This Article Has Been Medically Reviewed By Our Surgeons
Longevity is one of the first things you should look for in any dental restoration. Dental implants can provide excellent longevity and durability compared to other options. You might have heard that dental implants last a lifetime.
In many cases, this is true, but it is important to understand exactly what that means and what factors can affect the lifespan of your dental implants.
Dental Implants Are Incredibly Long-Lasting
Dental implants are small posts with screw-like bases composed of titanium. This is a strong, durable, and resilient metal that has exceptional biocompatibility. That is why it sees use in many other applications in addition to dental implants, such as artificial joints.
The titanium also results in exceptional osseointegration. After your implant surgery, the dental implants fuse with natural bone to provide an even stronger foundation. Under normal circumstances, nothing can damage or displace your dental implants.
Dental implants are sound not only in theory but in practice as well. The use of dental implants began in 1965, and since then, most patients have had their dental implants last for the remainder of their lives. Implant placement has a success rate of 95%, making them an ideal solution for missing teeth.
Peri-Implantitis and Dental Implants
While dental implants can last the remainder of your life once placed, there are complicating factors that can lead to failure during recovery or later on. For dental implants, the most prominent complicating factor is peri-implantitis.
Peri-implantitis refers to an infection of the soft and hard tissue near the dental implant. Gum disease is always a serious concern that requires proper oral hygiene and routine dentist visits to prevent and mitigate. If gum disease is present, or you are at risk of gum disease, the infection can spread throughout the dental implant site. They can penetrate the gumline, causing gum disease that can eventually impact the bone material surrounding your teeth — potentially leading to tooth loss.
The bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay are always present in your mouth. However, they become an issue with poor oral hygiene and missed visits to the dentist.
During your recovery period, a significant rise in bacteria activity poses a serious risk. If you have existing or developing gum disease, the bacteria can enter the dental implant site. From there, they can quickly reach bone material around the dental implant. This can impede fusing between the bone and the implant and leave the implant much weaker.
To prevent these kinds of complications, it is best to be open with your oral surgeon when they ask you about potential medical, diet, and lifestyle risk factors. Patients with any signs of existing gum disease, diabetes, or a smoking habit might not be suitable candidates.
Avoiding Damage to Your Dental Implants
There are steps that you can take to prevent damage to your dental implants in the long run. While the titanium implants easily stand up to regular chewing, speaking, and other movements, there are some actions you can avoid to protect them.
The risk of infection is significantly lower after recovery, but it is still a good idea to do what you can to prevent any complications. Following oral hygiene instructions, having regular checkups and professional cleaning every six months, and quitting any tobacco use are all important steps that you should take.
Dental implants are strong but are still susceptible to dental trauma. Injury and accidents can displace dental implants, especially if they affect the jaw. There is also a risk of damage over time if you grind your teeth, which creates constant stress on the dental implants. A simple night guard is often enough to resolve this issue.
You should also avoid using your teeth as tools or in any way that can create excess force. Using your teeth to tear open packaging can create strong lateral forces that are not good for your dental implants. Chewing particularly hard foods, like ice, can also contribute to damage.
Dental Implants vs. Restorations
It is important to note that the lifetime of longevity provided by dental implants refers to the implants themselves, not the restorations they support. The dental implant is the titanium post that the oral surgeon embeds within the jawbone. The restoration is the artificial tooth or teeth that use the dental implant as a foundation.
There is essentially no limit to the longevity of dental implants, but this is not true for restorations. Your restoration will develop wear and damage over time and may eventually need replacement. Under normal conditions, this takes place over a long period of time.
Dental implants can support crowns, bridges, or dentures to provide treatment options if you are missing any number of teeth. These restorations are made of porcelain, zirconia, or other materials that provide both the strength and the appearance of natural teeth.
Zirconia is widely recommended for its significant strength and durability. In the best-case scenario, zirconia restorations can last for decades. However, even these high-strength restorations can crack or chip and eventually wear down from accumulated everyday use.
However, restoration replacement is a very simple procedure. Even when damage and wear affect the replacement teeth, the titanium implant will persist. Removing the existing restoration and placing a new one is straightforward and fast. You will not need additional surgery or have to repeat dental implant placement.
Are Dental Implants Right for You?
In most cases, because the titanium post and abutment are designed to last indefinitely, dental implants can provide a virtually permanent solution to tooth loss. The restorations may eventually require replacement, but the process is simple and does not involve additional dental implant surgery. Taking steps to prevent infection and damage can further extend the life of your dental implant.
The compassionate team at Mosaic Maxillofacial Surgical Arts & Implant Centers provides dental implant placement, as well as a comprehensive range of other procedures, to help you reclaim the form and function of your smile. We can evaluate your case and develop an effective treatment plan to meet your unique needs. Find out more about our dental implant treatments to see if they are right for you.