The rule of thumb for dental implant longevity is: the better they’re taken care of, the longer they last. With great care, dental implants can last a lifetime. Generally, however, the lifespan of dental implants is about 15 to 25 years.
What Are Dental Implants
There are two main types of dental implants: endosteal implants and subperiosteal implants.
Endosteal implants are the most common variety, but subperiosteal implants are sometimes recommended for patients that either do not have a healthy-enough jawbone or do not have enough healthy jawbone for the placement of an endosteal implant. A jawbone that’s not dense enough for endosteal implants can receive a bone graft to become more suitable, but this takes time and many don’t want to wait or undergo additional surgery. If there isn’t enough jawbone, however, there’s actually a third type of implant that can help called mini implants. Mini implants work similarly to subperiosteal implants in that they can work with less-available jawbone. These implants are less invasive and easier to put in, but they are much narrower and can only replace smaller teeth.
All three of these types of dental implants consist of a sort of screw that’s either inserted directly into your jawbone (endosteal and mini) or the above section of gum (subperiosteal), an artificial tooth (often called a “crown”) on top, and a connector piece between the two called an abutment.
Factors Affecting the Lifespan of Dental Implants
There are a handful of different factors that affect the lifespan of dental implants. Here are some of the most common.
While maintaining good oral hygiene might be the most obvious factor, it’s also the most important. Implants require the same brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups that natural teeth do, if not more.
Just like with natural teeth, sugary, sticky, and hard foods can take time off the lifespan of implants. This is especially true during any implant healing period. If you have a habit of clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth, these actions can also speed up the rate at which dental implants wear out.
Front tooth implants will often last longer than back tooth implants because people use their back teeth more often and with greater pressure. Think about how you eat; while you may take an initial bite with your front teeth, your back teeth do all of the long and hard work that is chewing.
Smoking and Drinking
Smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol regularly can increase the chances of implant failure. In fact, some research found that regular smoking can increase the odds of an implant failure by about 6%.
Remember that both mini implants and endosteal implants require a certain amount of jawbone to be present and for that jawbone to be a specific density. Bone density decreases with age, so, unfortunately, like implant location, this is just one of those things that’s going to affect implant lifespan regardless of patient lifestyle.
Medical Conditions, Medications, and Treatments
There are several medical conditions that have been associated with dental implant failure, including diabetes, osteoporosis, a weakened immune system, bleeding disorders, and cardiovascular disorders like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and congestive heart failure. Some medications and treatments have also been linked to implant failure at varying rates, including immunosuppressive drugs, blood-thinning medications, and radiation therapy.
Dental Implant Alternatives
Dental bridges and dentures are both alternative options to dental implants, but each come with their own setbacks. Because dental implants are attached to the jawbone, they’re not subject to decay and don’t put stress on neighboring teeth, both of which are common problems with dental bridges. Unlike dentures, dental implants provide sufficient support when biting or chewing and don’t slip.
Dental Implant Failure
While dental implants have a very high success rate of around 90 to 95%, they can still fail in the months or years following implementation. Infection around the implant, nerve damage, coming loose or falling out, sudden sinus problems, deterioration of the jawbone, and implant breaks can all cause implant failure.
So what if an implant does fail?
Well, the dentist may want to go ahead and remove it, as failed implants can sometimes be replaced. Or, an alternative solution might be proposed, like the previously mentioned dental bridges or dentures. If bone loss has occurred around the implant, a bone graft might be required to help regenerate bone tissue before a replacement implant can be put in (this can add several months to the replacement timeline). If a patient decides that they no longer want implants or a dentist recommends that a patient not get them, that’s when those dental bridges or dentures may come into play. However, it’s been found that replacing a dental implant is successful about 71% of the time.
Failed implant symptoms can include implant movement, general implant pain, and implant pain specifically when biting or chewing. It’s also worth noting that, while implants can last a lifetime if they’re taken care of and you remain healthy, most crowns will have to be replaced every 10 to 15 years just due to general wear and tear.