Dental implants are truly a remarkable technology. Not only can they give you a natural-looking smile, and allow you to eat all your favorite foods, they can potentially last a lifetime.
But how long does this really mean they will last? The truth is that science doesn’t really know–yet.
Studies Show Implants Last Longer Than the Studies Themselves
Although dental implants have been in common usage for more than 30 years, studies about their long-term effectiveness have not yet caught up with this timeframe. Studies have been done with 5-year follow-up, 10-year follow-up, and even 20-year follow-up. All these studies seem to confirm the same message: dental implants last and last, but we don’t really know how long.
When we look at several studies, such as this one from 2006 and this one from 2008, they show several important points of agreement. First, overall survival rates for dental implants are 90% or more in all groups. Second, when dental implants fail, it tends to happen in the first few years for predictable reasons, with the length of the study having little impact on cumulative failure rates.
What Determines the Lifetime of Your Dental Implants?
Although overall dental implants can last a very long time, they don’t always. Instead, they may fail for predictable reasons that we can point to and in many cases prevent.
Gum disease: Gum disease has the ability to cause tooth loss by eroding the bone around your teeth, and it can do the same to your dental implants.
Smoking: Smoking has a major impact on the survival of your dental implants. Dental implants may be 5+ times more likely to fail in smokers because smoking affects the way your bones heal.
See your dentist: People who visit their dentists regularly after getting dental implants are more likely to have their implants get through the critical early periods. This seems to be an independent risk factor, even when corrected for gum disease.