Does Bruxism Increase the Risk of Dental Implant Failure?

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common dental issue that can have serious consequences on your oral health. But could it also be affecting the success rate of your dental implants?


If you are considering dental implants or already have them, it is important to understand the potential role of bruxism on their longevity. In this article, we will explore the connection between bruxism and dental implant failure and provide insights on how to protect your implants from this destructive habit. 


The excessive pressures exerted during grinding and clenching can compromise the implant’s integration with the jawbone, leading to potential complications.


Patients must understand the intricate relationship between bruxism and implants if they’re considering or undergoing implant treatment. Having this complete picture of your dental health will ensure both the durability and functionality of your implants. 

Understand What Bruxism Is

Bruxism is a condition characterized by the habit of excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching, most of the time unconsciously and as a result of constant stress and anxiety in daily life or from consuming too much alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, or any stimulant drugs.


However, there could also be other medical reasons behind it, such as temporomandibular joint disorders, sleep apnea, and even misaligned bites, among others.


It can occur during sleep (sleep bruxism) or while awake (awake bruxism), with the first one being more common but the latter chronically underreported. 


The constant, excessive teeth clenching and grinding, even when mild, can lead to headaches, crooked or chipped teeth, and jaw joint pain. Cases of more severe bruxism can even result in tooth loss, gum disease, and frequent migraines.

Sleep vs Awake Bruxism: What is the Difference?

During periods of sleep and wakefulness, individuals may unknowingly engage in a common oral health condition known as awake bruxism, which involves the clenching or grinding of teeth while awake, but mostly unaware and as a bad habit in response to stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, sleep bruxism involves rhythmic or sustained teeth grinding during sleep, which can be more harmful as individuals are unaware and unable to control the intensity of the grinding. They only become aware of it after the symptoms of severe sleep bruxism become too severe to ignore or the sounds of grinding teeth at night are heard by their sleep partners. 


The frequency of bruxism in certain populations varies, mostly by age and sex. Children are much more likely to grind their teeth and grow out of it in their teens. In fact, it can affect anywhere from 15% to 30% of children and only up to 10% of adults. But that still leaves millions of adults around the world suffering from many forms of bruxism.


The other issue with bruxism statistics is that sleep bruxism is very hard to diagnose and detect.


Evaluation of sleep bruxism typically involves both a sleep study and periodically checking for signs of wear and tear in teeth, along with testimonials from sleep partners. 

Tooth Loss and Other Symptoms of Severe Bruxism

As mentioned above, individuals experiencing severe bruxism will find their oral health affected in ways that might require surgery or more invasive treatment. Bruxism can lead to excessive wear and tear on the tooth structure, eventually resulting in tooth loss if left untreated.


Besides tooth loss, untreated bruxism can manifest through symptoms such as: 

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Facial pain
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Tooth enamel loss
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Sleep disorders

But what about dental implants? If bruxism is the constant, damaging pressure of teeth against teeth, then it shouldn’t be surprising it poses a danger to dental implants as well, which we’ll expand upon below. 

Relationship Between Bruxism and Dental Implant Failure

Dental implants are an excellent option for those who have lost one or more teeth after either a medical condition, accident, or chronic tooth decay and do not want to depend on dentures while also restoring full dental function.

They offer a near-permanent and sturdy replacement for your teeth while looking as if you never lost them in the first place or they regrew even better than before.


However, they’re not indestructible, and the habitual clenching or grinding of teeth can exert excessive pressure on dental implants, compromising their integrity. 


Understanding the process where the implant fuses with the jawbone sheds light on how bruxism can disrupt this crucial step in implant treatment.

How Dental Implant Treatment Works

Dental implants are typically applied through a surgical procedure where a titanium (sometimes ceramic or zirconia) post is inserted into the jawbone to serve as an artificial tooth root.


Over time, the jawbone will fuse with the implant post in a process called osseointegration. This fusion provides a stable foundation for the dental implant to support a replacement tooth. The process of osseointegration usually takes about 3 to 6 months, during which the dental implant fully integrates with the jawbone.


Once the osseointegration is complete, a prosthetic tooth is attached to the implant post, restoring function and aesthetics to the patient’s smile. Most implants have a success rate of over 95% for years after, with zero issues at all. 


However, teeth grinding and clenching are now known to endanger the implant treatment process, which is why, in recent years, the role of bruxism on rates of failure of implants has been increasingly studied and made known to implant dentistry experts. 

