Dental implants have fast become the go-to treatment for replacing missing teeth. Not only do they create a natural-looking smile but they restore confidence and have almost the same degree of biting force as natural teeth.
You’ve probably read that implants can last a lifetime but how long do they last in reality and why does a dental implant fail? Let’s start off by explaining what a dental implant is.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root made from titanium that supports a prosthetic tooth or teeth. Embedded into the jaw at the site of a missing tooth during implant surgery, it bonds with the surrounding bone over a period of a few months to become a permanent fixture in the mouth. Once this has happened (osseointegration), the procedure is completed by topping the implant with a dental crown to restore the missing tooth.
So, how long do dental implants last?
Well, this all depends on certain factors including how good your oral hygiene is, lifestyle choices, and even where the implant is located in your mouth.
What we can tell you for definite, is that the dental implants placed into the first-ever dental implant patient back in the 1960s were still in operation some 40 years later when he passed away.
What affects how long dental implants can and do last?
Dental implants have the potential to last a person’s lifetime because they’re made from extremely strong and durable titanium and are highly engineered structures. Over the last 5 decades, advances in dental materials and technologies, have enabled dentists and oral surgeons to hone their skills and with the help of 3D computer imaging, they can place a dental implant with superior accuracy and precision into the mouth, giving it the greatest chance of survival. Aside from the crown needing replacement within 10-15 years, the titanium implant post could theoretically last 40 years or longer.
So what can and does go wrong to cause a dental implant to fail?
As with any dental treatment, various factors can impact 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 the dentist you choose since this plays a significant role in how long dental implants last.
Not all general dentists can perform dental implant surgery as it requires specialized training. This is why it’s key to do some research. Any reputable implant dentist should be happy to discuss his qualifications and level of experience. He should also be willing to discuss how many implants he has placed and how regularly he places them. If he seems uncomfortable answering your questions, then go with your gut instinct and move on to another dentist.
Dental implants to stand any chance of success must be placed into a healthy mouth i.e. one that is free of tooth decay and/or gum disease. Furthermore, it’s critical that patients pay attention to their oral hygiene following implant surgery and maintain a high level, not just immediately after implant surgery but for always. Implants can fail days, weeks, months and even years following implant surgery so you simply can’t allow yourself to take your foot off the gas. Ultimately, the success of your dental implant depends on your commitment to good oral hygiene.
While dental implants can’t develop cavities, they rely on healthy gums and bone for support. In the event a patient develops gum disease, it’s crucial that it is treated in its early stages before it has the chance to develop into periodontal disease, which can lead to bone erosion and a loose implant, Any dentist will struggle to save an implant should this happen.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking large amounts of alcohol also affect the survival rate of dental implants. Smoking can slow down the healing process and in some cases, the implant may not fuse with the bone; while bacterial plaque caused by smoking may also cause gum disease which could undermine your new implant and cause it to fail.
It’s also best not to drink alcohol until at least 72 hours after implant surgery. Alcohol causes the blood to thin which, in turn, can prevent a blood clot from forming which is needed to aid healing and recovery.
Certain medical conditions such as a weak immune system or uncontrolled diabetes can also affect the success of a dental implant. These can make a person more prone to infection and slow down the healing process. Osseointegration is a key player in the success of a dental implant and your gums need to be as healthy as possible to support the implant and ensure the longevity of the treatment.
Which teeth are being replaced
Finally, how long dental implants last also depends on which teeth are being replaced. A molar, for example, is primarily used for biting and chewing and has to withstand more pressure than say a canine tooth.
So hopefully this has answered your question “how long do dental implants last?” To sum it up, the life of a dental implant is heavily influenced by how well you care for it. To be perfectly honest, caring for an implant isn’t challenging since all it requires is a good daily routine of brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups – just like real teeth.
If you would like to find out if dental implants are a good fit for you, why not come and speak to the experienced dental team at Chesterfield Dentistry. We provide exquisite lifelike dental implant restorations using our expertise and the latest technologies. Your smile is in safe hands with Dr Melba Akinwande. To schedule a FREE implant consultation call (314) 469 6429 or book online.