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A dental implant is a structure that can help to replace a missing tooth. The implant itself is placed into or onto your jawbone, serving as an artificial tooth root. A prosthetic tooth called a crown is attached to the implant.

Generally speaking, a dental implant is designed to be a permanent fixture in your mouth. In fact, studies have reported a 90 to 95 percent success rate of dental implants over a period of 10 years.

However, it’s also possible for a dental implant to fail in the months or years following its placement. There are several factors that can contribute to this.

Let’s explore:

  • how long implants last
  • why they may fail
  • how a failed implant is treated

Dental implants are intended to be permanent. This is because they interface directly with the jawbone, becoming bonded with surrounding bone tissue through a process called osseointegration.

When osseointegration is complete, the material of the implant and the surrounding bone have fused. Because of this, the implant can serve as an artificial tooth root, forming a solid foundation for a prosthetic tooth.

While the implant itself is designed to be permanent, it’s possible that the crown attached to it may need to be replaced due to normal wear and tear. About 50 to 80 percent of crowns may need to be replaced in 15 to 20 years.

There are two main types of dental implant.

Endosteal implants

Endosteal implants are the most common type of dental implant and look like small screws or cylinders. They’re often made from titanium but can also be made of ceramic.

These implants are inserted directly into your jawbone, typically using a two-step process. You’ll be given anesthesia during the procedure so you won’t feel any pain.

First, your surgeon will make an incision in your gums. They’ll then carefully drill into your jawbone to create a space for the implant.

After the implant is placed, your jawbone and gums will be allowed to heal. A crown is typically attached to the implant using a metal post called an abutment during a follow-up visit.

In some cases, an additional procedure may be needed prior to placing an endosteal implant. The aim of this is to provide the new implant with a sturdier foundation in your jawbone. Some examples of such procedures include:

Subperiosteal implants

Subperiosteal implants are placed under the gums and on top of the jawbone. They consist of a metal framework with small extensions that protrude slightly from the gums. These implants are typically recommended for people who:

  • do not have enough healthy jawbone for the placement of an endosteal implant
  • cannot or do not wish to undergo an additional procedure, such as a bone graft, prior to the placement of an implant

As with endosteal implants, anesthesia is used while placing subperiosteal implants. Implant placement is a multistep process.

The first step involves taking a jawbone impression. This is done so that the implant fits properly when it’s placed. Your surgeon will have to make an incision to expose your jawbone in order to take an impression.

When the area has healed, it’s time to place the implant. After making an incision in your gums, the metal frame of the implant is placed so that it sits on top of your jawbone.

During a follow-up visit, crowns can be placed onto the metal implant frame. These are attached to the small extensions that protrude from your gums.

Mini dental implants (MDIs) are narrower than other types of dental implants. They have a diameter of less than 3 millimeters, which is about the same as that of a toothpick.

Because they’re smaller, MDIs may be placed in areas with less available bone. Additionally, unlike regular dental implants, it’s a less invasive or easier technique.

Many times, MDIs are used to help secure removable dentures. They may also be used to help replace single, small teeth.

MDIs are designed to be permanent, lasting as long as other dental implants. However, scientific evidence regarding their long-term success is limited.

A 2019 systematic review looked at four studies of MDIs supporting a single crown. Over a follow-up period of 3 years or less, the researchers found no difference in longevity between MDIs and standard dental implants.

While dental implants can last a lifetime for many people, in some cases, they can fail. Generally speaking, implant failure typically happens when something interferes with osseointegration or the healing process.

Factors that may cause implant failure to occur include:

Insufficient care and maintenance

Oral hygiene is just as important for implants as it is for your actual teeth. Accumulation of plaque can lead to gum disease, which can damage both your gums and jawbone.

When plaque buildup affects the area around an implant, it’s called peri-implant disease. The early stages of peri-implant disease are reversable. However, if it’s left untreated, it can progress to a condition called peri-implantitis, which can lead to implant failure.

Because of this, it’s important to practice good oral hygiene when you have an implant. This includes:

  • brushing at least twice a day
  • flossing daily
  • limiting your intake of sugary foods
  • visiting your dentist for checkups every 6 months

Insufficient bone

Endosteal implants need to remain stably anchored in your jawbone. Because of this, it’s possible for an implant to fail if there’s not enough jawbone present to effectively secure it in place.

Prior to implant placement, a thorough examination of the jawbone is performed. This can include X-rays and 3D modeling to help determine the bone quality of the potential implant site.

If insufficient bone is present, some people may opt to undergo a procedure like bone grafting or sinus lifting prior to receiving an endosteal implant.

Bone loss over time can also destabilize an implant. This can be due to things such as:

  • peri-implant disease
  • osteoporosis
  • other medical conditions that impact bone health


It’s been found that dental implants have a lower success rate in people who smoke. In fact, some research indicates that overall implant failure rates are 11 percent in smokers, compared with 5 percent for nonsmokers.

Smoking may cause implant failure because it can interfere with blood flow to the affected area, negatively impacting osteointegration and the healing process. Smoking is also a risk factor for gum disease.

Teeth grinding

If you grind your teeth or experience any occlusal trauma, it can cause fracture of the implant, loosening or fracture of the screw, or fracture of the porcelain on the crown. This is because the repeated grinding motions — or trauma — can cause tiny movements of the implant, which can interfere with the osseointegration process.

Medical conditions

Several medical conditions have been associated with dental implant failure, including:


Dental implants may be more likely to fail in older adults. This is because they may have other underlying medical or bone conditions. Healing may also be slower in older adults.

Medications or treatments

Some medications or treatments can also influence implant failure. These include:

An inexperienced surgeon

It’s important to have an experienced surgeon place your dental implants. An inexperienced surgeon can contribute to implant failure via:

  • poorly designed implants
  • improper placement of the implant
  • tissue trauma during implant placement
  • attaching a crown before an implant is stable

It’s important that you see your dentist or periodontist if you have symptoms that point to a failing implant. Some potential signs of implant failure to look out for include:

  • an implant that moves
  • pain, particularly when you’re biting or chewing
  • signs of peri-implantitis, which can include the following symptoms around the implant:
    • redness
    • swelling
    • bleeding
    • receding gums
    • pus

An implant that’s failed can be removed using local anesthesia. Sometimes an implant can be replaced. Some research has found that replacing single dental implants at the same location has an overall success rate of 71 percent.

In situations where bone loss has occurred around the implant, a bone graft may be needed to help regenerate bone tissue before a new implant can be placed. In this case, it may be several months before you receive your new implant.

If you choose not to replace or cannot replace a failed implant, there are other potential treatment options. These can include dental bridges or dentures.

Peri-implantitis may be treated without removing an implant if significant bone loss hasn’t occurred. This involves a thorough cleaning and decontamination of the implant and the surrounding area as well as a course of antibiotics.

Dental implants are designed to be permanent. This is because implants interface with your jawbone, becoming bonded with the surrounding bone through osseointegration.

In some cases, dental implants may fail. This can be due to a variety of factors.

A failed implant can sometimes be replaced, but there are other treatment options available if needed. See your dentist or periodontist if you have signs of implant failure.