Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. In other words, it’s impossible to quote a number. Why?
Because every situation and every patient is different, but not only that, there is a whole slew of factors that can and do dictate the life expectancy of dental implants. Before we dive into those, however, let’s start with what we do know…
Dental implants history
The very first dental implants to be placed into a human mouth occurred in 1965. Gösta Larsson a Stockholm resident suffered from a cleft palate, jaw deformities and no teeth in his lower jaw. 4 dental implants were placed along with a fixed denture. His new teeth and the dental implants that supported them functioned perfectly well until his death in 2006 some 40 years later.
The second person to receive dental implants had similar dentition problems when his 11 dental implants were fitted in 1967. In 2019, the 94-year-old celebrated the 52nd anniversary of his treatment and to-date holds the current world record for dental implant longevity.
Of course, over the last fifty years or so, thousands upon thousands of patients have been fitted with dental implants, many of whom are happily still living with their restorations, so as you can see, it’s difficult to put a definitive ‘expiry’ date on dental implants because we simply don’t know yet.
That’s all well and good, but what about those factors that can affect the length of time that dental implants last?
There are several issues that can (and do) dramatically reduce the lifespan of a dental implant restoration. They include factors such as:
- Unsuccessful or insufficient osseointegration
- Bacterial problems
- Mechanical instabilities existing within the implant system
So let’s take a closer look at each one in turn.
Firstly insufficient osseointegration
You may or may not know that osseointegration is the key to implant longevity. Tooth implant success or failure hinges on the ability of the surrounding bone tissue to fuse with the titanium post.
In many people, the natural bone fusion process goes without a hitch. However, in some patients – especially those with medical conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes or in those who continue to smoke – there is a risk of insufficient bone fusion, or worse still, no bone fusion at all.
The key for any implant dentist is to ensure the bone of the patient is both healthy and sufficient – and that there are no outside influences or lifestyle habits that may hinder the osseointegration process.
Another key factor that can affect how long dental implants last is a bacterial infection. While dental implants are designed to be super-strong, they do have an ‘Achilles heel’ and that’s bacteria.
Just like our natural teeth, dental implants are colonised by bacteria. However, in healthy teeth and indeed healthy implant restorations, the balance of good microorganisms far outweighs the bad.
Equally, in failing implants, studies have shown that bad bacteria associated with problematic implant restorations are similar to those found in patients with periodontal (gum) disease.
First and foremost to ensure implant longevity, dentists should avoid placing dental implants into a diseased mouth.
That said, even when implants are placed into a healthy mouth there is a chance that the patient can fail to exercise proper cleaning and flossing. This will eventually cause bad bacteria to develop in and around the tooth implant site.
If bad bacteria are allowed to multiply, then a severe problem known as peri-implantitis can occur. If left untreated, it can cause implant problems and actually, bacterial issues caused by lack of proper oral care is the number one reason why modern implants fail. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that regular and thorough oral hygiene is carried out.
Mechanical instabilities within the implant system
A third common factor that has a definitive say in how long dental implants last is the implant itself. You might think that one dental implant is pretty much the same as any other, but you’d be wrong.
There are estimated to be over 100 companies who manufacture dental implant components but there are only a handful of proven brands. These are companies who have invested thousands of hours into research and testing – not to mention millions of dollars, to develop a series of products that remain at the cutting edge of implant technology. Companies like Nobel BioCare, Straumann, BioHorizons, DIO Navi and Zimmer BioMet all lead the market and for good reason.
While lesser companies offer cheaper components, they may lack the rigorous testing that some of the bigger, more expensive brands have behind them. As a result, there is a chance that they may be prone to fracturing or breaking in some cases.
As a top tip – if you are seeking out an implant dentist, ask them what implant system they use. Here at the Digital Dental Implants Institute, for example, we use the DIO Navi system to ensure quality implants are fitted with absolute precision to every patient, thus limiting the chance of dental implant failure.
So there you have it…
We’ve tried to answer the question ‘how long do dental implants last?’ as honestly as possible but in truth, if all the remits are followed, you continue to take good care of your teeth, and undertake regular 6 monthly dental visits, there is no reason why the latest dental implants can’t last for the rest of your lifetime. Whether that’s 20, 40 or even 50 years, that remains to be seen.
If you’d like to find out more about how implant-based restorations can benefit you or you want to book a consultation, contact our experienced team at the Digital Dental Implants Institute in Gosford NSW at (02) 8294 8656. We guarantee that you’ll be one step closer to a healthier smile and a happier you!