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Understanding the Risks and Complications of Dental Implant Treatment

When deciding whether to pursue dental implant treatment, patients must be fully informed about the risks and possible complications that may arise from such a procedure. Dental implants are among the most secure solutions for replacing missing teeth, but as with any medical intervention, there is still an associated risk of postsurgical discomfort and infection. It is important to be aware of the potential side effects of implant treatment to ensure that your dental experience goes well and that you can make an informed decision.

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the risks associated with dental implant treatments so you can decide if they are right for you.

Summary of the Article

Like any surgery, there are risks and complications associated with dental implant treatment. Dental implants are a method of restoring missing teeth by placing artificial tooth roots in the jaw bone.

The most common risks associated with dental implant treatment include the following:

  • Infection at the implant site
  • Nerve damage
  • Sinus problems
  • Damage to nearby structures
  • Implant failure
  • Osseointegration failure
  • Allergic reactions


The failure rate of dental implants is around 5-10% but can be reduced by having a qualified dentist and practising good oral hygiene. Other factors that increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • History of radiation therapy
  • Other medical conditions


Schedule regular dental checkups and maintain good oral hygiene to prevent dental implant infections.

What Are the Most Common Risks Associated With Dental Implant Treatment?

skillful dental technician showing anatomy of dental implant

These are the most common risks associated with dental implant treatment: 

  • Risk of infection at the implant site.
    Infection around the implant site is called peri-implantitis. When an implant is placed and not kept clean, the gums and other tissues surrounding it can be invaded by bacteria, leading to an infection. This can eventually lead to implant failure.

  • Risk of nerve damage.
    When it comes to dental implants, the placement should be precise. Drilling too deep into the jaw may lead to nerve damage. In some cases, the nerve damage can be permanent and significantly affect your daily life.

  • Risk of sinus problems.
    Sinus problems are a rare risk of dental implant surgery. This occurs when the implant is placed too close to the sinus or perforates the sinus.

  • Risk of damage to nearby structures.
    Any post or fixture added to your jawbone can risk harming neighbouring structures such as teeth and blood vessels. In some cases, the tissue damage can be permanent.

  • Risk of implant failure.
    Dental implants generally have a high success rate. However, they are still subject to either early or late implant failure. Around 5-10% of dental implants fail after surgery due to underlying health conditions or external factors.

  • Risk of failure of osseointegration.
    This can be caused by inadequate healing time and bone growth, poor oral hygiene, and insufficient jaw bone density. Factors like smoking and certain medical conditions are also risks for osseointegration failure.

  • Risk of allergic reactions.
    Although biocompatible, materials used for dental implants may cause allergic reactions in rare cases. Symptoms of an allergy include hives and bumps around the implant area, gums that are inflamed near the implant site and gum recession.

How Often Do Complications Occur With Dental Implant Treatment?

Dental implant therapy can be a beneficial and effective solution for tooth loss, with a 90-95% success rate. However, it is important to know that this type of treatment is not entirely free from risks. On average, 5 -10% of dental implants will fail;  infection, damage to nearby teeth or nerves, and implant rejection are the most common complications. These issues can usually be prevented by selecting an experienced dentist and following all aftercare instructions, especially during recovery time. Regular visits to your dentist after an implant procedure are also recommended to evaluate that the healing process is going in the right direction and make sure there are no signs of infection present.

female dentist filling in papers while talking to young patient in dental office

What Factors Can Increase the Risk of Dental Implant Complications?

While the implant is one solid piece of technology with a low failure rate, several factors may increase the odds of implant risks and complications arising during or after the dental procedure. Here are some risk factors for dental implant complications:

  • Poor oral hygiene
    Poor oral hygiene is among the most critical factors that increase the risk of dental implant complications. Not brushing and flossing regularly is an oral health risk. It leads to plaque and bacteria buildup around your tooth implant. Although these bacteria cannot cause decay of the implant, they can cause different forms of gum disease. A gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an inflammation of the gum tissue that may lead to bone loss and loosening of the dental implant.

  • Smoking
    Smoking interferes with the healing process after dental implant placement and increases the risk of infection. Because smoking constricts blood vessels, it reduces blood flow leading to slower healing. This increases the risk of infection because the implant site is left open longer. Smoking can also increase the risk of periodontal disease.

  • Uncontrolled Diabetes
    Diabetes is a chronic condition that can increase the risk of long-term complications. People with diabetes are more likely to develop infections and may have difficulty healing after surgical procedures. If you have diabetes, it’s important to watch your blood sugar levels and see your dentist and doctor.

  • Osteoporosis
    Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. If you have osteoporosis, there is a greater risk that your dental implant will not fuse properly with your jawbone.

How Can Dental Implant Infection Be Prevented?

  • Good oral hygiene
    Good oral hygiene is the key to preventing infections. An infection is caused by bacteria that have gained access to the implant site. By brushing and flossing regularly and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash, bacterial plaque is reduced, and there is a decrease in the risk of infection.

    Maintaining good oral hygiene helps preserve the function and health of your implant. Doing this ensures they last for a longer period of time.

