How long do dental implants last?

Dental Implants are a popular treatment option if you need to replace missing or damaged teeth. They can help you to achieve a natural-looking smile, improve your comfort and give you a new sense of confidence. If you have missing or damaged teeth that you would like to correct, then dental implants can be an excellent solution. But you may be wondering, are they permanent? How long do dental implants actually last?

Dental implants are designed to be a permanent solution to tooth loss and they can last between 20 and 30 years. However, their lifespan depends entirely on how well you look after your teeth and your oral hygiene.

Dental implants consist of a titanium ‘root’ which is embedded in your jawbone to replicate the root section of a natural tooth. A ceramic dental crown is placed on top of the implant to replace the tooth itself. To ensure their functionality and longevity they need to be looked after just as a natural tooth would, which means daily cleaning and flossing and regular visits to a dentist and hygienist.

Dental implants have been used to replace missing teeth for thousands of years. In archaeological digs across the globe materials such as shells, gems and animal teeth have been discovered in skulls as replacements for missing teeth. In 1931 during an excavation of Mayan ruins in Honduras, Dr and Mrs Wilson Popenoe discovered a jaw that had three shells embedded in it that were carved into tooth shapes. They noticed that the bone surrounding the implant had started to regenerate, fusing with the shells and providing a solid base for the new ‘tooth’.

Modern dental implants made with titanium and ceramic offer you increased stability and allow you to use your teeth as you normally would. They can be used to correct gaps in your smile and look so natural that only you will know the difference.

Within this blog post, we will be exploring how the lifespan of dental implants can be altered by different factors, how you can maintain the integrity of your dental implants and ways that you can ensure an excellent oral hygiene routine.

What can affect their lifespan?

As we’ve already outlined, the lifespan of dental implants can be up to 30 years if they are properly maintained and cared for. As with any dental treatment, different factors can reduce how long a dental implant may last, these include:

  • Oral health.
  • Lifestyle choices.
  • Injury or damage.
  • Medical conditions.
  • Which teeth are replaced and where they sit in the mouth.

One or more of these elements can affect how long dental implants last and can also impact on your overall oral health. It is always best to discuss all the available options with your dentist and talk through any existing medical conditions before you begin treatment. They will then be able to assess whether dental implants are the right option for you.

Oral health

Once you have had a dental implant fitted, you will still need to look after them just as you would your natural teeth. For the titanium root to successfully fuse, you will need to ensure that your gums are healthy and that your jawbone is dense enough. Any gum disease will need to be treated before implants are put in place and your dentist will check to make sure your jawbone is dense enough to hold an implant securely.

Although titanium and the ceramic crown on top are resistant to decay, the teeth and gums surrounding the implant are not. This is why very good oral hygiene is essential.

You will still be susceptible to issues like gum disease even with dental implants in place and so you need to ensure that you maintain a high level of oral care. Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss amongst adults, it can cause discomfort and can also have an impact on your overall physical health.

Making sure that you brush your teeth twice a day and floss as often as possible will help to reduce the build-up of plaque and keep your gums healthy.

In the majority of cases the titanium root will last a lifetime and it is usually the ceramic crown that will need replacing. However, if you do suffer from gum disease and have dental implants fitted, there is a higher risk of the implant failing and being rejected.

Even if you maintain high levels of oral hygiene, other factors can cause problems for your oral health.

Lifestyle choices

Lifestyle choices such as excessive smoking and heavy drinking can have a dramatic effect on how long your dental implants last.

This is especially important to consider in the early stages of your dental implant treatment. For your dental implants to heal properly, your body depends on sufficient blood flow to the treated area. Nicotine affects your blood vessels, oxygen levels and blood flow and can slow down your recovery.

Smoking also leads to a greater chance of producing bacterial plaque which turns into gum disease if not treated properly. When you smoke, you are reducing the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, meaning that gums which are infected cannot heal properly. If you were to smoke before your implant is fully healed, you risk causing an infection and prolonging the healing process.

After having your implants fitted, it is highly recommended you wait at least 72 hours before having an alcoholic drink. This is because your body needs time to heal and start the recovery process. Alcohol causes your blood to thin, meaning that it will not be able to clot effectively after surgery to help your gums to heal. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also cause dehydration. This means that the tissues in your mouth could potentially ‘dry out’ and not be able to heal correctly.

Injury or damage

Sometimes, dental implants have a limited lifespan due to circumstances that are beyond your control. While dental implants are a permanent treatment option, the ceramic crowns are not indestructible. Just like your natural teeth, ceramic crowns are susceptible to cracking and damage.

