If you’re missing one or more teeth, a dental implant can help restore a natural-looking smile. In some cases, treatment can take up to 12-months but if the procedure is successful, can you expect your replacement teeth to be a permanent fixture?Here, we look at how long dental implants last and what you can do to help increase their lifespan.
A dental implant acts as a replacement tooth. It’s made up of three parts – a metal screw fitted into your jawbone, an abutment (support) and finally, a replica tooth (known as a crown).
Treatment length can vary depending on the work you need done and how complex it might be. For example, if your jawbone doesn’t have enough bone density to support an implant, your dentist will need to carry out a bone graft. This can add on several months even before implant treatment starts.
Dental implants are used to replace one or more missing teeth and are an alternative to solutions such as bridges or dentures. However, teeth implants aren’t suitable for everyone so if you’re interested in treatment, you’ll need to be assessed by your dentist or a dental surgeon.
If you’re not suitable for implants, you should always be told why, but common reasons include smoking, drinking heavily or taking recreational drugs – all of which can slow down the healing process.
Treatment can take anything from three months to one year depending on the number of teeth you have missing and whether or not you need any prep work carried out (for instance, if you need a bone graft). Plus, if you have gum disease, this will need to be treated before dental implant work can begin.
It’s often believed that dental implants last a ‘lifetime’, but this is actually a myth. In reality, you can expect your implants to last between ten and 20 years , but it all comes down to how well you look after them (just like your natural teeth). Factors that can affect the lifespan of your dental implants, include:
This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but good oral hygiene is one of the best ways to maintain your dental implants. This will mean flossing your teeth and brushing twice a day to minimise plaque and keep your gums healthy.
You should also keep up with dental appointments so that your dentist and hygienist can monitor your implants and their overall condition. Again, contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need to visit the hygienist every six months and it comes down to the general health of your teeth and gums.
If you’re able to maintain a good routine, you may only need to see your dentist once a year (or even two), but it could be as often as every three months if not. Children under 18 should continue to have a check-up every year as their teeth and jaws continue to develop[ .
If you’re a smoker, you’ll usually be asked to stop before any dental implant treatment begins. This is because smoking can cause complications and slow healing as it reduces the amount of oxygen reaching your bloodstream .
Staying a non-smoker after treatment also gives your dental implants the greatest chance of longevity. Not only can smoking increase the risk of gum disease, it puts you at greater risk of developing mouth cancer .
If you can, try to avoid sugary food and drinks after implant treatment too. Sugar allows bacteria to grow and spread which can slow down healing and erode your natural teeth.
Alcohol also contains high levels of sugar so cutting down on what you drink can help keep your teeth and gums healthy too.
Dental implants are relatively robust, and crowns are usually made of a combination of metal, porcelain or ceramic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be damaged.
So, while trauma from an accident is hard to avoid, such as chipping an implant because of a fall, you should try to avoid activities that you know have the potential to cause damage. For instance, don’t use your teeth to remove bottle tops from drinks. If you play contact sports, using a mouthguard is also a good idea.
If you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic, you’re at higher risk of developing gum disease which can slow down the healing process immediately after implant treatment. This increased risk also places even greater importance on maintaining good oral hygiene in the long-term in order to keep gum disease at bay.
Yes, as with many other types of surgical procedures, there’s a chance that treatment may be unsuccessful. Nevertheless, dental implant failure is unusual and there is a 95% success rate in the UK.
One of the most common reasons for dental implant failure is gum disease which stops the gum from healing effectively. Another reason is that the implant doesn’t anchor fully into your jawbone (for instance, if it wasn’t screwed in securely or there isn’t enough bone density in your jaw).
If you think there’s something wrong with your dental implant, you should see a dentist as soon as possible. Tell-tale signs that something could be wrong include, painful or swollen gums, pain when biting or loose implants.
If your dental implants fail, you may be able to have them replaced but this will depend on why they failed in the first place.
If the issue is cosmetic, for instance if the crown has chipped or cracked (through age or an accident) then your dentist should be able to change it. However, if the problem is with the implant screw (the ‘root’ of the replacement tooth) it might not be possible. In this instance, your dentist may recommend that the implant be removed entirely and offer you an alternative solution for your missing teeth (such as a dental bridge or dentures).
