Dental Implant Failure

Why do some dental implants fail?

Dental implants have been a tremendous step forward in tooth replacement, providing patients with not only the appearance, but the functionality, of natural teeth. Patients with successful dental implants report increased self-esteem and confidence in social situations, along with renewed ability to speak and chew comfortably. Nonetheless, implant surgery, like all surgery, carries risks. There have been many malpractice lawsuits filed by patients for whom dental implants were not successful and/or for whom the implants caused other problems.

Which patients are good candidates for dental implants?

It is important for patients to be screened for several issues before undergoing implant surgery.  Dentists who perform dental implants are trained specially in that aspect of dentistry and should always check their patients for:

  • Psychological difficulties
  • Behaviors that may affect implant procedures, like smoking and alcohol usage
  • Bone and soft tissue quality and quantity, preferably with cone-beam technology

Recent studies have also shown that patients who are taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, particularly if they have been taking such drugs over a long period of time, have a greatly increased risk of implant failure, so this factor should also be taken into account.

Reasons for Dental Implant Failures

Even with the advanced dental technologies now available, such as cone beam planning and guided implantation, dental implants can still fail for a number of reasons. Of course, the more highly trained and experienced the dentist is, the better the chances for success, but even patients who research their dentists’ history and track record carefully sometimes get into trouble with the dental implant procedure. Some of the reasons for dental implant failures are surgical and some are failures in communication. They include:

  • Poor planning
  • Poor bone quality
  • Improper angulation
  • Nerve injury
  • Improper placement relative to adjacent teeth
  • Infection

When nerve injury occurs after a dental implant, it most commonly affects the mental nerve, the nerve controlling sensation to the chin and lower lip.

Consequences of Improper Implantation

When dental implants fail, there are biological, as well as psychological, consequences.

Biological Consequences

When dental implants fail, physiological changes occur, involving bone loss and soft tissue loss. This creates a need for major surgical procedures to reconstruct previous bone volume in order to have it reach a level that makes reimplantation possible.

Unfortunately, some of these procedures become complicated medically and require hospitalization. It may be necessary, for example, to harvest bone from a secondary site or to use a bone substitute or growth factor product. Not only is this likely to be painful and time-consuming, but it will add a great deal of expense to an already very expensive procedure. In some cases, implant dentists will absorb the cost of replacing a failed implant. This is something the patient should check at the outset.

Psychological Consequences

Apart from the disappointment that accompanies any failed procedure, there are other psychological consequences. Some patients take the fact that the dental implants have failed as a personal defeat and become depressed, not to mention discouraged at the renewal of uncomfortable, costly procedures.  If they are unable to undergo a reimplantation and must transition to a fixed or removable denture, they may suffer from feeling prematurely old and/or unattractive.

Procuring dental implants, widely advertised as a simple solution to tooth loss, is not nearly as easy as the media would have us believe. If you have suffered the physical, emotional, and financial consequences of failed dental implants, you should contact a malpractice attorney who has skills and experience in dental malpractice.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.