Dental implants are a popular way to replace missing teeth. They are durable and look natural, but how long do tooth implants last? Several factors could affect the longevity of implants, causing them to fail immediately after dental implant surgery or further down the line, so let’s look at them in more detail.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a surgically implanted post used to support crowns, bridges, and dentures. It mimics a tooth root and is inserted into the jawbone, where it fuses with the bone and provides a secure base on which to mount the replacement teeth. When replacing missing teeth, more people are turning to dental implant surgery because they provide permanent, stable, and natural-looking alternatives to other tooth restorations, such as dentures.
An implant consists of three parts:
1. The Implant—typically a titanium screw-like post placed surgically into the jawbone.
2. The Abutment—fastens the implant to the crown (replacement tooth).
3. The Crown—is attached to the top of the abutment to look and function like a natural tooth
As the crown is above the gum line and responsible for biting and chewing, it is more common for this to be damaged in the same way that natural teeth can be. Therefore the crown part of a tooth implant will typically last less than the implant itself. Unless there is an injury or trauma that affects the implant, there is no reason why dental implants shouldn’t last a lifetime with good care.
So, if implants can last for this long, what factors affect their longevity and potentially cause an implant to fail? How long do implants last if conditions cause them to start failing?
Factors affecting how long implants last
According to widespread research, dental implants have a success rate of 95-98%, but this is generally because meticulous consideration ensures that candidates for dental implant surgery are suitable. That said, no surgery can ever be guaranteed. Unanticipated complications can arise from the procedure itself or factors related to the patient, including changes in their health, not following instructions after surgery, or not maintaining a thorough oral hygiene routine.
The following are some of the leading causes of implants failing and not lasting as long as they should.
Poor oral hygiene
Dental implants are not affected by tooth decay like natural teeth. However, you must maintain an excellent oral hygiene routine to ensure that the rest of your mouth is healthy. Brushing and flossing help remove the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. If gum disease is allowed to progress to periodontal disease, the other supporting structures of the teeth—including the bone—are attacked. This results in bone loss, which can spread unfettered along the jawbone if there are no interventions to stop its progression.
Bone loss eventually causes tooth loss, and dental implants can also be lost if the bone that keeps them in place is diminished. So, if you’re concerned about how long do implants last, be sure to maintain an excellent oral hygiene routine and visit the dentist regularly for check-ups.
Smoking is one of the most significant factors in shortening the life of dental implants. Smoking diminishes blood flow, which is how nutrients and cells that fight infection are moved around the body. Following dental implant surgery, nutrients must get to where they are needed to help heal and prevent infection around the surgical site. If this process is disrupted and an infection develops, the implant may fail even before it has had a chance to establish.
Furthermore, even if you are a smoker and continue to smoke after dental implant surgery, the long-term effects of smoking can lead to implant failure further down the line, whether it’s one or ten years later. Smoking increases plaque build-up that causes gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis). Smoking also affects saliva production. Saliva helps to rinse away harmful bacteria and food particles, and without it, gum disease and tooth decay can increase.
If you develop a medical condition, such as diabetes, this may affect how long your dental implants last—particularly if your blood sugar is poorly controlled.
Diabetes reduces saliva production and causes dry mouth. This can lead to oral health problems because the mouth is overrun with harmful bacteria that are usually washed away in the saliva.
Other conditions, including teeth grinding (bruxism) which may be due to anxiety, can also be detrimental to dental implant longevity.
It is always best to speak to your dentist at the earliest opportunity if you have been diagnosed with a new medical problem to find out if either the diagnosis or any medication or treatment required will have repercussions for your implants.
Some prescription drugs and cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can cause a dry mouth, as can antidepressants, antihistamines, and certain pain medications.
Peri-implantitis is an inflammatory condition that affects dental implants in a similar way that gum disease affects teeth. Symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, and eventual bone loss around the implant. Treatment often involves a combination of antibiotics, oral hygiene instructions, and surgical debridement. If not treated, peri-implantitis can significantly reduce a dental implant’s lifespan, and it may even require removal.
Dental implants are a great way to replace missing teeth. They are durable and can last for several decades or more. If you consider dental implants, it is essential to understand how their long life can be affected by specific circumstances and what you can do to ensure they last a lifetime. If you’d like to find out more, contact us on (02) 9159 6237 to arrange an appointment.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Healthline – How Long Can You Expect A Dental Crown To Last
Mayo Clinic: Oral health: A window to your overall health
Colgate: Signs of a failed dental implant
American Academy of Periodontology: Peri-Implant Diseases