If you’re considering the procedure, the question ‘do dental implants last forever?’ is probably at the top of your mind. This is one of the key considerations because it puts the total cost into perspective and can help you to determine whether you’re making the right choice. The good news is that you won’t find a longer-lasting dental restoration than implants.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
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Dental implants are designed to last a lifetime. However, they do require ongoing maintenance and upkeep. What we generally refer to as an “implant” actually consists of three parts:
The post: This is the actual implant, the piece that is drilled into the bone to support the artificial tooth. With proper care, standard titanium posts should last a lifetime.
The abutment: The abutment is attached to the post and designed to hold the crown in place. Like the post, the abutment should last a lifetime with proper care.
The crown. The crown is the actual tooth, the visible portion that attaches to the abutment. It’s also the one piece that needs to be periodically replaced.
Note that you’ll need to have plenty of healthy bone to support the implants. If you’ve experienced any degree of bone loss, you may need to have a bone graft surgically placed prior to your post placement. With proper care, the bone graft too should last a lifetime.
How Long Does the Dental Crown Last?
With proper care, the crown should last between 5 and 15 years depending on the type of construction. Most crowns are crafted from a material like porcelain, resin, metal, or a non-porcelain ceramic material. The highest-quality crowns may last up to 25 years with optimal care.
We generally recommend porcelain crowns because they provide the best combination of longevity and aesthetics. Porcelain is extremely long-lasting, stain-resistant, and durable, and it also looks more like natural tooth enamel than any other material.
Do the Post and Abutment Ever Need to Be Replaced?
While the post and abutment are designed to last a lifetime, there are instances in which replacement may be required. For instance, if the post comes loose (whether due to injury, extreme wear, or improper implantation), it will need to be removed and replaced.
If the area around the post gets infected with peri-implantitis, it will also need to be replaced. Other possible issues include tissue and nerve damage and sinus problems that result from implants placing pressure on the sinus cavity. Make sure you’re familiar with common symptoms of dental implant failure so you can get ahead of any issue.
This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced, skilled oral surgeon who excels with the dental implant procedure. The quality of the initial surgery is critical for ensuring a result that lasts a lifetime. A skilled dentist can place the implant more precisely, evaluate the osseointegration process, and ensure that your jaw bone properly fuses with the implant.
What Factors Impact the Lifespan of Dental Implants?
While the post and abutment should last a lifetime, the lifespan of the crown can vary significantly depending on a few important factors.
The location of the tooth. If the tooth is near the back of the mouth, it will be subject to excess strain from chewing. As a result, it may need to be replaced sooner than the front teeth.
The material used for the crown. As previously noted, the crown may be constructed for numerous ceramic, resin, or metal materials, some of which are longer-lasting than others. Porcelain remains the gold standard.
General oral health. Gum disease is one of the biggest threats to the health of your implants. Make sure to brush at least twice daily and floss every day. Use an alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash to kill additional bacteria. The key is to make oral hygiene a constant priority.
Pre-existing medical conditions. Conditions like diabetes and compromised immunity can leave you more vulnerable to infections and therefore impact the life of your implants. It’s very important to manage any medical conditions in order to offset this risk.
Smoking. Smoking and all tobacco products should be avoided if you have dental implants. Smoking doesn’t just stain teeth; it also disrupts blood vessels, blood flow, and oxygen, which can create additional oral care complications. It may also increase the presence of plaque in the mouth.
In addition, it’s important to use basic common sense when you have dental implants. For instance, know that chewing on hard foods (ice, hard candy, etc…) and objects may place excess strain on your crowns and cause them to wear or break prematurely. As long as you take basic oral care precautions and care for your implants every day, you should be able to enjoy the maximum lifespan.
What to Expect When Getting Dental Implants
While the process of getting implants may seem invasive, it’s actually pretty straightforward. A local or general anesthetic is used for the surgical portions of the dental implant procedure, so you don’t have to worry about excessive discomfort.
The post placement, abutment placement, and crown placement are completed at three separate appointments. The healing process can take 4 to 6 months between the post placement and abutment placement (in order for the gum to fuse with the post), and an additional 2 weeks may be required between the abutment and crown placement. Temporary restorations may be provided during the healing process.
After each portion of the procedure, it’s recommended that you refrain from alcohol for at least a few days. Alcohol is a natural blood thinner that can prevent clotting. If blood is unable to clot, you may experience excess bleeding or improper healing. Be sure to heed all instructions and recommendations provided by your oral surgeon.
Are Dental Implants Right for You?
Dental implants have an excellent success rate, and they can last a lifetime with proper care. So if you’re tired of dealing with missing or rotting teeth, uncomfortable dentures, or a smile that just needs an upgrade, dental implants may be well worth the investment.
If you’d like to learn more, schedule a consultation. Your dentist can assess the health of your teeth, gum, and bone, and help you to determine if you would be a good candidate for dental implants. They’ll walk you through your payment options (as dental insurance does not typically cover dental implant surgeries), explain the procedure and expectations, and set up a schedule.
Then, before long, you’ll have the smile you’ve been dreaming about.