Dental implants are one of the greatest advancements of modern dentistry. They are the perfect solution for those with missing teeth, who might once have had to cover their mouth self-consciously when talking, laughing, or even smiling. They also keep your jaw healthy and help to maintain facial structure.
While these replacement teeth do a great job of mimicking your natural ones, they are not the cheapest dental treatment on the market. So, it is reasonable to ask: how long do dental implants last?
What are dental implants?
The best way to determine how long dental implants last is to, firstly, look at their components, which are:
- A titanium implant
- An abutment
- A dental crown
The titanium implant consists of a titanium screw that is inserted directly into the jawbone. Titanium is a biocompatible material, which simply means it is accepted by the body and does not promote any harsh reactions from the immune system – for this reason, it is also used in artificial joints. Your bone actually fuses with the screw, a process known as osseointegration, locking it in to place. This component of the dental implant is designed to last a lifetime, and if maintained well it usually will.
The abutment is like a small hook that connects the titanium screw to the dental crown. This component is also designed to last a lifetime.
Finally, there is the dental crown, the only visible part of the implant. Crafted from porcelain and color-matched to your natural teeth, this is the one part of the implant that may need replacing. The average lifespan of a crown is 10 to 15 years, but we often see them last much longer. Again, it comes down to good oral hygiene.
Factors that determine how long your dental implants last
Having a dental implant inserted into your jaw is relatively straightforward, but all procedures do come with a certain level of risk. Implants can fail soon after the surgery due to infection in the surrounding gum tissue, the bone failing to fuse with the implant or surgical trauma.
The best thing you can do to avoid these issues is to have your dental implant surgery performed by a reputable, experienced dentist. This will ensure you have the necessary pre-surgery consultation to check that your oral health is up to standard, and that the surgery itself is performed in a clean environment that greatly reduces the chance of infection.
Some activities can pose a risk to your dental crown. If you play footy or rugby, even a sport like volleyball, make sure you wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth. You don’t want to crack your porcelain crown in a preventable accident.
Unconscious habits like grinding your teeth can reduce the lifespan of your crown. You may also want to avoid chewing hard items, like ice. Excessive drinking and smoking can have a negative impact, too. They also weaken your immune system, which can make it easier for an infection to take hold within your gums and jaw, potentially leading to issues with the titanium implant.
The location of the dental implant within your mouth can be a factor in its lifespan. Some teeth cop more wear and tear than others. Molars are responsible for grinding your food which wears them faster than other teeth. If your dental implant is replacing a molar, then the crown will be exposed to the daily grind.
It may not be a ‘real’ tooth, but dental implants are still vulnerable to poor oral hygiene. It’s important that you follow the advice of your dentist before and after the dental implant surgery. Once the site has fully healed, brush twice a day and floss; this helps to remove food or bacteria lodged between teeth and keep your gums healthy, which in turn protects your dental implant.