How long will my dental implants last?

Marcia before and after dental implant

Let’s face it. Implant dentistry is not cheap. One could argue that dental implants are expensive compared with alternative tooth replacement methods. But what worthwhile investment is cheap?

Fortunately, patients now have more ways to pay for implant dentistry than what was possible in the past. For this reason, a better question may be, “How long should my dental implant investment last?”

Should dental implants last forever?

Whenever we make a meaningful purchase, we usually expect these types of investments to last a long time. But rarely do we expect them to last forever.

Today, major appliances — from trusted manufacturers — like washing machines and refrigerators will cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 or more. These same products may last five to 10 years before they need to be repaired or replaced.

More specific to dentistry, a traditional three-unit bridge — for about the same cost of a dental implant — has an average life span of about 10 to 12 years. On average, dental implants can last far longer than 10 years.

In many cases, like natural teeth, dental implants may last you for the rest of your life when properly maintained. In fact, many people have had their dental implants for 30 years or more. This would be considered a great investment by even the highest of standards.

Keeping your dental implants for a lifetime requires good home care maintenance

While it is common for dental implants to function for decades, good maintenance has no substitute.

Keeping your dental implants healthy and fully functional over the course of several years — or decades — requires a maintenance plan, just like with natural teeth. A good maintenance plan begins with a vigorous daily oral hygiene regimen.

The need to brush and floss twice daily does not stop just because you now have dental implants. Failure to do so may cause the bone around your implants to become infected and your gums to be inflamed. If this happens to you, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist or Certified TeethXpress provider immediately.

Depending on the type of dental implant procedure you received, your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend a certain type of toothbrush/toothpaste, water pick, dental floss and mouth rinse.

Some commonly used oral hygiene products for dental implants include Proxabrush® by GUM®, Superfloss® by Oral-B®, the Sonicare® electric toothbrush by Philips®, and the Water Flosser® by Waterpik®.

These and other products have been proven effective for helping individuals keep their dental implant teeth clean and healthy. Again, it’s always best to consult a dental professional on home care products and techniques most suitable for your specific needs.

Keeping your dental implants for a lifetime requires good professional maintenance

In many respects, dental implants are similar to natural teeth when it comes to ensuring they last long term. Like teeth, dental implants also require professional cleanings by either a dental hygienist or a dentist twice per year.

Dentist and patient in dentist office

It’s true, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Visiting a dental office every six months will not only allow your dentist to clean the areas around your dental implants you can’t reach, it will also give them an opportunity to identify potential problems while they are relatively small. Catching problems before they become big issues will help keep your maintenance costs down.

As you may know, your dental implants must be anchored to a healthy jawbone to function properly and last. Oftentimes, a simple X-ray can help a dentist recognize potential bone loss around a dental implant.

What causes bone loss around dental implants?

Bone loss around dental implants can be caused by a few different issues. One common cause of bone loss has to do with infection in the mouth, which leads to bone loss.

The technical term for infection around dental implants is peri-implantitis. Peri-implantitis, in large part, can be prevented with good daily homecare cleaning methods.

dental implant compared to a natural tooth
dental implant compared to a natural tooth

Bone loss around dental implants can also be caused by a shift in your surrounding natural teeth. This shift can cause your bite to be out of balance, which can add undue stress and pressure to your dental implants.

Visiting your dentist office for routine maintenance — at least twice a year — will allow dental professionals to recognize such issues and make the required adjustments to your bite.

A bite adjustment is a painless and quick process a that dentist can perform by simply adjusting the height on your dental implant crown(s). When necessary, this adjustment will help prevent further damage to your implant(s) and help protect your long-term investment.

Finally, the very design of a dental implant may help influence the health of the surrounding bone and gum tissue. A poorly designed dental implant can establish an environment that makes it more difficult to keep the surrounding bone and gum tissue healthy.

What materials are used to create a dental implant that’s made to last?

Laser-Lok, threadform, dental implants last

The most common material used to manufacture dental implants is titanium. Implantable devices such as knee and hip replacements and dental implants are created with titanium metal because of its exceptional biocompatibility, meaning the human body does not reject titanium as a foreign object.

Additionally, titanium is very light-weight so that it won’t weigh, similar to a tooth. And titanium is strong enough to withstand the strong jaw pressure that is required to chew certain food like steak, nuts and fruit.

How does a dental implant’s thread design contribute to its longevity?

For starters, let’s simplify the basic elements of a dental implant design. Think of a dental implant as being designed similar to a metal screw that’s used to hang a framed picture, among countless other uses.

And similar to a basic screw with threads designed to achieve fixation and stability, threads on your dental implant are designed to achieve a similar result: fixation and stability. Some dental implant designs have more shallow threads. Shallow threads limit how fast a dentist can attach beautiful teeth to your implants for a great immediate and long-term result.

An implant with a more aggressive thread makes it possible for a complete set of teeth or a denture to be attached to your dental implants on the same day of your implant surgery. This type of procedure is very popular and is frequently referred to as TeethXpress® or All-on-4®. Your dentist will assess your mouth to determine exactly which kind of dental implants your new smile will need.

How does the surface treatment of a dental implant influence its long-term success?

If you are considering dental implants, you will benefit to know that these medical devices vary in their attributes. An implant’s ability to maintain the bone that supports it is paramount to its long-term success.

With this in mind, it is worth noting that not all dental implants are equally capable of preserving bone long-term. And when bone around your dental implant is not well-preserved, the dental implant can be compromised.

A dental implant that is designed with a superior surface treatment will have a positive effect on the bone that supports it. A superior surface treatment such as Laser-Lok® favors the long-term success of a dental implant.

Most thought leaders in dentistry attribute the preservation of healthy and abundant bone that successfully surrounds dental implants to a premium surface treatment, at least in part.

Dr. Tiziano Testori, a well-recognized dental implant surgeon says, “The Laser-Lok [surface treatment] creates a seal of connective tissue … that allows you to probe around an implant and have the same feeling you have when you probe around a natural tooth.”

In otherwords, when your dentist uses instruments around implants with a Laser-Lok surface treatment, it feels more like a regular tooth, not a titanium metal screw. This is a very good thing for the long-term success of your dental implants.

Because the Laser-Lok surface treatment is superior at keeping the bone healthy, crowns and bridges supported by these implants tend to remain stable and functioning well for a very long time.

The cost of implant dentistry makes it worth understanding

Regardless of a dental implant’s design, let’s face it, replacing your missing teeth with dental implants is an investment. Several payment options are available that can make implant dentistry affordable. Regardless, it is well worth understanding that not all dental implant designs are the same.

When it comes to your dentist offering you a successful and lasting result, the implant design is important. For this reason, take time to understand how your dentist’s choice of implant manufacturer may ultimately affect your outcome.

If you are in need of a reputable and experienced implant dentist who appreciates the attributes of a well-manufactured implant design, contact a Certified TeethXpress Provider. Schedule a consultation and find out if dental implants are the best option for you to replace your missing teeth.

I was starting to get really insecure,” Carly said. “This caused me to stop smiling. I was really not feeling very good about myself.

- Carly, a TeethXpress patient

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