One of the simplest ways to care for your implants is to practice good dental hygiene. Even if you don’t manage to avoid fizzy drinks, sweets and alcohol or stop smoking, flossing and brushing your teeth every day can go a long way in keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.
On top of that, visit your dentist and hygienist regularly and follow any advice they offer. If you’re put off by the cost of having frequent dental check-ups, remember that avoiding appointments is often a false economy in the long run.
If you only visit the dentist when you think something is wrong, it’s usually because there is, and your only choice may be complex, lengthy and expensive treatment. With that in mind, regular visits and preventative care is often far more cost effective (and better for your overall health).
Only some groups are entitled to free dental care in the UK, this includes anyone who is:
If you’re not entitled to free dental care, you’ll need to pay to see an NHS dentist, but treatment is heavily subsidised and will cost you less compared to private treatment. Currently, an NHS dental check-up costs £25.80; the average cost for a private exam is £49, but only if you’re an existing patient. New patients can expect to pay an average of £65 for an appointment.
More than a third of people in the UK cannot find an NHS dentist so you may have no alternative than to join a private dental practice. The good news is that you can still keep costs down in a number of ways:
Dental insurance rarely covers the cost of dental implants as it’s considered a cosmetic treatment. If you decide you want teeth implants then it’s likely you’ll need to pay for it yourself. A few insurers will cover some of the cost, but this will usually be a benefit reserved for high level policies with expensive premiums.
However, alternative treatments for missing teeth, such as dentures and dental bridges are normally covered by dental insurance policies. Typically, you’ll be expected to pay for treatment first then claim the money back from your provider. There’s usually an excess to pay as well.
If you don’t have dental insurance already but want to find out more about how it can help cover costs for a range of treatments, let us know. We can put you in touch with a regulated broker who’ll be able to take you through what’s available according to your needs and budget.
For more detailed guides on dentistry and dental implants, take a look at:
Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.
Dental implants typically last between ten and 20 years but it can vary from person to person. You can prolong their lifespan by maintaining good oral hygiene – flossing and brushing twice a day and keeping regular appointments with your dentist and hygienist.
If you can, try to avoid sugar too as this can encourage bacteria to grow in your mouth and lead to gum disease.
The success rate for dental implants is very high (95%) and you can expect them to last up to 20 years. However, their longevity doesn’t mean you can neglect them once they’re fitted and it’s important to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as you can.
In some cases, the crown (replacement tooth) can become damaged, either through age or an accident. This sort of damage is often treatable and your dentist may be able to simply replace the crown.
If the damage is down to more complex reasons (for example, if the implant is loose) then you might not be able to replace it and it may need to be taken out. If this happens, you’ll usually be offered an alternative such as dentures or a dental bridge.
As a rule, no, you shouldn’t be able to get food stuck under the implant.
The implant is screwed into place and fuses with your jawbone, acting as a secure root. A support is then fitted (abutment) followed by the crown (replacement tooth). If your implants have healed properly, they should be ‘sealed’ by your gums, giving you a secure fit (just as your natural teeth are ‘fixed’ in place by their roots).
If you do find food getting stuck under your implants, it could be a sign they’re loose so you should speak to your dentist as soon as possible.
Yes, you can. Receding gums is not exclusive to natural teeth so it can also happen around your dental implants. The only difference is that when you have natural teeth and your gums erode, the root of your tooth is exposed. With implants, it will be the implant that becomes visible.
You can develop receding gums for a number of reasons. This can include brushing too hard, ageing or as a result of poor dental health which has led to gum disease and gum erosion.
Your dentist may be able to offer you a solution, but it will depend on the severity of the problem and the cause of recession.
In some circumstances, dental implants can be replaced but your dentist will need to understand why they need replacing. If it’s because the crown is discoloured, chipped or broken, it could be swapped for another, so long as the implant itself is still secure.
If your dental implant is loose or your gums feel sore and it’s painful to eat, it could be that the implant has failed to heal or gum disease has caused erosion. These problems can be difficult to fix so your dentist will assess the condition of the implants, the health of your gums and suggest how to resolve the problem.