implants usually carry a significant cost, it’s best to ensure the signs of failure are checked promptly.


While the failure rate for dental implants is very low, it’s still a cause for concern among many implant recipients. The signs of implant failure that every implant recipient must watch out for include extreme pain/discomfort, gum recession, and inflammation, trouble chewing and biting, unanticipated allergic reactions, sudden implant movement, etc. These signs of failure are caused by certain risk factors, which include medical conditions (like Bruxism, Osteoporosis, and Peri-implantitis), smoking, and poor implant execution.

Prevention is better than cure, and preventing the risk factors would ultimately mean preventing the implant failure altogether. You can do so by consulting a highly experienced and trained dentist who can easily identify and propose solutions for these risk factors. Book a FREE consultation today with San Francisco Implant Clinic, a premium dental clinic located in San Francisco, California. Our expert team of dentists will make sure you have a satisfactory, long-lasting and absolutely stress-free implant treatment from start to end!

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