Dental implants are, for a variety of very important reasons, the best possible restorative option for people who have experienced tooth loss. However, these restorations represent a significant investment of time, effort and money for patients. Given that sizable investment, many patients who are weighing the pros and cons of implant based restoration are very concerned about longevity, wanting to know how long they can expect implants to last as compared to other restorative options. Although there are many factors that can affect how well implants will perform and how long they will last in individual cases, in general terms, high-quality implant based restorations hold a significant advantage over other options in terms of longevity.
Dental Implants vs. Dental Bridges vs. Removable Dentures
While they were once considered revolutionary, dental implants have become the standard of care in recent years, widely recognized as the best means of addressing tooth loss in terms of oral health, functionality, comfort and appearance. Another area in which they excel is longevity. According to the American Dental Association, the average lifespan of dental implants is 25 years, and dental implants that are properly placed and cared for can last a lifetime. In comparison, the average bridge can be expected to last 7 to 10 years, removable dentures typically need refitting or replacement every 5 to 10 years.
Among the issues that lead to the relatively short lifespan of traditional bridges as compared to dental implants are those created by the dependence of these devices on adjacent teeth. To span the gap created by a missing tooth or teeth, a bridge must be attached to natural teeth at either side of that gap. If those teeth deteriorate, which is a fairly common problem since they must be resized and crowned to accommodate the bridge, support is lost and the bridge will require replacement.
Dental implants are self-supporting, anchored firmly in the jaw in the same manner as natural teeth.
Dental Implants: A Permanent Option
Deterioration of oral structure is the main issue that limits the lifespan of removable dentures. Bone loss is a problem, since a jaw with no tooth roots to stimulate the body's natural cycle of bone repair and maintenance will, inevitably, shrink and weaken over time. The gum ridge upon which dentures rest generally shrinks or changes over time as well. These factors cause dentures to loosen as support is lost. Implant based reconstruction replaces not just the visible portion of the tooth, but also the tooth root, better preserving natural oral structure.
That said, there are factors that can affect the longevity of dental implants. Poor placement is one of those factors, so it is essential that patients choose a board certified, experienced oral surgeon to perform these procedures. Bone quantity and quality, general health and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, can also affect dental implant longevity, and various implant based reconstruction methods can make a difference as well.
For instance, single tooth replacement, where each tooth is equipped with its own artificial root, is generally more stable than a permanent denture that uses just a few implants to support an entire arch of replacement teeth.
Last, but certainly not least on the list of factors that can affect dental implant durability is proper care. While dental implants are not subject to decay, gum disease is just as much of a danger with implants as it is with natural teeth. Avoiding it means brushing and flossing just as diligently as you would with natural teeth, and regular dental exams and professional cleanings, done at 3 to 6 month intervals are essential.