Dental implants are truly remarkable developments in dental technology because they offer so many benefits. They look and function like natural teeth, and, like natural teeth, they have the ability to last a lifetime. Is that an accurate claim, you may wonder, or an exaggeration for advertising? It is the truth. Although we can’t guarantee the survival of your implants, we do know that dental implants can last a lifetime, with proper care. Most will last 20 years or more, and some have lasted nearly 50 years.
This page summarizes some of the research on dental implant longevity, but if you want to talk to a dentist in person about the risks and benefits of dental implants in San Diego, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with an implant dentist at Strober Dental.
Clinical Studies Show Implants Last a Long Time
Researchers have conducted many studies on the long-term survival rates of dental implants, designed to understand how long people can expect their implants to last. The majority of these studies are short (1-5 years), or moderate in length (6-10 years). Few of them are long enough to help us answer the question how long do dental implants last. In fact, there are only five published studies with a 20 year follow-up.
The first 20-year study was published in 2006. It was a very small study, involving only 69 implants. It showed a survival rate of 91% over the course of the study. The second 20-year study was published in 2008, covering 123 dental implants. It showed a 99% survival rate. However, of the 48 individuals originally participating in the study, 19 passed away before the study was complete. Although the results are accurate, the loss of about 40% of the patients in the study over the course of follow-up significantly limits our ability to make conclusions. A 2013 study involving only 95 implants showed a much lower survival rate: 89.5%. This study didn’t lose a large portion of patients or implants before reporting results.
Our best picture of how long implants last is given by a 2015 study looking at over 12,700 dental implants. Although statistical analysis of the data only allowed reporting a 17-year survival rate, the results are very much in line with those of other studies, showing a survival rate of about 93%.
It’s important to note that these survival rates for the dental implant root itself, not the dental crown or abutment, both of which can have earlier failure rates. As with crowns on natural teeth, the dental crown on your implant may last ten or fifteen years.
The Lifetime of Dental Implants
One way to answer the question of how long dental implants last is to define a “lifetime” for dental implants. Manufacturers and warranty makers define the lifetime of a product using what is called a “bathtub curve.”
A bathtub curve is a graph of the failure rates of a product over its lifetime. Initially, the failure rate is high, as we have an initial wearing-in period. Then the product failure rate becomes low for most of the lifetime of the product. As the product reaches the end of its lifetime, however, the failure rate increases again. The product lifetime is defined as the point at which a certain portion of the product has typically failed, usually 50%.
With dental implants, we see the beginning of a bathtub curve. During the initial period following implant placement, failures are relatively high. In fact, 60% of the failures in the 2015 study occurred in the first year after the dental implant was placed, with relatively few occurring over the following period of up to 20 years. However, there were no signs that the failure rate was increasing again, so our studies haven’t yet reached the far end of the “bathtub.” It’s more like an ocean whose size just can’t be determined. What we can determine, though, is that the “lifetime” of dental implants is more than 17 years, the statistical length of the 2015 study.
How Long Have People Had Dental Implants?
In 2015 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first dental implant procedure. The patient in that procedure received four dental implants. All four dental implants survived until he passed away in 2006, having had his dental implants for more than 40 years.
The second dental implant patient received his six implants a couple years later. He is still alive and still has all six dental implants, now approaching 50 years of attractiveness and function.
With these two extreme cases, and the bulk of scientific evidence, we feel it is fully justifiable to say that dental implants can last a lifetime if properly placed.
How Long Will Your Dental Implants Last?
Does all this information allow us to predict how long your dental implants will last? Not exactly. However, it does allow us to discuss some factors that can influence the longevity of your dental implants.
Your Dentist: Studies have shown that your choice of dentist can make a big difference in the success rate for your dental implants. Experienced dentists have implant failure rates 1/10th or less than those of dentists who are learning to place implants. Specialists also reduce risk of dental implant failure.
Your Bite: Excess bite force can contribute both to wear on the dental implant and the bone that supports it. This may contribute to early dental implant failure.
Your Health: The leading cause of dental implant failure is the same as the leading cause of tooth loss: gum disease. If you have gum disease, you are more likely to lose your dental implants. Illnesses that affect bone health, such as diabetes and osteoporosis, can also contribute to early dental implant failure. Good candidates for dental implants tend to have better success and longer-lasting implants.
Your Hygiene: Taking care of your dental implants is important to keeping them for life, just as with natural teeth. If you are brushing, flossing, and making regular dental checkups, your implants are more likely to last.
Your Luck: There are many factors that contribute to dental implant success or failure. Because we don’t yet understand them all, we have to attribute some failures to bad luck. As we come to understand dental implants better, we will be better able to explain these failures and recommend how to prevent them.
Do you want to talk to a dentist in San Diego about dental implants? Please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment at Strober Dental.