The Tooth Of Time: How Long Is Your New Dental Implant Going To Last?

When discussing your upcoming dental implant procedure with your dentist, you'll quickly get an idea of the level of commitment needed on your part. Yes, a dental implant requires a (minor) surgical procedure, followed by recovery. The replacement prosthetic tooth is then added to the implant, and the overall process is complete. Given the effort involved, one of the first things you might want to know is how long your implant will last.

Lasts a Lifetime

Your dental implant should last a lifetime. But the implant itself is the titanium alloy bolt inserted into your jaw. This is fitted with an abutment, which allows the prosthetic tooth to be connected to the implant. The implant is permanent, but the prosthetic tooth may eventually need replacement. This is many years away, or even decades (if you take good care of your teeth). The abutment will either connect the tooth to the implant with dental cement or a screw. When the tooth is bonded to the abutment with cement, it will need to be replaced along with the prosthetic tooth. There are several elements that can shorten the lifespan of your prosthetic tooth:

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding) can endanger natural and prosthetic teeth alike. This typically happens at night and is often first noticed due to sore teeth and a strained jaw first thing in the morning. If you experience bruxism, you may need a night guard (an overnight retainer to protect your teeth).
  • A prosthetic tooth is still porous and can be discolored by smoking. Smoking itself can disrupt the healing process, and so can be a factor in implant failure. But even disregarding this concern, the obvious discoloration of a prosthetic tooth can necessitate replacement, even if the tooth hasn't lost any functionality.
  • Poor oral health can promote the spread of gingivitis. Any gum inflammation is potentially dangerous for a dental implant, although this will need to progress to severe periodontal disease. It's crucial to maintain a high standard of oral hygiene, both for your new implant and your natural teeth.

It's uncommon for the titanium alloy bolt in your jaw to fail, but there are some ways in which this can happen.

Localized Infections

When the implant is placed, you will be informed about symptoms of a certain condition that can result in implant failure. Peri-implant mucositis is an inflammation of the soft tissues that surround the implant. If untreated, this can progress to peri-implantitis, which is inflammation of the soft tissues that has spread to the bone supporting the implant. These conditions typically appear as swelling, pain, and even bleeding at the site of the implant. Schedule an immediate appointment with the dentist who placed the implant if you should notice any of these symptoms. You need urgent treatment to avoid implant failure. 

A dental implant is intended to last a lifetime, although this isn't strictly the case with the prosthetic tooth (and often its abutment). It's really just a case of taking the best possible care of your natural teeth and your implant while being on the lookout for any infections or inflammations which might jeopardize your implant.