  • Eat a healthy diet
    Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals and a healthy lifestyle will boost your immune system and keep your mouth healthy, allowing your body to fight infections easily.

  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
    One should avoid smoking as it reduces blood flow to the gums and increases the risk of gum inflammation and implant failure. Alcohol consumption should also be limited, as repeatedly drinking more than the advised limit can weaken the immune system and increase a person’s vulnerability to bacteria which cause infection in dental implants.

  • Regular dental checkups
    Regular checkups allow dentists to help patients maintain their implants. During checkups, your dentist will clean your teeth and remove plaque or tartar buildup. They will also check for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or drainage. If you have an infection, your dentist will identify the cause and provide the proper treatment.

What Can Cause Dental Implant Rejection?

Although made from biocompatible materials, titanium implants can still cause dental implant rejection. Though rare, this can happen if the body’s immune system mistakenly recognizes the foreign object (i.e., the dental implants) as a threat and sends antibodies to attack it.

Additionally, if bacteria invade and cause an infection around the dental implant sites, this can also trigger a rejection of the implant material. Furthermore, poorly designed dental implants or improper positioning can also contribute to dental implant rejection.

Lastly, some individuals may be more prone to reject a dental implant due to pre-existing medical conditions or underlying health issues that weaken the immune system. Regular checkups with your dentist are essential to ensure long-term success with dental implants and reduce any potential risks for unwanted complications such as rejection.

Can Dental Implants Damage Surrounding Teeth?

The issue of dental implants damaging surrounding teeth is a concern that many people have raised. Fortunately, if done properly, dental implants will not cause damage to the adjacent teeth during or after the procedure. However, there are circumstances in which an improperly placed or angulated implant or implant situated too close to the adjacent teeth can damage those teeth. It’s, therefore, important to make sure your dentist is qualified and experienced before undergoing a dental implant procedure to ensure that it won’t harm any of your other teeth.

What Are the Signs of Dental Implant Failure?

  • Severe pain.
    Dental implant failure may present as extreme pain, especially when chewing. This is the most telling sign of dental implant failure.

  • Gum inflammation and swelling.
    This is often the result of high levels of bacteria around the implant area and sometimes indicates an infection.

  • Loose implants.
    This is the most common sign of dental implant failure. This can happen for various reasons, including infection, bone loss, or trauma.

  • Gum recession.
    This is when the gum tissue intended to protect the implant site pulls away, exposing more of the surface area underneath. If left unaddressed, gum recession can lead to infection and eventual failure of the dental implants.

  • Signs of wear and tear.
    This can include cracks, chips, or other damage to the implant. If you notice any damage to your implant, it’s important to see your dentist immediately, as this can lead to further complications.

Contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms. Your dentist may try to save the implant, but a replacement is recommended if that doesn’t work.

Are There Any Age or Health Restrictions for Dental Implant Treatment?

The majority of patients over the age of 18 with good overall and oral health may be suitable candidates for dental implant treatment. However, some patients may need additional treatments like bone graft procedures or periodontal therapy before receiving dental implants. Dental implant therapy in patients with conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or those with a history of radiation therapy may require a different treatment approach to increase the chances of success.

Should a Dental Implant Be Replaced if Treatment Complications Arise?

If you experience complications after having dental implants placed, contact your dentist right away for further evaluation and treatment. Depending on the severity of the issue, your dentist may recommend removing and replacing the implant or taking other steps to address the problem.

Are There Any Non-surgical Alternatives to Dental Implants?

Dental implants are an effective long-term replacement for missing teeth. However, it is not for everyone. A patient may be deemed ineligible for dental implants due to age, health condition, or poor oral hygiene. Fortunately, there are non-surgical treatment options that can effectively restore the function of one’s smile.

  1. Dental Bridges.
    A dental bridge can be used to replace one or more missing teeth. It consists of artificial teeth attached to adjacent natural teeth, known as abutment teeth. Dental bridges are usually made from materials such as porcelain or ceramic, and they can last many years with proper care.

  2. Partial Dentures.
    Partial dentures consist of artificial teeth attached to a metal frame, then fitted over the remaining teeth. Partial dentures are made from materials such as acrylic or nylon and can last for several years with proper care. They are used to replace some, but not all, teeth.

  3. Complete Dentures.
    Complete dentures are used to replace all natural teeth in one arch. They consist of artificial teeth attached to a plastic base fitted over the gums. A complete denture can restore the patient’s ability to chew, speak and smile.

Final Thoughts

Dental implant surgery is a safe and common procedure with a high success rate. However, as with any surgery, there are risks associated with the treatment. The most common risks include infection, rejection, damage to surrounding teeth, and failure of dental implants.

These complications are rare but can occur. In most cases, dental implant complications can be addressed successfully without needing removal. However, in some cases, the implant may need to be removed and replaced.

If you are considering dental implant surgery, it is important to speak with your dentist about the potential risks and benefits of treatment. Our team at South Perth Dental Surgery would be happy to answer any questions you have about dental implants or any other type of dental treatment. Schedule a dental implant consultation with us today!

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