Posted on May 18, 2021

Handsome Smiling Man with Straight White Teeth

Dental implants outperform and outlast all other forms of tooth replacement, including partial dentures, dental bridges, and complete removable dentures. But how long do dental implants last? And how can you take care of them to maximize their lifespan?

How Long Do Dental Implants Last?

A dental implant can last 20 years or more. But that lifespan refers to the dental implant foundation or root form. Other dental implant components include an abutment, or connector, and a dental crown.

Implant components

  • Root form – A small screw-like titanium fixture that replaces tooth roots and fuses with your jawbone
  • Abutment – A connector that screws into the top of the implant to support a dental crown
  • Dental crown – A ceramic restoration that replaces the visible portion of a tooth above the gumline

How long does an abutment and implant crown last?

  • Abutment – 15 years or more—it often remains intact with the root form
  • Implant crown – 10 to 15 years

Dental implant lifespan vs. other options

  • Dental implant – 20 years to a lifetime
  • Dental bridge – 10 years
  • Removable partial denture – 5 to 10 years
  • Complete removable denture – 5 to 10 years

Why Do Dental Implants Last So Long?

Dental implants last so long due to their design, placement, and a process called osseointegration. Although other tooth replacement options will give you faster results than dental implants, they are not as durable.

Implant design

The strength, surface, and shape of dental implants make them a potential lifetime solution for replacing missing teeth.

  • Strength – An implant fixture, or root form, is made of exceptionally strong but lightweight titanium. If you have metal allergies or sensitivities, you can receive a high-strength zirconia implant.
  • Surface – Tiny screw-like threads spiral around the implant to maximize contact with the bone and ensure stability.
  • Shape – Implants are available in a variety of lengths, diameters, and threads. Your dentist will choose an implant to closely match the roots of your missing tooth and maximize stability.

Placement

Your dentist will place an implant fixture in your bone to replace a missing tooth. Other tooth replacement options are not as secure:

  • A partial denture clasps around teeth adjacent to the missing one
  • Adjacent teeth anchor a dental bridge
  • A complete removable denture rests on your gums

A dental implant gives your replacement tooth a solid foundation:

  • Your implant dentist will make a small incision through your gums
  • Using 3-D technology, your dentist will make a precise opening in your jawbone
  • After gently placing an implant in the opening, your dentist will stitch your gum tissue around the implant and close the tissue

Osseointegration

Osseointegration is the process of your jawbone and the dental implant fusing. The screw-like threads around an implant allow your bone to adhere to spaces between the threads. Your bone will securely grip the implant and lock it in place. The American Academy of Osseointegration recommends a healing period of two to four months for successful jawbone and implant fusion.


What Can Shorten the Lifespan of Dental Implants?

Bone quality, smoking, and uncontrolled diabetes are three factors that can shorten the lifespan of dental implants.

Bone quality

Your jawbone supports dental implants, so before an implant dentist places the root forms, you need enough bone volume at the implant sites. Jawbone shrinks in areas where teeth are missing, so your dentist will check your bone density and recommend a bone graft if needed. Although skipping a bone graft will save you money, lack of bone support leads to dental implant failure, which is more expensive in the long term.

Smoking

Smoking affects healing and can cause dental implant failure in several ways:

  • Constricts blood vessels and decreases the blood flow to your gums, and supporting bone
  • Reduces saliva flow and causes dry mouth
  • Increases bacteria in your oral tissue and gums

Uncontrolled diabetes

Many diabetic patients receive dental implants successfully. But uncontrolled diabetes is associated with these factors that increase the risk of dental implant failure:

  • Consistently high blood glucose impairs the function of white blood cells
  • It becomes challenging for your body to heal the implant sites and fight infection
  • Poor circulation slows the healing process

Poor oral hygiene habits

Dental implants need a healthy mouth to heal. Lingering food debris and bacteria can increase the risk of infection in your oral tissue and prevent healing. How can you maintain good oral hygiene?


How to Take Care of Dental Implants

Take care of your dental implants by keeping them clean, healthy, and functioning well. After implants heal, they are as easy to care for as your natural teeth.

  1. Brush twice daily – Angle a soft-bristled manual or electric toothbrush to gently brush around the top and all sides of each tooth down to the gumline. Avoid aggressive brushing, which can irritate your gums.
  2. Floss daily – Tightly hold dental floss, place it between your teeth, and form a C-shape around each tooth before gently gliding the floss up, down, and around each tooth. A water flosser delivers a powerful stream of water to flush away debris between your teeth. Avoid aggressive flossing, which can bruise your gums.
  3. Check your gum health – As you brush and floss your teeth, check your gums for redness, swelling, or bleeding—early signs of gum disease. If you see or feel any gum irritation, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
  4. Get dental cleanings and exams – Your dentist and hygienist are trained to examine, clean, and care for dental implants and surrounding gums. Checkups are essential for early detection of any issues and ensuring that your implants remain healthy.
  5. Make wise nutrition choices – What you eat affects your oral health. An abundance of sugary or high-carbohydrate foods quickly converts to acid. And the acid will attack your teeth and gums. If the gum tissue around your dental implants is unhealthy, gum disease can result. Untreated gum disease will affect the bone and increase the risk of dental implant complications.

Schedule a Dental Implants Consultation

Dr. Antigone Skoulas is a San Francisco dentist who will explain your options for implants and the results you can expect. If you would like to know if this treatment is right for you, call us for a consultation or exam, or schedule an appointment online.