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Dental Implants (1,000 Words)

Are you afraid to smile with your mouth open?

If you said yes, you're not alone. Over 3 million people in the US have had dental implants to help give them their dream smile. But the process of receiving implants can be expensive and take months to complete. For such a long process, it begs the question: do dental implants last forever?

Below, we cover what goes into a dental implant, which implants will last the longest, and what you can do to help guarantee you have a gorgeous set of implants for life.

Components of a Dental Implant

Every type of dental implant is made up of three main parts: the fixture, the abutment, and the prosthesis. Inserting dental implants is usually a multi-visit process because your mouth and jaw need to fully heal before your prosthodontist will be able to move on to the next part.

On average, you can expect to have at least two minor surgeries on separate occasions. The usual length for dental implants takes around six to eight months from start to finish, but complications like a soft jawbone can cause the process to take longer than usual.

1. The Fixture

The fixture is the base of your implant. It's a screw that is physically embedded below the gum line that anchors your implant into your mouth. While you might not be able to see the fixture once the dental implant is finished, it's an important part of making sure your dental implant stays in place and lasts for years.

Typically, the fixture is made out of titanium or zirconia, which are antimicrobial and extremely strong types of metal that resist corrosion. After the fixture is inserted, the mouth needs time to recover so that the fixture can fuse with the jawbone to become a permanent part of your smile.

The fixture will have a screw-shaped design and will usually be coated with hydroxyapatite to assist with the fusion process.

Unless your jaw cannot support an embedded fixture, your fixture will not face the daily wear and tear of food from your mouth and should last the longest out of all of the dental implant components.

2. The Abutment

After your jawbone has fused with the fixture, your oral surgeon can go back in and add the abutment. This is a small but important component of the implant that resides around the gumline.

The abutment is screwed into the fixture and will eventually support the crown or other type of dental implant you receive.

3. The Prosthesis

The prosthesis can be called the "Crowning" glory of your dental implant. Whether you receive crowns, bridges, or implant dentures, your prosthesis will be attached to the abutment.

If you are receiving a crown or bridge, your prosthesis will be cemented or screwed in place. If you are receiving a denture, the prosthesis will snap onto the abutment. Most crowns these days are made out of porcelain, which is a highly durable material designed to last even longer than most natural teeth.

The Life Expectancy of Implants

The durability of your dental implant depends on a few key factors, including what type of implant you received and how well you maintain your dental hygiene.

On average, your dental implant should last at least 25 years and some can last even longer.

Certain types of implants might need to be adjusted or replaced as time goes on if neighboring, natural teeth start to migrate into the path of the implant. This is why most prosthodontists recommend waiting until a person's jawbone has finished growing to consider dental implants.

Implant-retained dentures are typically the type of implant that lasts the longest. This type of implant is perfect for someone who has already lost most of their upper or lower teeth but doesn't want to deal with the hassle and discomfort from removable dentures. The teeth are implanted as a denture set, so you don't need to worry about migrating teeth.

How to Make Your Implants Last Longer

There are several ways you can affect your implant's longevity that range from immediate dental hygiene during the implant process to years down the road.

Right after your metal fixtures have been inserted, they need time to recover and fuse with your jawbone. In order for fusion to occur, you need to have healthy jawbones and avoid upsetting the fixture's implantation.

Smoking and creating suction in your mouth by using straws can contribute to implant failure as well as other complications as your mouth and jaw recovers from the initial procedure.

Practicing excellent oral hygiene before and after your implant is another important factor in increasing the life expectancy of your implant.

In addition to brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing, consider implementing interdental brushes into your oral routine. These brushes go in between the teeth like floss, but can also dip down to remove plaque from along the gum line.

Seeing a dentist regularly is especially important with dental implants to make sure that they continue to remain in good shape. After the implant, your prosthodontist will likely recommend that you change your diet to help your teeth stay in top shape.

Usually, your new diet will restrict foods with hard textures. Chewing things like ice or hard candy can wear down your porcelain crowns and bridges, which will make you need a replacement faster than normal. You should also stay away from sweet foods and drinks because the sugar can increase the growth of decaying bacteria in your mouth.

Do Dental Implants Last Forever?

Do dental implants last forever? While they do operate for at least a quarter of a century, they do eventually need replacements. In some cases, they can last even longer than that.

Choosing to get dental implants is a big decision, but it's one that can drastically improve your quality of life. Because every smile is unique, it's important to get the right dental implants for your mouth. Find a prosthodontist near you who can go over all of your dental implant options.

A better smile is out there. Find yours today.


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