When it comes to restoring a smile, dental implants have become a popular and highly successful choice for replacing missing teeth. They offer a natural look and feel, but how do they compare to your natural teeth in terms of longevity and durability? Let’s explore the key differences between natural teeth and dental implants, including their average lifespan and how they compare to other dental restoration methods, and how to make your dental implants last a lifetime.

    According to The Cleveland Clinic,

    with proper care and maintenance, dental implants can last a lifetime.

    Natural Teeth vs. Dental Implants

    cross section of a real tooth and an implant
    Cross section comparison of a real tooth and an implant.

    Natural Teeth: Your real teeth consist of a crown, which is the visible part, and a root anchored within the jawbone. The tooth is composed of enamel, dentin, and pulp, making it a complex and highly functional structure.

    Dental Implants: Dental implants, on the other hand, are artificial tooth roots typically made of a titanium post. They are surgically implanted into the jawbone and provide a stable foundation for prosthetic teeth, like crowns, bridges or fixed/permanent dentures.

    Causes For Implant Failure

    Dental implants have revolutionized the field of dentistry by providing a reliable and long-lasting solution for replacing missing teeth. However, like any medical procedure, they are not without their potential challenges. Many things can positively or negatively affect how long dental implants last. Dental implant failure can occur for various reasons, but the top causes include:

    • Peri-Implantitis: This is a common cause of implant failure. Peri-implantitis is a condition similar to periodontal disease but affects the tissues around the implant. It is characterized by inflammation and infection of the surrounding gums and bone. Poor oral hygiene and the accumulation of plaque and bacteria largely contribute to peri-implantitis, but it can also be caused by residual cement or from overloading. (The latter two are the reasons we use screw-retained methods of attaching the teeth instead of cementing them and we only load (attach teeth to) implants that are integrated well and tightened/measured to the proper torque).
    • Poor Surgical Technique: The success of dental implants heavily depends on the skills and experience of the implant surgeon placing them. Errors during the surgical placement of the implant, such as incorrect positioning, overheating the bone, or inadequate depth, can lead to failure.
    • Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for dental implant failure. It can greatly hinder how long dental implants last by slowing down the healing process, reducing blood flow to the implant site, and increasing the risk of infections.
    • Inadequate Osseointegration: Osseointegration is the process by which the implant fuses with the surrounding bone. If this process doesn’t occur properly, the implant may not be stable and can fail. Factors like insufficient bone density, smoking, certain medical conditions, and poor surgical techniques can hinder osseointegration.
    • Infections: Infections around the implant site can compromise the stability and success of the implant. Infections can result from poor oral hygiene, smoking, or underlying medical conditions that affect the immune system.
    • Insufficient Bone Quality or Quantity: Having enough healthy bone in an implant site is essential for a successful procedure. Insufficient bone density or volume can result from tooth loss, bone resorption, or certain medical conditions, and may require additional procedures like bone grafting to prepare the site for future implant placement.
    • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions like diabetes and autoimmune disorders can affect the body’s ability to heal and may increase the risk of implant failure.
    • Overloading: Placing too much pressure on the implant too soon, such as by chewing on hard foods shortly after implant placement, can disrupt the healing process and lead to implant failure.
    • Uncontrolled Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): Individuals who grind or clench their teeth excessively (bruxism) can put undue pressure on implants, causing them to fail. A nightguard or other measures may be necessary to protect the implant in such cases.

    It’s essential to work closely with a skilled and experienced prosthodontist to ensure the success of your dental implant procedure. Additionally, maintaining excellent oral hygiene, quitting smoking, and following post-operative care instructions are critical in preventing implant failure and promoting long-term success. Regular follow-up appointments are also crucial for monitoring the health and stability of your investment and making sure your dental implants last a lifetime.

    Proper Care and Maintenance of Dental Implants Includes:

    1. Being diligent with daily brushing and flossing (2x/day)
    2. Practicing good oral hygiene (preventing gum disease)
    3. Not chewing on ice, or other really hard substances that can wear down or cause fracture of the prosthetic teeth
    4. Wearing a mouth guard for those with clenching or teeth grinding habits
    5. Quitting smoking
    6. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
    7. Seeing your dentist/dental hygienist for regular dental visits once or twice a year (as often as is recommended by them, according to your individual needs)
    8. Not chewing on hard things like pens, pencils, hard candies, etc.
    9. Not consuming foods that are hard on teeth such as tough or sugary foods
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    Lifespan of Dental Implants (Scientific Studies)

    In a 20+ year-long study we found in The National Library of Medicine, completed in 2019, which followed 337 dental implant patients, it was observed and recorded that:

    The success rate of dental implants is around 95% at the 5 year follow up (post-placement), and 90% at the 10-year follow up. The success rate of dental implants, which is defined as dental implants in function with good hard and soft tissue physiology and user satisfaction, ranges from 85.2% to 88.7% in the follow-up of 20 years.

    This indicates that both the success rate and survival rate of dental implants is extremely high.

    However, both survival rates and success rates vary across patients with different profiles, habits and medical histories.

    We have found, over decades of studies like this, that the failure rate is significantly higher among certain groups of patients. Heavy smokers, for instance. Or patients with uncontrolled diabetes, as well as those who are immunocompromised or who exhibit poor oral hygiene habits. So, the good news is that to a large degree, you have some control over this!

    How Long Do Dental Implants Last?

    The average lifespan of a dental implant is anywhere from 10 – 40 years.

    This means that most likely, depending on your age you are when you get an implant, it will last for the rest of your life. This is a permanent solution to your teeth problems. No other tooth replacement option has the ability to last that long!

    However, the restoration on top of your dental implant may possibly need replacing at some point, depending on the wear and tear you put upon them. Most implant crowns and bridges (used under average forces) last around 15-30 years and most implant dentures last 15-20 years, but this timeline varies, again, depending on the factors mentioned above.

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    Factors Affecting Longevity

    The longevity of dental implants can vary from person to person, and several factors influence how well they will last over the years. Many the key factors that can affect the longevity of dental implants are the same ones that can affect their initial success, like:

    • Oral Hygiene
    • Regular Dental Check-Ups
    • Smoking and Tobacco Use
    • Systemic Health
    • Bone Quality and Quantity
    • Dentist’s Skill and Experience
    • Proper Implant Location/Placement
    • Implant Materials
    • Overloading
    • Post-Operative Care: Following the post-operative care instructions provided by your dentist is vital for implant longevity. This includes adhering to dietary restrictions, taking prescribed medications, and maintaining good oral hygiene during the healing process.
    • Diet and Nutrition: A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, especially calcium and vitamin D, can support healthy bone maintenance and, consequently, the longevity of dental implants.

    Dental implants are THE longest-lasting teeth replacement option available today. With proper placement, good oral hygiene, occasional follow-up visits and routine maintenance, they can last decades, if not a lifetime.

    If you are missing teeth, or are facing tooth loss and replacement, we can help. As Prosthodontists, we have more training specific to tooth REPLACEMENT and RESTORATION than any other dental specialty. We’ve been in practice in Dallas for over 30 years. Our consultation is complimentary. Call us today at 214-956-9100 or fill out one of our Contact Forms and we will contact you.

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