25 Jul 2018

How long do dental implants last?

Many patients wonder if the dental implants are for the whole life.

The dental implants are medical devices that are placed surgically in the alveolar bone, of the maxillary one or jaw. They offer an artificial and stable support to the teeth or crowns. To be a good candidate for the placement of dental implants, the patient must have a series of certain characteristics. If these are not fulfill the probability of the implant success diminishes.

The aims of placing a dental implant

The aims on having placed a dental implant might be different from the patient and dentist prospectives. While the patient wants to recover the function and the aesthetics, the professional adds some parameters of success inside his aims. In the placement of an implant one tries to manage a success so much in the biological stability, bone and gum levels with health in the time, as the mechanics and function besides the fact that it should be cleanable. 

Throughout the time different classifications have existed on the success of the dental implants. A consensus exists between authors that the success of dental implants depends on the presence and maintenance of the bone that surrounds the implant.

In the studies on the success of dental implants the most used parameter is the rate of survival of the implant that indicates if the implant remains in mouth or has been removed.

The success of the implant treatment

The success of the treatment can be defined in different ways depending on the parameters used. Albrektsson in 1986 defined the success in the following way: the implant could not have mobility, and could not demonstrate radiolucency areas (shades between the implant and bone in the X-ray). The loss of bone in vertical sense after the first year must be less than 1.2 mm and it should not be any symptomatology (pain).

A few years ago in the literature the loss of bone around the implant was accepted of up to 1,2 mm in height during the first year in function. After the first year in function the loss of bone had to be a minor of 0,1 mm for every passed year. This is not acceptable any longer.

Different clinical situations

One of the last classifications of the success of implants divides them in 3 clinical different situations: success (implant in health), survival or failure of the implant. The survival of the implant divides between a satisfactory survival and failing survival. A failing implant should be treated to minimize the risk of failure and the failed implants are those which have to be removed.

Knowing these classifications we can see that the dental implants can remain in mouth without being a successful treatment. This way so, the duration and success of a dental implant not only depends on the dental implant being in mouth but its bone and gum being healthy. 

The studies have demonstrated that the rate of survival of the implants is very high but not of 100 %. It exists a small percentage that fail. In addition, there are a series of risk factors as the medical history of the patient, to smoke, periodontal disease or periodontitis, iatrogenic factors (bad or poor dental practice) or the hygiene of the patient that will influence in the prognosis of the implant and thus in his duration. In addition, scientific evidence has shown that the rate of periimplantitis (infection of the bone and gum around dental implants) is very high.

Thus, the duration of the dental implants is not an even and equal for all the patients. There is a small percentage of failure of the treatment. For those that are inside this percentage the implants will last little. As the teeth of a patient who needs dental implants have not lasted forever, the implants are not a solution for the whole life either. It will depend on how they care these implants and on the regular professional maintenance. No dental implant should hace a lifelong guarantee.

The majority of patients can expect for a survival of their dental implants of more than 10 years of function with a high rate of success (above 96% after 15 years). It is not possible to give the certainty of which implant will have this rate of success after its placement since a small percentage of failure exists and its maintenance in mouth will depend on many different factors that the dentist or periodontist cannot control and are dependent on the patient.


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    Dr. José Nart Molina

    Dr. Jose Nart received his dental degree in 2001 from Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC), Barcelona, Spain, and his Advanced Certificate in Periodontics and Implant Surgery from Tufts University in 2007. Dr. Nart was awarded Diplomate status by the American Board of Periodontology on May 2008, and he obtained his PhD in Dentistry in 2010 with the highest degree. Currently, he is Professor, Chairman and Program Director at the Department of Periodontology at UIC-Barcelona, and President for the Spanish Society of Periodontology and Osseointegration (SEPA). He maintains, with his family, a well-known multispecialty private practice in Barcelona, Nart Dental Clinic, as medical director. Dr. Nart is author of many international high-impact JCR publications (+110), worldwide speaker and reviewer of the highest impact factor Periodontology and Implant Dentistry journals.


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