One of the first questions that any patient is going to ask upon hearing the price of a dental implant is “gee, that’s a lot of money, how long do these things last?” The questions is absolutely legitimate, and there are many different answers. Let us take a look at the longevity of dental implants, and how long they are supposed to last, and how long they actually do.
A good indication, but by no means a tell-all, is how long the manufacturer’s guarantee is on the dental implant in question. A manufacturer’s guarantee is the same for a dental implant as it is for a new car; the manufacturer can state that within X amount of years, the structural inequities of the product will not show, and if they do, they will refund the money or give you a new product. This means that the product should last longer than the manufacturer’s guarantee, and thus that should be taken as a minimum amount of time for the dental implant. Most dental implants come in 5 year, 10 year and “lifetime” (actually 25 year, but sometimes in reality calculated until the patient’s demise) guarantees, where the price will be higher the longer the amount of time it is guaranteed for.
Dental implants come off of conveyer belts, and they are made in roughly the exact same manner each time. In the overwhelming majority of cases of dental implant failure, the fault seems to be with the poor oral hygiene of the patient. If you do not take care of your implant, they will last a shorter time, this is simply a fact that must be recognized. Just because you now have a dental implant, or a denture supported by dental implants, or even if you have no real teeth left, you still have to maintain good oral hygiene, because those bacteria that destroyed your teeth are still present in your mouth, and can cause problems for the remaining periodontal tissue, and thus your implants, as they are housed in said tissue.
To get an idea of how what sort of factors are involved in the longevity of dental implants, it is good to take a look at this conversation between dentists. At first you may be scared by the jargon used, but once you get past that, the information conveyed is quite useful. While initially dental implants were supposed to last around 20 years, it turns out this only works in theory. Some dental implants, especially those of the old variety, will develop peri-implantitis within 6-8 years. Newer, more modern implants do not have this problem, and we are truly on the way to making dental implants that can last and function for an entire lifetime. The problem is that there just so many factors involved, it is mind boggling. The human mouth is one of the most frequently used organs, as it is used for the consumption of foods, some of them unhealthy, some of them processed, we also use it to talk, emote and gesticulate, which more often than not will leave the oral cavity open, potentially exposing the mouth to bacteria. With so many factors, how do dentists know what to do or change with dental implants to make them last longer? Truly this is a mystery of mind boggling proportions.