Imagine the confidence of flashing a perfect smile, without worrying about missing or damaged teeth showing. That’s the promise of dental implants. But, how long do dental implants last, and which factors determine their longevity? Despite being a long-term, permanent solution that blends function, aesthetics, and durability, the lifespan of dental implants can be prolonged or shortened by your oral hygiene practices, lifestyle choices, and dental professional selection. So, let’s dive in and explore implant lifespans, and which factors can impact them, to ensure that your investment lasts you a lifetime.
What Dental Implants Are & How Long Do Implants Last For?
A dental implant is a type of prosthesis used to replace missing teeth. It is constructed in three components;
- The implant itself, which acts like an artificial tooth root. It is usually made from titanium or zirconia, a biocompatible material that is well-tolerated by the body. The metal post is surgically inserted into the jawbone, and allowed to fuse to provide a strong foundation for the replacement tooth.
- The abutment, which is a component attached to the implant that serves as the foundation for the crown.
- The crown or prosthetic artificial tooth is fixed to the abutment. It provides the appearance and function of a natural tooth.
When looking at how long do implants last for, the implant or metal post itself is the most durable part. With regular maintenance, which includes brushing and flossing, the implant can last a lifetime, provided the patient undergoes routine dental check-ups every 6 months. The crown and the abutment are more exposed to wear and tear due to the active use of biting and chewing food with them, but studies show that with a 90-95% success rate, these can last 10 to 15 years on average before they need to be replaced. However, excellent dental hygiene and judicious use could potentially extend the crown's lifespan beyond 15 years.
Are There Factors That Impact How Long Dental Implants Last?
While dental implants are designed to be long-lasting, they are not immune to wear and tear, infection, or damage. While we’ve provided the answer on how long do dental implants last up above, there are some factors that can reduce their lifespan or even cause them to fail prematurely.
1. The Location of the Implant: depending on where the implant is being placed in the mouth, may impact how long it lasts for. For instance, a dental implant going into the rear of the mouth in place of a missing back molar, is going to be used more actively in chewing and biting down on food, and therefore is more susceptible to wear and tear. This could reduce the lifespan of the implant compared to that of one that is placed at the front of the mouth in place of an incisor.
2. Insufficient Care & Maintenance: The answer to how long do dental implants last for is primarily up to you; with sufficient care and maintenance, you can make your implants last for a lifetime. The trick here is to engage in regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings to keep them free from plaque and bacteria (avoid sugary drinks). If you neglect your oral hygiene, you may develop peri-implantitis, a serious infection that can cause inflammation, bone loss, and implant failure.
3. A Lack of Bone Density: Dental implants need enough bone to support them and prevent them from moving or breaking. If you have low bone density or volume due to tooth loss, gum disease, or aging, you may need a bone graft before getting an implant. Otherwise, your implant may not integrate well with your bone or may become loose over time.
4. Using Tobacco Products: The issue with using tobacco products or smoking in general, is that it reduces blood flow to your gums and jaw bone, which slows down healing and increases your risk of developing an infection or inflammation in the mouth. Beyond this, smoking can affect the quality of your saliva, which is used by your body to product your teeth (and implants) from decay and erosion. Where it concerns the success of your dental implant and thus its lifespan, smoking has been shown to increase risk of failure.
5. Grinding Your Teeth: Teeth grinding or clenching (also known as bruxism), which most commonly occurs at night, can cause excessive pressure and stress on your teeth and implants, leading to cracks, chips, fractures, or loosening. Teeth grinding can also damage your jaw joints and muscles, causing pain and discomfort. To prevent teeth grinding from harming your implant, you may need to wear a night guard or seek treatment for the underlying cause of your bruxism.
6. Having Underlying Medical Conditions: during a dental implant consultation, one of the main questions asked is around underlying medical conditions, as these can directly impact how long dental implants last for. For example, diabetes can impair your blood sugar levels and your wound healing ability, which can increase the risk of infection and implant failure. Other conditions that can affect your implant longevity include osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
7. Natural Aging: Age is another factor that can influence how long an implant lasts. As you get older, your bone density and volume tend to decrease naturally. This can make it harder for your implant to integrate with your bone or stay stable over time. Additionally, oral health can decline due to age-related factors like medication use, dry mouth, and reduced saliva production which can increase decay, erosion, and infection development around the implant.
8. Taking Certain Medications: If you are being prescribed medications, it’s a good idea to ask how these will impact your dental implant’s lifespan, as prescriptions for antibiotics, steroids, antidepressants, and blood thinners can interfere with your healing process or increase risk of infection and bleeding after surgery. Undergoing chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or bisphosphonates can also affect bone health around your implant.
It’s also important to note here that the skill and experience of the surgeon completely the implant procedure has a direct impact on how long the dental implant lasts for. Here at FIC, we have qualified and reputable surgeons that use only high-quality materials, advanced techniques, and proper sterilization measure to ensure a safe and successfully implant placement. We also evaluate your medical history during a thorough consultation, get an excellent look at your oral health and bone quality, and provide clear post-op instructions and follow-up during after care.
The Key Takeaway: How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
If you’re considering getting a dental implant, the key takeaway here is that they are a reliable, long-lasting, and safe solution for missing teeth that can last upwards of 10–15 years on average. To get them to last this long though, they require regular maintenance and care, including proper brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings to keep infection, inflammation, and plaque at bay. By vetting your dental surgeon beforehand, and taking steps to avoid the factors listed above, your dental implant should last a lifetime.
Want to learn more about dental implants? Contact us here at Family, Implant, and Cosmetic Dentistry, and one of our experienced teams at our Brandon, Fl or Lakeland, FL offices, will answer any questions you may have, and explain how we can help you achieve your smile goals. Don't let missing teeth affect your confidence and quality of life, book an appointment with us, and let us help you restore your smile with dental implants.