If you’ve recently received, or been recommended for, a dental implant, you may have some questions about their lifespan and maintenance. Before we can truly answer this, however, it’s important to understand what exactly the term “implant” describes.
Having dental implants placed involves having a metal post or framework attached to the jawbone. This is what’s referred to as the implant, but it’s not the only thing placed in this procedure. A small fastener called the abutment is attached to the implant, and is used to hold the crown (an artificial, usually ceramic, tooth) in place.
While the crown often has a working lifespan of around 15-20 years before wear-and-tear necessitates a replacement, dental implants are designed to last a lifetime – and with proper care, they most likely will. That said, there are a number of factors that can cause implants to fail and require replacement.
What Causes Implants to Fail?
Implants require a stable support base of bone and tissue to keep them in place. Periodontal diseases can eat away at this support, destroying gum tissue and degrading the integrity of bone. As you might expect, this means that even an expertly placed implant is subject to failure if the patient doesn’t properly care for it (and their overall oral health) in the years to come. If you’re a smoker, now is definitely the time to stop. Those with pre-existing medical conditions like autoimmune disorders may also have a somewhat increased risk of implant failure.
How Should I Maintain My Dental Implant?
Once you’ve had an implant placed, it’s perhaps more important than ever to maintain good oral hygiene and to receive regular dental checkups. Brushing and flossing on a daily basis is crucial to prevent the buildup of plaque in and around the implant hardware, which can threaten the integrity of the surrounding tissue. In fact, as implants and crowns lack the blood vessels found in natural teeth, blood flow to the area is somewhat limited – and with fewer white blood cells to fight disease, the implant site is more vulnerable to infection than elsewhere in the mouth.
There are a number of good practices that you can follow to keep your crown in tip-top shape as well. Since they are made from non-biologic materials (ceramic, porcelain, and/or metals), crowns are not at risk of developing cavities from bacterial plaque, but they can still be damaged by physical processes, like grinding your teeth or chomping down on hard/sticky foods. The normal wear-and-tear that afflicts all teeth will inevitably take a toll on your crown, so don’t stress too much when it’s eventually replaced – if you’ve gotten more than a decade of use out of the crown, you’re likely doing pretty well.
Reach out to the experts at Riverside Oral & Facial Surgery today for more information on the dental implant process.