How Untreated Bruxism Leads to Implant Failure

Untreated bruxism poses a significant risk to the long-term success of dental implants, potentially leading to complications and implant failure. The correlation between bruxism and implant failure comes from the fact that habitual clenching or grinding of teeth exerts excessive force on the implants before they can successfully fuse with the jawbone (osseointegration), increasing the risk of failure rates.


The constant pressure from bruxism can also strain the muscles around the implant site, causing discomfort and potential damage to the prostheses. This continuous stress on the implant and surrounding tissues can compromise the stability of the implant and hinder its integration with the jawbone.


One 5-year retrospective study found that in both males and females with implants but suffering from bruxism, the survival rates of the implants after five years was between 72 and 70%. That same 5-year retrospective study found that 85 of those with partial prostheses had prosthetic complications, mostly in the form of fractures of ceramic and porcelain posts. In addition, 50 with complete prostheses showed fractures. 


Another 2016 systematic review from China also showed a strong correlation between bruxism and implant survival rates, with those who grind their teeth having much higher failure rates, while another systematic review found that bruxism even generated marginal bone loss in implant patients. 


Therefore, individuals and implant dentistry professionals are increasingly taking bruxism into account when looking to mitigate the risk of failure of implant treatment and ensure the longevity of their dental implants. 

Treatment for Bruxism

One of the priorities when trying to address the role of bruxism in relation to dental implant failure is simply to first treat the bruxism.

It’s now common for a dentist or any oral health professional to first look for symptoms of bruxism on your teeth, but you still need to mention if you believe the frequency of bruxism episodes in your life is a cause to worry, even if you don’t have many of the obvious symptoms.


Additionally, relaxation techniques and therapy, as well as biofeedback therapy, can help manage bruxism and reduce the risk of dental implant complications.

Night Guards

Utilizing night guards or mouth guards is a common treatment option recommended for managing bruxism, a condition that can increase the risk of dental implant failure. Night guards act as a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, preventing the damaging effects of teeth grinding during sleep, while mouth guards are the same but used to protect them against grinding during the day.


Night guards or mouth guards are commonly recommended to protect teeth and implants in patients from the effects of grinding or clenching, and these can be used even during the few months when the patient waits for the posts to be fused to the bone.


Dental guards, in general, help patients who grind their teeth at night or while awake have peace of mind, immediate relief from the pain, and preserve their dental implants, although it does not address the root cause of bruxism.

Stress and Anxiety Relief

To address bruxism and its potential impact on dental implant success, exploring relaxation techniques and therapy emerges as a valuable avenue for managing this condition effectively and permanently.


By incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation into the treatment plan, patients can reduce stress levels and alleviate the subconscious grinding behavior. Therapy sessions aimed at addressing the root causes of bruxism, such as anxiety or depression, can also contribute to mitigating its detrimental effects on implant treatment outcomes.


Understanding the relationship between bruxism and implant materials is crucial in devising comprehensive strategies to safeguard the longevity of dental implants in individuals prone to grinding habits.

Biofeedback Devices

What role does biofeedback therapy play in addressing bruxism as a treatment option for dental implant patients?


Biofeedback Therapy offers a non-invasive approach to help patients manage bruxism, especially at night when unconscious grinding is common. This treatment option aims to increase the patient’s awareness of their clenching habits, providing them with the tools to control and reduce the intensity of grinding.


Biofeedback therapy relies on devices that provide the grinding or clenching patient with feedback whenever they clench or grind their teeth, typically in the form of sound or subtle sensations emitted from the device. 


There are several variations of devices that monitor and review clenching, from headbands that detect clenching in the forehead to others that go directly into the mouth or just over the ear.


Patients can benefit from biofeedback by learning to relax their jaw muscles and prevent excessive pressure on their natural teeth and dental implants. Embracing this technique can lead to improved outcomes and a higher success rate for dental implant patients.

Consult Your Dentist About Bruxism Before Dental Implant Treatment

Prior to undergoing dental implant treatment, it is crucial to consult your dentist about any signs or symptoms of bruxism to mitigate the risk of potential implant failure. Bruxism can apply excessive force on dental implants, leading to mechanical complications and implant failure over time.


By discussing with your dentist about the effects of bruxism on treatment planning, they can assess the severity of the condition and recommend appropriate interventions to protect the longevity and success of your dental implants.


Early detection and treatment for bruxism can significantly reduce the risk of complications post-implant surgery, ensuring the optimal function and durability of your dental implants.


Therefore, open communication with your dentist regarding bruxism is essential for successful dental implant treatment outcomes.


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