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Unveiling the Longevity: How Long Do Dental Implants Last?

woman looking at X-rays image of patient's teeth

Dental implant treatment is a popular and common tooth replacement option because of its durability and longevity. It involves placing metal posts into the jawbone to act as natural tooth roots.

But do dental implants last forever?

If you’re considering this treatment, it’s important to know about the dental implant lifespan and the risk factors that influence it. This helps you decide whether they’re a good option for you.

What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are tiny, screw-like titanium posts inserted into the jawbone beneath the gum line through minor surgery. They provide stability and strength to prosthetic teeth, such as a dental crown, bridge, or full or partial dentures. After the dental implant placement, an osseointegration process occurs wherein the implants fuse with the jawbone.

Depending on your condition, the entire dental implant procedure can take up to eight months or more. Aside from the surgery, it involves an initial consultation, developing a treatment plan, x-rays of the jawbone, abutment placement, placement of replacement teeth, and follow-up care.

Benefits of Dental Implants

  • Improved appearance. Dental implants closely resemble natural teeth, providing a more aesthetically pleasing smile. They are designed to blend seamlessly with your surrounding real teeth, enhancing facial features and restoring a natural look.
  • Boosted confidence and self-esteem. Dental implants can significantly impact an individual’s confidence and self-esteem. Restoring a complete and attractive smile helps you feel more comfortable in social and professional situations, improving your overall quality of life.
  • Enhanced functionality. Unlike removable dentures, dental implants function like natural teeth. They help restore your abilities to eat and speak comfortably without worrying about slippage or discomfort.
  • Prevention of jawbone deterioration. When a tooth is lost, the underlying healthy jawbone can start to deteriorate due to lack of stimulation. Tooth implants act as artificial tooth roots, which stimulate the jawbone and help prevent bone loss. This helps maintain the jaw’s structural integrity and preserves the overall facial appearance.
  • Improved oral health. Teeth implants don’t require support from adjacent teeth, unlike dental bridges. This means nearby healthy teeth need not be altered or compromised to accommodate the implant. Preserving the natural teeth can contribute to better oral health and reduce the risk of potential complications in the future.
  • Long lifespan. This procedure is a durable and long-lasting option to replace missing teeth. They can last longer than other tooth replacement options with proper oral hygiene habits and regular dental check-ups. This makes it a cost-effective investment for your oral health.

How Long Do Teeth Implants Last?

While it depends on many factors, the average lifespan of dental implants is between 15 to 25 years. According to an extensive 20-year study, the 17-year survival rate for dental implants is 93%. This provides valuable insight into the long-term success and durability of dental implants.

The following are the factors that affect your dental implants’ longevity:

1. Implant Material and Quality

The type and quality of the implant material used can impact its longevity. High-quality implants have been shown to have better long-term success rates.

2. Dental Hygiene Practices

Proper care for oral health is important for dental implants’ longevity. Make sure to maintain regular dental care practices, including brushing, flossing, and routine dental check-ups to help prevent the risk of gum disease (or periodontal disease) and maintain implant health.

3. Bone Quality

Adequate bone density is essential for successful implant placement. If the jawbone does not have enough volume or quality, dental implants may not be able to integrate properly, which could lead to failure.

4. Lifestyle and Diet

Unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, can negatively affect the success rate of dental implants. Maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding excessive chewing forces can help protect the implants. Additionally, sticky foods, such as caramel and taffy, should be avoided.

5. Overall Health

Systemic health conditions like diabetes and autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis), can impact the healing process and contribute to dental implant failure. Inform your dentist about any medical conditions you may have during your consultation visit.

6. Dentist’s Experience

An inexperienced surgeon can lead to a lesser success rate for dental implants because of the complexity of the procedure. Make sure to choose an experienced and skilled dentist who has successfully placed and maintained dental implants to avoid the risk of complications.

7. Bruxism

Excessive clenching or grinding of teeth at night (bruxism) can put excessive pressure on the implants, potentially leading to implant failure. Using a nightguard or other protective devices can help mitigate this risk.

Why Do Dental Implants Fail?

  • Peri-implantitis. This is a condition characterized by inflammation and infection around the implant site. Poor oral hygiene, using tobacco products, and certain medical conditions can increase the risk of peri-implantitis, leading to loose implants.
  • Failed osseointegration. Osseointegration refers to the process in which the implant posts fuse with the jawbone. If this process fails, it can result in implant instability and eventual failure. Factors such as insufficient bone density, poor surgical technique, or excessive forces on the implant can contribute to failed osseointegration.
  • Infection. Infections can occur during or after the implant placement process. Bacterial contamination, improper sterilization, or poor oral hygiene can lead to infection, compromising the success of the implant.
  • Poor bone quality. The density and quality of the underlying jawbone play a crucial role in implant success. Insufficient bone volume or poor bone quality can hinder proper implant integration and stability.
  • Surgical complications. Errors in surgical technique, such as improper implant positioning or damage to surrounding tissues, can increase the risk of implant failure.
  • Medical conditions and lifestyle habits. As mentioned, certain systemic health conditions can impair the healing process and increase the likelihood of implant failure. Also, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact implant success.
  • Excessive forces. As mentioned, excessive biting forces, teeth grinding (bruxism), or trauma to the implant area can put undue stress on the implant, leading to failure.

Final Thoughts

A dental implant procedure is a type of tooth restoration that can be an excellent and long-lasting option to address tooth loss. With proper care, excellent oral habits, and regular dental check-ups, implants can last up to 25 years or more. However, it’s important to note that this is not a permanent tooth replacement treatment, and implants must be replaced or adjusted over time.

It’s best to consult your implant dentist or oral surgeon about the best option for you and your unique circumstances.