Dental implants are a popular choice of tooth replacement. They help to create a natural-looking smile, possess almost as much biting force as natural teeth, and restore confidence and self-esteem.
You may have read many times that implants can last a lifetime. But how long do implants actually last, and what causes a dental implant to fail? Let’s kick off by explaining what a dental implant is.
An implant consists of a metal post that replaces a missing tooth root. When combined with a dental crown or artificial tooth, this, in its entirety, replaces the missing tooth.
Implant surgery is required to place the implant into the jaw at the site of the missing tooth where after a few months the surrounding bone tissue fuses with it to hold it securely in place.
Once this natural process known as osseointegration has occurred and the implant has stabilised, the procedure can be completed by attaching a dental crown to make your complete your smile.
So, how long do dental implants last?
This is a tough one to answer because it depends on several factors including how well you care for your teeth and gums, lifestyle choices, and even their location in the mouth.
- Dental implants are a long-term solution for replacing missing teeth.
- With proper care and maintenance, dental implants can last for many years and potentially a lifetime.
- Consistent oral care, including regular brushing and flossing, is crucial for the longevity of dental implants.
- Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings help monitor and maintain the health of dental implants.
- Avoiding habits such as smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle contributes to the extended durability of dental implants.
- Individual experiences may vary, but consulting with your dentist and following their care guidelines enhances the overall success of dental implants.
What we do know for certain is that the implants placed into the first-ever dental implant patient back in the 1960s were still fully functioning when he passed away, some 40 years later. Whether yours will last that long, only time will tell.
What influences how long dental implants can and do last?
As you can see, implants are highly engineered structures placed into the mouth during implant surgery and the fact that they’re made from super-strong titanium means that theoretically, they have the potential to last a person’s lifetime although the dental crown is likely to need replacing within 10 to 15 years.
Several factors influence the longevity of dental implants, making it difficult to give a one-size-fits-all answer. However, understanding these key players can help you maximize the lifespan of your smile:
1. Your Body’s Response:
- Bone Density and Quality: Strong, healthy jawbone provides solid support for the implant, while weaker or deteriorating bone can compromise its stability and shorten its lifespan.
- Overall Health: Chronic illnesses like diabetes and autoimmune diseases can affect healing and increase the risk of infection, potentially impacting implant success.
- Oral Hygiene: Regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups prevent gum disease, a major threat to implant stability. Poor oral hygiene can lead to peri-implantitis, a condition similar to gum disease that can cause implant failure.
2. The Implant Itself:
- Material and Quality: High-quality titanium implants with biocompatible properties have a proven track record of long-term success.
- Placement and Technique: Careful planning and precise surgical placement by a qualified dentist are crucial for optimal implant stability and function.
3. Your Habits and Lifestyle:
- Smoking: Smoking significantly increases the risk of implant failure due to its negative impact on blood flow and healing.
- Teeth Grinding: Clenching and grinding your teeth puts extra stress on the implant, potentially leading to fractures or loosening over time.
- Diet: Avoiding overly hard or chewy foods can help prevent damage to the implant and surrounding teeth.
4. Regular Maintenance:
- Professional Cleanings: Regular visits to your dentist for professional cleanings and checkups are vital for detecting and preventing potential problems around the implant.
- Home Care: Maintaining good oral hygiene at home with proper brushing, flossing, and interdental cleaning helps keep the implant area healthy and minimizes the risk of infection.
What causes an implant to fail?
As with any dental treatment, various factors can diminish the lifespan of a dental implant. These include:
- Choice of dentist
- Oral health
- Lifestyle choices
- Medical conditions
- Which teeth are replaced
Let’s start with your choice of a dentist, as this plays a significant role in how long dental implants last.
Not all general dentists can perform the implant surgery since it requires further specialised training. So before choosing a dental professional don’t be shy about asking for more details about their qualifications and experience. Ask how many implants he or she has placed and how regularly they place them. After all, no one wants to be a guinea pig for a dentist placing their first dental implant.
To stand the best chance of success, implants must be placed into a healthy mouth – i.e. one that has no tooth decay or gum disease. What’s more, it’s also critical that patients maintain a high standard of oral health following implant surgery and for the rest of their life. Ultimately the answer to “how long dental implants last” depends on how well you care for your mouth, teeth and gums.
While implants can’t decay or develop a cavity, they rely on healthy gums and bone for support. Should a patient not address the problem of gum disease in its early stages, it could develop into periodontal disease which has the potential to cause bone erosion and loose teeth – or in this instance a loose implant. Your dentist may struggle to save your implant should this occur.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also have a drastic impact on how long dental implants last. It’s particularly important to consider giving up smoking in the early stages of the dental implant procedure. The nicotine in tobacco smoke slows down the healing process while bacterial plaque caused by smoking can cause gum disease if it’s not treated promptly and correctly. Smoking also starves the blood of oxygen which means that infected gums can’t heal properly and the implant may fail.
It’s also recommended not to consume alcohol until 72 hours after implant surgery. Alcohol thins the blood and may affect the body’s ability to form a blood clot that is essential to aid healing.
Certain medical conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes or a weak immune system can also affect the lifespan of an implant. These can make you more prone to infection and slow down the healing process. Osseointegration is also paramount to the success of a dental implant and your gums need to be as healthy as possible to accept the implant and ensure the treatment’s longevity.
Which teeth are being replaced?
Finally, the longevity of dental implants is also affected by which teeth are being replaced. For example, a molar is used for biting and chewing and consequently has to withstand more pressure than other teeth.
Hopefully, this has answered your question “how long do dental implants last?”
Ultimately it depends on how well you care for your teeth and your overall health. Since implants are cared for in the same way as real teeth, looking after them shouldn’t present too much of a challenge.
If you would like to find out if dental implants are a good choice for you, talk to Macquarie Dental for suitable suggestions.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.