Most patients considering dental implants want to know how long they can be expected to last—after all, dental implants are a significant investment! The answer to this question is a little more complicated than you might think, though, because implant-based restorations have a few different components, and each component has its own lifespan.
Dental Implants: The Basics
To start, let’s talk about what’s involved in getting dental implants. Although the term is sometimes used as a catch-all, dental implant actually only refers to the post or screw that is placed into the jaw to replace the root of a missing tooth. The dental implant supports a restoration, which is a denture, bridge, or crown, and a third piece, called an abutment, often connects the two. (There are some types of dental implants that don’t need an abutment, like mini dental implants.)
There are a number of different types of implant-based restorations, from single-tooth to complete prostheses that replace all of the teeth on both arches. Restorations can be made with different types of materials, which also impacts their expected lifespans.
How Long Will Dental Implants Last?
When dental implants are surgically implanted into the jaw, a process called osseointegration begins. This is the term used to describe the fusing of the jawbone and dental implants. After osseointegration, dental implants are as stable as the roots of natural teeth. At this point, your dental implants are likely to last a lifetime, never needing replacement.
There are exceptions, of course—the majority of dental implant fixtures never need to be replaced, but some will. Patients who ignore aftercare instructions, use tobacco products, have poor dental hygiene habits, or do not see the dentist for follow-up and preventive care are more likely to experience dental implant failure. It’s very rare for dental implants to fail after osseointegration for no apparent reason—usually, there’s a clear cause.
How Long Do Implant-Supported Restorations Last?
Most dental implant-supported restorations will need to be replaced at some point, with the majority lasting five to 10 years on average. However, if you practice good dental hygiene and visit your dentist every six months for dental cleanings and oral health evaluations, your restorations can last considerably longer than this. Although restorations are not susceptible to cavities, they must be cleaned and flossed to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease, which is one of the leading reasons for implant failure.
Bruxism (grinding or clenching your teeth), chewing on ice, biting your nails, or using your teeth to open packages can all damage your restorations and shorten their life expectancy. Choosing a durable material for your implant-supported crown, bridge, or denture is also crucial. If you invest in a high-quality restoration, it will not only look and feel like a natural tooth, but it will also have the best chances of lasting for decades before needing replacement.