Lifespan of Dental Implants
When deciding how to replace missing teeth, it’s important to consider how long your prosthetic teeth will last. Depending on your situation, options may include dental implants, dentures, temporary partial dentures, and bridges.
Of all these options, dental implants are the most permanent and durable option for replacing missing teeth. When cared for correctly, dental implants can last for up to 25 years or longer. Dentures and bridges often require replacement due to breakage, or regular adjustments due to shifting mouth structure and issues with comfort. With successful dental implants, you can expect several decades of use with no special care or upkeep beyond that required with your natural teeth.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are artificial teeth that are permanently attached to your jawbone. They consist of three components: the post, the abutment, and the crown.
The process for placing dental implants involves three steps.
The first step is placing a small titanium post into the jawbone. This requires removing the tooth’s original root, then drilling into the jawbone and placing the post. To hold the post in place, new bone must grow around it. This process usually takes around two months.
After the post is secure, the second step is to place a piece called an abutment onto the post. The abutment is screwed onto the post above the gums. This piece is the foundation onto which the crown will be secured.
The final step is securing the crown onto the abutment. Once placed, the crown looks and acts like a natural tooth and will be customized to fit your mouth.
Factors That Affect How Long Your Dental Implants Will Last
Dental implants can last longer than two decades if there are no complications—much longer than other tooth replacement options. How long your dental implants will last are influenced by many factors, including who performs the procedure, oral hygiene, diet, lifestyle, medical conditions, and the implant’s location in your mouth.
- Oral Hygiene. Just like your natural teeth, dental implants will last longer if you practice good oral hygiene—brushing and flossing at least twice a day and keeping up with regular dental appointments and preventive care. It is important to maintain excellent oral hygiene to assure your dental implants last as long as possible.
- Who Places the Dental implants. Dental implants placed by a dentist who is skilled in this procedure generally have a longer lifespan than those placed by a surgeon who is less experienced. Selecting the right dental health professional is an especially important factor in the success and longevity of your dental implants.
- Lifestyle, Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption can damage the mouth and affect the lifespan of your dental implants. In addition to smoking and drinking alcohol, using your teeth to open packages, or otherwise chewing on substances other than food—such as a pencil, for example—will cause wear and tear on your implant and reduce their lifespan.
- Medical Conditions, Some medical conditions and diseases can affect how long your dental implants will last. The most common conditions that reduce the lifespan of your dental implants include diabetes, cancer, gum disease, autoimmune diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- When you first get your dental implants, certain medications can also affect how successful the implant procedure will be and how long they will last. It is important to speak with your dental health professional about which medications you are taking if you decide you would like to pursue the option of dental implants.
- Placement in the Mouth. Even with normal use, good dental hygiene, and no underlying conditions, dental implants in the back of the mouth generally have a shorter lifespan than those in the front of the mouth. This is due to how much pressure they are subjected to during normal eating.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Dental Implants
Dental implants provide numerous benefits over other tooth replacement options, but also come with drawbacks.
- Longevity, durability, and stability
- Even distribution of pressure caused by eating, which protects your bone structure in both the upper and lower jawbones
- Increased ease in speaking
- Easier eating and no dietary restrictions
- A natural physical appearance
- More comfortable compared to other tooth replacement options
- Better oral health
- More convenient and easier to care for—implant care is the same as how you would care for your natural teeth
- Increased confidence in your smile and appearance
- Dental implants can serve as the base for other dental work
- A small possibility of error when dental implants are placed
- Possibility of infection or excessive bleeding
- Risk that the implant may move
- A chance of increased jaw deterioration for people who are at higher risk for this complication
- Occasionally, a crown may become cracked or broken and need to be replaced
Cost is often an important factor in deciding between dental implants, dentures, or other solutions. Dental implants are generally more expensive than dentures or other tooth replacement options. However, over the long term they are affordable options since they are more durable, require fewer adjustments, rarely need replacement, and require no special tools or cleansers. In general, once your dental implants are placed, stable, and working, the upkeep and frequency of dental appointments required for dental implants are essentially the same as if they were your natural teeth.
There are many options to replace missing teeth and deciding which option to pursue relies on many factors that are individual to you. It is important to have a detailed discussion about all options with your dental health care professionals. They can help you understand the full range of benefits and drawbacks of each possible solution for your specific situation and help make sure you choose the right option for you.
Should you and your dentist agree that dental implants are the right option for you, you can be confident that your new teeth will look good, function well, and be a durable, long-term solution for your new smile.