Dental implants certainly have the potential to last a lifetime, as we tell our patients in Rancho Mirage. But it’s hard to prove because it’s a challenge to run long-term studies. However, a significant body of research supports our assertion that dental implants can last a lifetime.
Even with an extensive 20-year study and a smaller 30-year study on dental implants, we haven’t reached the dental implant lifespan. Most people who get dental implants and properly care for them can expect to have their implants in place for the rest of their lives. Want to learn whether dental implants are right for you? Let Rancho Mirage implant dentist Dr. Rod Strober evaluate your oral health and make a recommendation.
Defining the Dental Implant Lifespan
Many people in Rancho Mirage are familiar with the concept of a “lifetime limited warranty” for a product you buy. Have you ever tried to take advantage of it when the product broke? If you did, you might have learned that the warranty had expired. That’s because the warranty was for the product’s lifespan, not your lifetime. But how do they define a product’s lifetime warranty?
The product lifetime warranty is defined by what is often called the “bathtub curve.” All products will have a relatively high initial failure rate. Random manufacturing defects, installation problems, and other issues make some products fail initially. This is what we call the “wearing in” period. This is approximately the first year for dental implants, during which around 2% of all dental implants fail.
For many years, products have low failure rates. Eventually, the failure rate begins to climb again. This is called the “wearing out” period. If you look at a graph of the failure rate, this looks like a bathtub.
To define the dental implant lifespan, we have to reach that other side of the bathtub: when implant failure rates climb and meet or exceed the initial failure rate. However, we don’t have studies long enough to show this yet.
Let’s look at a couple of examples to show what we mean.
A Large Long-Term Study
One of the most extensive long-term studies of dental implants is a 20-year study looking at more than 12,500 dental implants. This study clearly shows that more dental implants fail within the first year than for many years following. In this study, about 2% of dental implants failed in the first year. Over the next sixteen years, the survival rate dropped by only 5%. Overall, dental implants had a 93% survival rate at 17 years in this study.
If you look at the long-term graphs, you might suspect that we’re reaching the other end of the bathtub. The paper’s authors tell us that this is an artifact of statistics related to the small number of implants that had been placed for that long. (Remember, dental implant technology is only a little more than 50 years old: it’s hard to find implants older than 20 years.)
An even longer (but smaller) study shows that implants survive long after 20 years.
Dental Implants Supporting Fixed Dental Bridges
For a long 30-year implant study, we have to accept some limitations. The biggest limitation is that there aren’t many subjects in this study. There were barely four patients who had a total of five fixed dentures. This means the dentures weren’t removable by patients. Only a dentist could remove them. This can help with chewing and can sometimes be better for longevity.
The dental implants themselves had a very high survival rate: 100%. Not a single dental implant failed in all 30 years. In other words, there’s no sign that the failure rate is increasing again after 20 years. We haven’t found the other side of the bathtub yet, and we’re not likely to. Since most people get dental implants in the 50+ age group, and the average lifespan in the US is around 80 years, most people who get dental implants will have them for the rest of their lives without exceeding the 30-year lifespan we’ve already observed.
People who get a dental implant in Rancho Mirage will likely have it for the rest of their lives for all practical purposes.
Not Without Complications
This is not to say that implants don’t experience complications. Dental records in the 30-year study showed that patients needed 21 repairs over the course of the study. Common repairs included: replacement of gold screws, replacement of individual denture teeth, and relining of the dentures. In addition, the dentures needed a total of 19 adjustments over the course of the study. Adjustments were performed to maintain proper occlusion and contouring of dentures.
For people in Rancho Mirage concerned about the number of repairs and adjustments dental implants will need, this is reassuring. On average, just one repair every seven years and one adjustment every 8 years.
Although dental implants maintain more bone than dentures, patients still experienced some bone loss around their implants. The average was about 2.6 mm, around 1/10 of an inch.
Dental Implants: The Forever Restorations
Dental implants stand apart from other dental restorations because they can reliably last forever – not every implant, but, based on what studies say, well over 90%.
But if you want your dental implants to last, we have to make sure we’re doing it right.
Are you a good candidate? Most people are candidates for dental implants, but some risk factors can make your implants more likely to fail, such as being a smoker (or only recently quit) and having chronic gum disease.
Are you taking care of your implants? In general, dental implants don’t require much maintenance. Just brush and floss carefully, and see your dentist regularly. You might need to see your dentist more than twice a year, and you need to tell your dentist at the first sign of trouble with an implant or a bridge. Learn more about how to make your dental implants last a lifetime.
Long-Lasting Dental Implants in Rancho Mirage
Your Rancho Mirage implant dentist choice will make a big difference in your dental implant experience. Take the time to choose the right dental office for you.
If you make sure implants are right for you, choose a good dentist, and take care of your implants, there is no reason why they shouldn’t last a lifetime. To learn more about dental implants in Rancho Mirage, please call (760) 832-7915 today for an appointment with an implant dentist at Country Club Dentistry, located right next to Rancho Mirage Country Club.