Can Dental Implants Be Removed?


A dental implant is a medical prosthetic, and given enough time or the wrong conditions, it can fail, fracture, or cause problems that require removal.

The Reality of Implant Failure

Around 5-10% of dental implants fail shortly after being placed. Another 20% or so fail after 5-10 years as issues like peri-implantitis (inflammatory disease), cement problems, fractured crowns/abutments, or simply having been placed in poor bone led to slow degradation.

So, all told, probably 1 in 4 implants will require dental removal or revision during the average patient’s lifetime due to biological or mechanical failure. Those aren’t great odds for a “permanent” tooth replacement.

Of course, it pays to view this with the right perspective. Even having a 75% success rate for 10+ years is better than the alternative of having missing teeth and all the functional, aesthetic, and biological costs missing teeth incur.

But still, the fact is that a decent chunk of implants simply doesn’t make it through the decades ahead problem-free. When implants fail, dental implant removal becomes necessary.

Don’t Try This at Home – Leave Dental Implant Removal to Professionals

The first rule of removing a failed dental implant is don’t do it yourself!

It can’t be stressed enough – do not go to your mirror with a pair of pliers and try extracting your own implant. Leave dental implant removal to trained professionals who have the right skills and tools.

Why? Because dental implants are firmly integrated into your jawbone when they successfully Osseo integrate. Ripping them out with brute force will only lead to trauma, jawbone fractures, nerve damage, and a bloody mess.

It requires surgical instrumentation, CT-guided techniques, trephines, and piezo surgery to properly remove an integrated implant fixture while preserving the surrounding bone.

So, resist the temptation of reversing dental implants on your own. Do it the right way by finding an experienced implant general dentist instead.

Proper Dental Implant Removal: The Implant Extraction Procedure

When a dental implant needs to be removed due to failure/fracture, here are the typical steps:

  1. Imaging and planning – CT scans are taken to evaluate the bone levels, angulation, and proximity of the implant to nerves and sinuses prior to removal. This allows the surgeon to anticipate challenges and plan the best surgical approach.
  2. Anesthesia – The area is profoundly anesthetized with local anesthesia and perhaps other sedatives if minimal IV sedation is being employed. Pain management is crucial.
  3. Soft tissue reflection – The gums are reflected open via a surgical flap to expose the defective implant and surrounding bone.
  4. Cutting tools – To disrupt osseointegration, the surgeon will use a trephine drill or piezo surgery unit to cut a circumferential line in the bone around the implant body. This allows the “release” of the implant from the bone.
  5. Extraction – Removal torque is applied via an implant mount attachment on the fixture to then fully extract the implant body out of the jawbone socket.
  6. Grafting/Closure – The empty socket is debrided, disinfected, and very often grafted with bone graft material to preserve the existing bone levels. The soft tissue is sutured closed.

In simpler failed implant cases, the above process may be easier. However, in more complex cases with fractures near nerves or angulated implants, the extraction may involve additional adjunctive CT guidance, bone removal, or sectioning of the implant itself before the final removal of the dental implant through surgery.

Of course, all of this still involves surgery, anesthesia, surgery time, potential complications… much like the initial implant surgery itself. It’s not pleasant, but it exemplifies the level of care needed. Here are the before and after of dental implants surgery.

Options After Removal of Dental Implant Surgery Procedure

So you’ve had a failed dental implant properly extracted. Now what?

Well, that empty socket left behind needs to be managed carefully while it heals over months. And then you’re faced with a decision on what to do long-term about that persistent gap in your mouth:

1) Leave it alone – This is technically an option, albeit not a great one unless you’re simply done pursuing implant tooth replacement. Gaps from missing teeth increase bacterial accumulation, food trapping, drifting of teeth, and excess bone loss over time.

2) Removable partial denture – A cost-effective way to replace the missing tooth is to have a removable plastic partial denture made that has a false tooth on it. However, these don’t feel quite like real teeth and can be cumbersome.

3) Dental bridge – By preparing the teeth on either side of the gap, you can have a fixed three-unit bridge placed that has a false tooth attached to dental crowns on the anchor teeth. This avoids having a removable prosthetic.

4) Redo the implant – If enough healthy bone remains after healing, you may choose to have another implant placed in that same site and start over fresh with this replacement tooth option.

None of these solutions are as good as keeping your real teeth. But among them, redoing the implant is usually the most optimal if your mouth conditions still allow it.

Final Implant Removal

In some severe cases, dental implants may need to be removed without the possibility of replacement, especially if:

  • The patient has become severely unhealthy and unable to undergo surgical procedures
  • Advanced periodontitis disease leaves insufficient bone to stably anchor implants
  • The patient can no longer financially keep up with the treatments required

When this “pulling the rip cord” point is reached, it means waving the white flag. All remaining implants are removed, and the patient must settle for a full removable denture as their only tooth replacement prosthetic going forward.

It’s not an ideal outcome that anyone wants. But after fighting the good fight for implant retention as long as responsibly possible, a time may come when choosing to remove all implants is the most prudent decision left for a patient’s limited means and health status.

Key Takeaways – Some Food for Thought

Dental implants are amazing biomedical marvels that have revolutionized modern tooth replacement. But anyone considering them needs to understand that:

  • They are not necessarily permanent despite the confident marketing claims
  • 1 in 4 will likely require removal/revision during most patients’ lifetimes
  • Failed implant removal is real oral surgery requiring professional skills
  • You may end up with more bone grafting, healing times, and costs down the road
  • Having implants removed can feel like a painful, costly, undoing of years of effort

The savvy prospective implant patient keeps their expectations realistic. Even if magic of implants ultimately give 10-20 years of relatively trouble-free service, you have to be willing to start over from scratch periodically.

Maybe future implant biomaterials will eliminate this need for removal and revision over time. But for now, understand it’s part of the turf you sign up for long-term.

If you have the patience to self-manage continuous implant maintenance, monitoring, cost reinvestments and redo procedures as needed, wonderful! If not, other tooth replacement options (despite their own flaws) may better suit your preferences.

Contact Us

If you have any other questions about dental implant removal, reversing implants, or want to schedule a consultation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office. You can call us during regular business hours at (713)-364-1985. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you make the right choices for your smile!