There are several ways in which dental crowns can become damaged:

  • Facial injuries.
  • Chewing hard substances such as brittle sweets or ice.
  • Eating sticky or chewy foods.
  • Using your teeth as tools to open bottles or plastic packaging.

While your natural teeth and your dental implants can withstand some pressure and force, it should be limited to eating and chewing foods. By using your teeth as tools, the length of time your dental implants will last before needing to be replaced will be greatly reduced.

If you use your teeth as tools to open things like bottles or plastic packaging, you are not only risking damage to your dental implant but also your gums and your natural teeth as well.

If the ceramic crown part of your dental implant does become damaged for one of the reasons outlined above, your dentist may be able to fix it without having to replace it. This depends entirely on how damaged the crown is and whether the titanium root is also affected.

Once fully healed, the root of your implant will be fused with your jawbone. If your jaw sustains damage your dental implant could be knocked loose, just like the root of a natural tooth. If this is the case, you may have to wait for your jaw to heal before having your implants refitted.

Medical conditions

Certain pre-existing medical conditions can also affect how long dental implants last. For example, conditions such as diabetes or a weakened immune system can impact on the effectiveness of your treatment and also how long your dental implants will last before they need to be replaced.

Both diabetes and a compromised immune system can make you more susceptible to infections and can cause your body to take longer to recover and heal.

How well you manage your diabetes will affect how long your dental implants will last. If you do not have your diabetes under control, then you will be more susceptible to infections and implant failure.

As already mentioned, the process of osseointegration, the fusing of the titanium root to the bone, is paramount to how long dental implants last and their success rate. Your gums need to heal completely and be as healthy as possible to accept the implant and ensure the longevity of the treatment.

Before undergoing any treatment, you should make your dentist aware of any medical conditions that you currently have or are being treated for. They will be able to assess your situation and create a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.

Which teeth are replaced

The lifespan of a dental implant is also affected by the type and position of the tooth being replaced. This is because all of your teeth have different functions and roles to do with chewing, eating, biting and speaking. For example, the teeth at the back of your mouth are used primarily to chew food and are put under additional pressure more regularly.

Grinding your teeth is another factor to consider when thinking about how long dental implants last. Bruxism is the name for the condition where a patient grinds their teeth or clenches their jaw repeatedly and with excessive force. This puts huge pressure on teeth and wears them down over time and can even cause chips or a crack to appear. Bruxism will affect both natural teeth and dental implants but can be alleviated with a removeable mouth guard often worn at night to prevent damage to the teeth.

During the dental implant healing process, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw can disrupt recovery and, in some cases, cause the implant to be rejected from the bone. If your implant has healed, the constant force and pressure of being crushed and clenched can cause the implant to be dislodged in some extreme cases. If you believe that you may suffer from bruxism, speak to your dental practitioner before you begin treatment so that this can be factored into your care plan.

How to maintain your Dental Implants

How long dental implants last differs from patient to patient and depends on how well you look after your teeth and your overall oral health.

Dental implants can be cared for in the same way as your natural teeth. Making sure that you brush your teeth twice a day and flossing will help to keep your gums and teeth healthy and reduce the build-up of plaque and biofilm. Not only will this keep your teeth and gums healthy, but it will also stop you developing bad breath.

Just because your teeth are artificial does not mean that you shouldn’t attend regular dental check-ups. During these appointments, not only will your dentist assess your oral health, but they will also be able to check for any issues with your implants. Cracks or damage to the crown can be identified quickly, and your dentist will discuss with you the best way to fix any issues.

Regular hygiene appointments will also help to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, ensuring that your dental implants last as long as possible. During your hygiene appointments, you will be shown how to properly care for and clean your natural teeth and your dental implants.

Using your dental implants to eat and chew food only, will have a positive impact on their lifespan and condition. Trying to open bottles or plastic packaging with your dental implants and/or using them as tools puts unnecessary pressure on them and will limit their longevity.

Find out more

To answer the question, how long do dental implants last, the answer varies. While they can last between 20 and 30 years, their true lifespan depends on how well you maintain and care for them and how good your oral hygiene routine is.

Here at Revitalise our resident implantologist, Dr Singh, is on hand to talk you through every stage of your dental implant treatment. We also have a dedicated dental hygienist who will be able to help you improve your oral health and teach you how to look after your dental implants.

We believe in giving our patients as much information about their treatments as possible. Allowing them to understand every step of the process and make educated and well-informed decisions about their care.

That is why we have created a handy and comprehensive Dental Implant download guide which explains in more detail what dental implants are and how they can offer you a comfortable and natural-looking smile.

If you have been considering getting dental implants to replace missing or damaged teeth, our team are on hand to guide you through the process.

If you have any questions about the treatment process or your overall oral health, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.

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