How long do dental implants last? No doubt you would like to know the real answer to this question if you either have dental implants already or are planning on having this particular form of cosmetic dentistry in the near future. After all, the entire point of getting implants is to achieve a beautiful and healthy smile, so of course, you want your new implants to last for as long as possible.
In this article, we will be getting into all of the different factors affecting how long dental implants last. We will also be talking about what you can do on a personal level in order to ensure that your dental implants serve you for as long as possible.
Without further ado, let us get right down to the facts.
Why implants are the best permanent solution for missing teeth
Getting dental implants is by far one of the best missing tooth replacement options available today. Traditional dentures used to be the standard tooth replacement option for missing or damaged teeth, but dental implants offer several advantages.
Unlike dentures, dental implants are permanently affixed in your mouth, so you never have to worry about them falling out, which can of course be both awkward and embarrassing. On the contrary, dental implants both look and function much the same as natural teeth.
Dental implants allow you to maintain or improve your smile, making it whole and healthy again if you have suffered tooth loss whether due to a preexisting medical condition, an accident or any other reason.
Dental implant surgery is considered a minor surgery, and in most cases, you will not even need to take any time off work. The dental implant procedure involves the dentist placing a metal screw in the gum tissue where the natural tooth is missing. The screw is there to replace the natural tooth roots, so that a prosthetic tooth, also called a dental crown, has something to be attached to. The screw eventually fuses with the jaw bone, which helps to hold it permanently in place.
Provided that all goes well during the healing process, the screw itself is going to last a lifetime, while the porcelain or titanium crown on top will have to be replaced every decade or so, even if you take the greatest care of it. This is due to the normal wear and tear that comes from chewing, biting, grinding your teeth and so on.
In other words, there are no truly permanent solutions to replacing missing teeth, but getting implants is the closest thing to a permanent solution you can get. Getting your crown or crowns replaced every ten to fifteen years is a minor inconvenience compared to the constant struggle of living with dentures, or the imperfect smile and oral health challenges that come with having missing teeth.
Top factors influencing the longevity of dental implants
There are several factors that can influence how long your dental implants last. Some of these factors are within your personal control, while others aren’t. We recommend reading this section of the article carefully and paying close attention to what you can do to ensure the longevity of your dental implants.
The most important factor that you can control is your oral hygiene level.
If you consistently practise excellent dental hygiene, you will already have done much to ensure that your dental implants are going to last longer. It follows that if you have poor oral hygiene, your implants are at a much higher risk of never healing properly in the first place, or getting infected once healed.
Maintaining great overall dental hygiene involves daily brushing and flossing. You should also make a point of heading to the dental office for checkups every six months as recommended, so your implant dentist can see how your implant is doing.
Yes, that’s right. The quality and mass of your jaw bone can influence how long your dental implant is going to last. If your bones are brittle or compromised due to a medical condition such as osteoporosis, or if your jaw bone is simply very small, the screw that your dental implant hinges on may not able able to be lodged securely in place in your jaw.
In some cases, insufficient bone mass or quality can be circumvented by the dental surgeon performing a bone graft or a sinus lift.
If you are a smoker, you probably do not want to hear this, but it is the truth: Smoking can have a tremendous negative effect on how long your dental implant can last. There are several reasons for this.
Smoking deprives your body of oxygen, which slows down your healing process and leaves your newly installed dental implants more vulnerable to infections. To be perfectly frank, the failure rate of dental implants is much higher in smokers than in non-smokers, with only five percent of dental implants failing in non-smokers and approximately 11 percent of smokers’ dental implants failing.
And not only is smoking bad for your implants in the short term, it is also a risk factor for gum disease in the longer term.
Teeth grinding can be problematic when you have dental implants. While your implants are certainly able to withstand biting, chewing and so forth, grinding your teeth at night is going to wear your dental implants down much faster, and may even prevent your implant from healing well in the first place.
A note on preventing dental implant failure
Implant failures, though fortunately very rare, still occur five to ten percent of the time.
Hopefully, after having read the previous section of this article, you feel well equipped to take great care of your new dental implants so that you can avoid rejection or functionality issues.
To reiterate, the most important things you can do to prevent dental implant failure are to:
- Quit smoking. If not permanently, then temporarily will do. Even if you are a very heavy smoker, you should avoid smoking, including vaping and chewing tobacco, for at least 12 hours prior to dental implant surgery, and 72 hours following the procedure.
- Practice great oral hygiene. Brush your teeth, including your implants, thoroughly twice a day. Use dental floss at least once a day.
- Never skip checkups. Don’t get tempted to skip dental checkups. Even if you feel that everything is going great, your dentist may be able to spot any burgeoning issues with your implant (As well as with your overall dental health).
How long dental implants last FAQ
Can dental implants last forever?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. The metal screw that replaces the natural tooth roots can last a lifetime if properly cared for with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. The artificial tooth, however, is unlikely to last much longer than 10-15 years due to wear and tear accumulated by chewing, grinding your teeth and so on. In other words, the screw itself is likely to last forever, but the crown on top will have to be replaced every decade or so.
Can dental implants get cavities?
No, fortunately, dental implants cannot get cavities. The reason for this is simple; dental implants are not real teeth. They are often made of porcelain or titanium, both sturdy materials that are not susceptible to cavities.
But even though your dental implants cannot get cavities, you should still be practising good oral hygiene and clean your implants just like you would natural teeth to avoid other dental problems such as bad breath and gum disease.
What is the failure rate of dental implants?
Fortunately, it is very rare for dental implants to fail. The failure rate overall is somewhere between five and ten percent.
Dental implant failure can occur right after dental implant surgery, or months or years later. The symptoms of dental implant failure to watch out for are discomfort and pain, particularly while chewing and biting, shifting or moving implants, swollen gums or gum recession around the implant. If you have any of these symptoms, or worse, a combination of them, contact your dentist right away.
Do tooth implants need to be replaced?
Yes, tooth implants will have to be replaced now and then. In most cases, the metal screw going into the gums will never have to be replaced as it fuses to the jawbone, but the artificial tooth attached to it is going to wear down over time, due to natural wear and tear. You should expect the artificial tooth having to be replaced every ten to fifteen years.
Taking excellent care of your new dental implants as well as your oral hygiene and health overall is key if you want your artificial teeth to last for as long as possible.
While there are factors that you cannot directly influence or control, there are also several things you can do to ensure your implants last for as long as they possibly can. To recap, the most important things you can do are to take excellent care of your oral hygiene every day, go to all of your dental check ups, and quitting smoking if you are at all able to.