One of the biggest benefits of dental implants is their longevity. They have the potential to last a lifetime, which no other solution for missing, damaged, or diseased teeth can offer. In this article, we’ll discuss why dental implants last so long, and what patients can do to make sure they get the most out of their dental implants.
Dental implants that last a lifetime are made of durable, high-quality materials. Specifically, the implant screw is made of titanium, and the crown is made from zirconia (a durable material). These materials do not degrade overtime, so they won’t need to be replaced due to changes on their own.
When placed by a skilled surgeon, dental implants rarely have issues. We’ll talk more about placement issues (and other factors that can affect the longevity of your dental implants) later in this article.
While the exact statistic is hard to come by, research has shown that most dental implants last at least 15 – 20 years. You should keep in mind that this includes dental implants that need replacing due to placement error, and it includes dental implants of all material types, not just those with the highest quality components.
Yes. Patients have reported dental implants lasting 50 years, and there’s established research demonstrating dental implants lasting 30 years. As long as dental implants are properly cared for and appropriately placed, they can easily last decades.
No. Cavities are caused by the natural, organic material in your teeth rotting due to bacteria and poor oral hygiene. Since dental implant crowns are made from materials like zirconia, cavities can’t form. Even though patients won’t need to worry about cavities, they still need to practice standard oral hygiene to keep their gums healthy.
The three main factors that allow dental implants to last a long time are the components, materials, and proper placement.
The components of dental implants generally consist of the implant screw and the crown. The dental implant screw is permanently attached to the crown; unlike dentures, dental implants crowns do not need to be (and cannot be) removed nightly for cleaning.
As we mentioned, high-quality dental implants are made from titanium (post) and zirconia (teeth). These materials are biocompatible, which means the body typically won’t identify them as a foreign substance and reject them. Since they can safely stay in the body, without concerns of breaking decomposing, dental implants made from zirconia and titanium can last decades.
How skillfully dental implants are placed will impact their longevity, and expertly placed implants have the best chance for lasting a lifetime. There are several factors that can help you have security that your procedure is being performed appropriately, like:
- Whether x-rays or CT scans were performed
- Whether an oral surgeon is performing the procedure
- How experienced your oral surgeon is at placing dental implants (e.g., how many dental implants have they placed in the past)
When implants are placed too deeply or in suboptimal locations, nerve damage can occur, which can cause implant failure. When implants are placed too shallowly, they won’t provide a comfortable bite and can even fall out. Proper implant installation is the most important factor in determining how long your implants will last and if they will even initially fuse with the jawbone.
While we’ve touched on a few factors that can impact dental implant longevity, let’s take a closer look at factors patients should be focused on to make sure their implants last a lifetime:
If your implant crowns are made of low-grade, cheap materials (like acrylic), it increases risk of chipping and failure. You need to make sure that the materials are top quality, and specifically, you need to make sure that your implant screws are titanium, and your crowns are zirconia.
While most dental offices will offer appropriate components, it’s important to avoid components that are doomed to fail. Mini-implants, which were at one point popular, should always be avoided. They will break easily and routinely need to be replaced, which defeats the purpose of getting dental implants in the first place.
With regular dental implants (i.e., not mini-implants), they vary in length and width, and the exact size is chosen based on the specific needs of the patient. If posts are too short or too thin, they may break or become loose, which will require a dental implant replacement.
Proper placement is crucial to dental implants that last decades, and experienced oral surgeons are the best qualified medical professionals to perform the procedure. Oral surgeons have completed a surgery residency, which will help them to quickly finish placement without sacrificing quality.
Some oral surgeons (like the ones at America’s First Dental Implant Centers) are specialists in placing dental implants. The more experience a surgeon has at placing implants, the less likely there will be complications due to improper placement. For example, if implants are placed improperly, then they might not fuse with the bone. This may happen if the initial stability isn’t adequate as a result of over drilling the site or part of the implant isn’t securely placed within the bone. Additionally, implants could mistakenly be placed in the sinus cavities of the upper jawbone or nerves of the lower jawbone. It is imperative the doctor has a high level of surgical skills and experience to avoid these problems.
After dental implants have successfully been placed, it’s important for patients to follow basic maintenance procedures to help the dental implants last. Mainly, patients need to continue to follow basic oral hygiene after they have received dental implants.
While your new teeth may be immune to cavities, you still need to make sure that you take steps to avoid gum disease. If your gums become unhealthy, it can affect your implant placement, and can even cause implants to fail. As a reminder, basic oral hygiene includes:
- Daily brushing and use of a mouth rinse
- Routine visits to the dentist for cleanings (2x a year)
When properly placed and taken care of, patients won’t ever need to replace their dental implants. It’s common for dental implants to last for decades, and it’s possible for implants to last 30 years or longer.
The procedure to remove dental implants is a reversed process of when they were initially placed. First, patients are sedated (if implants are removed in our offices, IV sedation anesthesia is used). Then, the visible part of the dental implant, or the crown, is detached from the dental implant screw.
From there, the implant screw will be removed from the jaw, which will involve “unscrewing” the implant. However, your jawbone will fuse to the titanium, so it can be difficult to remove implants that have firmly fused. The procedure will likely involve removing parts of your jawbone so the implant can be more easily removed. This is a process called trephining the bone around the implant so that it can be removed.
After your original implants have been removed, patients will need to wait until their gums and jaw heal before new implants can be placed. Patients may also need a bone graft to secure new implants if a significant amount of jawbone was lost when the old implants were removed. It can take up to 6 months for your mouth to heal after implants are removed.
Once your mouth has healed from removal, then you can begin the implant process again. If you’re getting 4-on-1 full arch dental implants, implant screws will be placed during surgery, with temporary teeth placed until your gums and jaw heal. After three months, your new, permanent teeth are placed on the implant screws.
If you have to replace dental implants, you can expect at least nine months from start to finish. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to make sure that you choose a facility that you can trust to place dental implants correctly the first time, and to make sure that you follow proper dental hygiene to keep your gums healthy.
For example, at America’s First Dental, we only work with certified oral surgeons that have specific experience in placing dental implants. This helps to keep our implant failure low, and our offices rarely have to replace dental implants that we have placed.
Dental implants have very low maintenance requirements, but there are some actions you can take to make sure your implants last as long as possible:
- Continue to follow normal oral hygiene, like brushing your teeth daily, using a mouth rinse, and seeing a dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid excessive tobacco use
- Stay hydrated (drink plenty of water)
There are several factors that can cause dental implants to fail. Your oral surgeon may make mistakes, like:
- Poor placement
- Use of low-quality materials for your dental implants
- Implant posts that are too shallow or narrow to properly support your new teeth
Poor oral hygiene can also cause implant failure. Your gums need to stay healthy in order to properly support your implants. Gum disease, as well as other oral health issues that deteriorate your jawbone, can also cause dental implant failure.