When you are deciding what to do about missing or very damaged teeth, it is important to consider how long the solution you choose–whether it’s a false tooth, a bridge, or implants–will last. If you opt for implants, you probably don’t want to repeat the surgery more than once, so picking implants that can last a long time is important.
In case you aren’t familiar with dental implants, they are medical devices that a dentist surgically implants into the jaw to provide support for artificial teeth. While implants can have cosmetic benefits—nothing disrupts your smile more than a missing tooth—they are also important for good digestion. If you are missing teeth, it may be hard to chew your food properly.
When it comes to dental implants, there are two main types: ceramic and titanium. The good news is that both are very durable and can last a lifetime, though the crown that sits on the implant may need to be replaced if it wears out. What we’ve seen over the years is that both have a success rate of about 95%.
The durability of dental implants has a lot to do with their strength. When it comes to dental implants, there are two kinds of strength that matter: compressive strength, which resists the type of stress involved in chewing, and flexural strength, which involves resistance to fracturing under stress. Both ceramic and titanium implants have a similar success rate for both compressive and flexural strength.
But there are some exceptions. If you clench your teeth very hard on a daily basis, that could cause a ceramic implant in the back of the mouth–where stress on the teeth is highest–to fracture. A metal implant will generally hold up under that pressure but will become loose in the bone. Your dentist may prescribe a mouth guard in either case, so the implant stays intact.
And for both types of implants, smoking may cause implant failure, particularly if patients smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day. Nicotine causes a lower flow of oxygen and nutrients to the mouth and gums. Nicotine also causes vasoconstriction, restricting the blood supply to the site of the implant. That makes it hard for patients to heal from the surgery. Nicotine also contributes to bone loss. Bone loss can contribute to the failure of implants to integrate into the surrounding bone in the mouth. Many dentists recommend that patients quit smoking two months before an implant, for the best results. That isn’t easy but many patients find it is worth it, both from a health perspective and to protect their implants.
Ultimately, dental implants can last for decades. However, it is important to make sure you follow your dentist’s advice to make sure your implants are successful. Small, proactive steps like wearing a mouthguard, if needed, can make a big difference in the longevity of your implant, and go a long way toward protecting the other teeth in your mouth, as well.