What causes implant failures?

Success rates for implants are high and continue to improve

People’s fear of visiting the dentist is well known and it is thought that more than 80% of us feel at least some apprehension about our visits. It is perhaps because of this that many people look at the potential downsides of dental procedures and especially things that can go wrong (when in truth they rarely do). Perhaps it is the British way of looking at things; to think the worst so that we are generally happier with the results.

Of course, it is also right to be as fully aware of all facts about the dental procedure that you are about to have, especially if this is a long term procedure such as a dental implant. It is also possibly because a lot of people are still not familiar with what dental implants are and find it hard to believe that it is a highly successful procedure when they hear about it.

So, implantologists are never surprised to hear a patient ask how likely a dental implant is to fail, as opposed to succeed. They are always highly delighted to be able to tell them that the success rate of dental implants is actually around the 98% mark. This usually brings a sense of relief but of course, once again a lot of people will focus on the 2% that are deemed to be ‘failures’ and ask what happens if they are one of the 2%.

So, who are the 2% and why does this procedure sometimes fail? Of course, it is possible that there are a few dentists who may not be as skilled as others and this may be a cause in a very minute fraction of this figure, but overall, it is nothing to do with the skill of the dentist at all as training to place a dental implant is both lengthy and detailed. Prior to a dental implant being placed, a consultation is held with the patient and x-rays and scans are taken to determine if they are suitable candidates for a dental implant. If they are not, corrective procedures, such as a bone graft, beforehand may be suggested or perhaps an alternative to replace their teeth if they are not suitable at all. This means that everyone who has a dental implant is usually a good candidate for a successful procedure.

Whilst there are some genuine reasons for implant failures such as generally poor health and side effect of some medicines, the biggest factor perhaps is when patients ignore the dentists advice. One of the biggest factor in implant failure is if a patient smokes and is a heavy drinker. All good dentists will insist that their patient ceases smoking and drinking heavily for a period of time either side of the procedure. This ensures that the gums stay in good health and that blood can flow freely in the area to aid the healing process.

Naturally, we can only strongly advise patients to stick to this and warn them of the consequences should they fail to do so, however, it is entirely in their hands as to whether they carry out the dentists recommendations. Those that don’t are at a much higher risk of rejection and whilst there doesn’t appear to be an exact figures on it currently, it is generally thought that if those who smoke and drink against their dentists advice were removed from the statistics, the success rate of dental implants would be above 99%. Hopefully this indicate a very positive outcome for anyone considering having dental implants provided that they follow their dentist’s instructions.