Dental implants can last for years — or even a lifetime in some cases. Gösta Larsson of Gothenburg, Sweden, was the first person to receive dental implants in 1965; when Larsson died in 2006, his dental implants had lasted more than 40 years. Certain factors can shorten and lengthen the lifespan of dental implants.
Dental implants consist of three main parts. The dental implant is a titanium post surgically implanted in the jawbone. Soon after implantation, the screw-shaped post bonds with the natural bone to become a permanent part of the jaw. The second part, known as the abutment, connects to the dental implant and sits just above the gum line. The most visible portion of the dental implant is the crown, which is a natural-looking tooth replacement.
In general, the abutment and crown are the most susceptible to damage, so they may not last as long as the implanted titanium post.
Many factors affect the lifespan of dental implants.
In many ways, dental implants improve nutrition by allowing people to eat a wider variety of healthy foods that they were unable to enjoy with missing or damaged teeth.
Nutrition is important to the lifespan of a dental implant, both following the implant procedure and in the following years. Eating a soft diet for the first week or so after the surgery gives the jawbone and gums time to heal and bond with the titanium posts. Avoiding sticky or hard-to-chew foods during the recovery phase promotes healing and bonding; avoiding these foods in the following years can prevent damage to the crown.
Good oral hygiene habits can help dental implants last longer by keeping the area clean and free of the destructive bacteria and plaque that can cause infection in the tissues around the implant. Infections near the implant can lead to failure.
Overall health and lifestyle
Certain health conditions and lifestyle choices can affect how long dental implants last. Dental implants rely on healthy gums and jawbones; gum disease is an infection that can negatively affect the gums and jawbone supporting the dental implants. Some health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, can slow healing and prevent bonding. Medications may also affect healing and bonding.
Smoking restricts blood flow to the gums, which can slow the healing process and affect the overall health of the gums. In fact, research shows that dental implants may fail in 6.5 to 20 percent of smokers.
Gum disease tends to run in families. While dental implants are still an option, anyone with a genetic predisposition to gum disease must take extra care to avoid gum infections that reduce the lifespan of a dental implant.
Regular dental care
Regular dental care from dentists and dental hygienists can extend the lifespan of dental implants. Professional cleanings performed by dental hygienists can clean remove infection-causing plaque and bacteria from hard-to-reach places. Dentists can detect and treat infections and other oral problems early, before they affect the lifespan of the dental implant.
For more information on dental implants and tips for extending the life of dental implants, contact the Texas dental health professionals at Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at one of their six locations throughout Texas.