Can Dental Implants Decay?

man researching dental implants online

I had a dental implant placed three years ago and everything seemed fine. I healed well from the surgery and it was life as usual after that. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed some tenderness in the area and have been getting a bad taste in my mouth. I was sure dental implants couldn’t decay like normal teeth, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would explain this. Is there a chance it somehow went bad?



Dear Jacob,

You’ve definitely got something going on that needs the attention of a dentist in the very near future, but it’s probably not what you think it is.

Dental Implants Do Not Decay

They can’t get cavities like your natural teeth do. The part that extends into your jaw is typically titanium, which is specifically chosen because it doesn’t go bad and the human body tolerates it quite well. It’s used for all sorts of replacements throughout the body. The top “tooth” portion is likely ceramic (porcelain, zirconia, or similar), which also doesn’t go bad. These substances are considered “inert,” meaning they don’t react to bodily fluids or any substances around them. Titanium has been used in dentistry since the 1940s and in surgery since the 1950s. There are some ceramic objects around that are 26,000 years old. They’re excellent materials that really stand the test of time.

You Could Be Experiencing Dental Implant Failure

Dental implants have a very high success rate and you probably would have already had a problem with it by now if you were going to. However, sometimes there are issues with the healing process, how it fuses to the bone, or issues like periodontal disease that can cause trouble and result in the unit failing. You may have developed a localized infection or have something brewing in the bone and/or tissue around it. That could explain the bad taste and tenderness.

You Could Also Be Having a Problem with a Neighbor Tooth

More than likely, what you’re actually experiencing is an issue with a tooth that’s adjacent to your replacement or somewhere near it. Your missing tooth replacement is “decay-proof,” but its neighbors aren’t. A lot of dentists will really play up the longevity of missing tooth replacements, but don’t always hit home the importance of being meticulous with your remaining teeth.

Get in for an Appointment ASAP

It’s worrisome that this has been happening for months without a dentist taking a look at it yet. If it’s starting to fail, and is developing an infection, you’ll need antibiotics right away. And, if it’s a neighbor tooth with trouble brewing, then you definitely want to address it before it has a major issue and possibly needs to be replaced too. The bottom line is that you need a proper diagnosis and to address this right away. Grab the next appointment you can.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin dentist and dental implant provider Dr. Steve Sirin.

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