Lifespan of a Dental Implant

It makes sense that you’d be concerned about the lifespan of a dental implant if you’re investigating your choices for replacing one or more missing teeth. After all, dental implants are invasive, as they require surgery, time-consuming, and costly, but you also probably know that they are considered the gold standard for replacing missing teeth and that it’s not uncommon for them to last decades with the proper care. Dental implants also provide benefits that are unmatched by most other dental restoration options. Because dental implants are a surgical treatment and implants form an impenetrable bond with the bone that supports them, they are considered a permanent option for replacing missing teeth and, with the proper care, they can be expected to function and look just like natural, healthy teeth for at least ten years, if not more. Of course, it’s important to work with a qualified, experienced oral surgeon and a comprehensive dental implant team, and the patient’s commitment to aftercare and effective oral hygiene contributes to their overall success as well. Because of the cost, time investment, and overall intensity of the dental implant treatment, however, many patients find that it’s worth it to potentially modify their habits and behaviors to ensure the long life of their dental implants.

Dental implant treatment uses surgically implanted dental implant fixtures to support dental crowns or other dental prosthetics. Many people refer to an overall implant-based treatment as “dental implants,” but the dental implant itself is actually just one part of the whole treatment. The dental implant is a small cylinder made of medical-grade material, often titanium, that is inserted into the jawbone, beneath the gums, in the place where a tooth root once was. The tip of the implant emerges from the gums, and a healing cap is placed on the implant to protect the site while the implant heals. The healing process is a key component in ensuring the success of the dental implant. While the bone heals around a dental implant, it gradually fuses together with the implant and creates a permanent bond. Once the bone has fully healed, the implant is exposed once again, and an attachment mechanism called an abutment is attached to the implant. The gums are given a week or so to heal around this abutment, and, when the gums have healed, the dental prosthetic is permanently attached to the abutment, where it emerges from the gum line just like a natural, healthy tooth.

The healing process following dental implant surgery, when the bone and implant are bonding, is vital to the overall success of any dental implant. Make sure to adhere to all your dentist’s recommendations for aftercare following a dental implant procedure, especially while the implant sites heal, and keep the oral cavity clean and free of contaminants while you heal and after. When placed by a qualified, experienced oral surgeon and maintained properly, dental implants could last as long as 25 years, if not more. This is significantly longer than most other options for replacing missing teeth, but the endurance of dental implants is dependent in large part on the habits and choices of the patient. The location of the implant in the mouth also contributes to its expected lifespan; dental implants that are used more often may not last as long as those that bear less total force.

Gum disease poses a substantial risk to dental implant success, and gum disease is caused by inadequate oral hygiene. When gum disease remains unchecked, it eventually leads to bone loss, which will inevitably lead to dental implant failure. Gum disease is reversible when intercepted early, and its effects can be repaired when it is allowed to advance, but the best insurance for the longevity of both dental implants and natural teeth is to prevent gum disease from developing in the first place. Dental implants can be cared for just like natural teeth. Brush implants and natural teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush, using gentle circular movements and non-abrasive fluoride toothpaste, and make sure to clean the gum line and the other soft tissues in the mouth. Floss between the teeth daily, gently sliding the floss between the teeth and gliding it along the gumline, rather than jamming or shoving it into the gum tissue. Make sure to see your dentist for routine exams and cleanings, which are always an important part of keeping gum disease at bay. Implants and implant crowns accumulate bacteria just like natural teeth do, and dental hygienists can remove calcified bacteria that can remain after even the most diligent cleaning efforts, using specialized tools that won’t damage the surfaces of the artificial teeth. Additionally, gum disease can be mostly, if not entirely, asymptomatic when in its earlier stages, and dental examinations are often the first place gum disease is even noticed; thankfully, in these earlier stages, gum disease can be reversed. When dental implants are involved, preventing the progression of gum disease is even more important if you want to make the most of your investment.

Dental implants are also susceptible to unusual wear and tear, just like the natural teeth are. While implants can help people comfortably eat a variety of foods, don’t use your dental implants for anything other than biting and chewing food. This means you have to remember that your teeth, or your dental implant restorations, aren’t bottle or package openers, and that pens and other non-food objects aren’t meant to be chewed. If you smoke, your dentist will help you adhere to a smoking-cessation plan, as smoking is one of the most harmful things a person can do when it comes to their oral health – and, of course, their overall health. Certain medical conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other inflammatory or autoimmune disorders, can increase the risk of dental implant failure, and your dentist will work with you and the other members of your dental implant team to ensure that these conditions are managed before your dental implants are introduced into the body. Excessive alcohol consumption and some medications can also adversely affect the longevity of dental implants, so make sure you’re honest and transparent with your dentist and other members of your dental implant team throughout the planning process, treatment, and follow-up. With the adoption of some healthy habits, dental implants could last a lifetime, and, thanks to the benefits they provide, it’s easier to establish and maintain healthy habits like good nutrition. This helps improve the overall health and can continue to maintain overall well-being for many years to come.

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