It’s one of the supposed benefits of dental implants. Anchored in the jawbone, they theoretically could last for the rest of your life. But do they, really?
Long-term studies show that most people keep their implants longer than any study that’s yet been performed. As far as we know, dental implants really can last indefinitely.
Long-Term Success of Dental Implants
When looking at something that might last forever, it’s hard to get studies that adequately capture the full picture. Long-term follow-up is hard because patients move, lose their commitment to the study, and even, in some cases related to this population, die before follow-up can be completed. Still, research has been conducted with dental implants that have been in place 10, 14, and even 16 years.
A ten-year follow-up study looked at 112 implants in 53, 8 of whom had a history of gum disease. This study reported a 90% survival rate for patients with gum disease, but 97% for patients without.
The largest of the studies, a 14-year follow-up study looked at 1057 dental implants in 218 patients. The reported survival rate was 96%, and, like the study above, found that a few patients accounted for most of the failures. They said eight patients lost more than one implant each, which means that at a minimum 4% of patients accounted for 36% of failures. Again, gum disease was to blame. Patients who saw multiple failures had significant bone loss around their natural teeth before their dental implants were placed.
The longest study, with a 16-year follow-up, looked at 131 dental implants in 55 patients. The reported survival rate was 82.9%, which seems low. But they compared their ten-year survival rates with other studies and said that they were statistically comparable. Again, there’s a disparity between patients with and without gum disease. They reported this disparity at ten years as a lower survival rate for implants in patients with gum disease (85%) than for those without (90%).
How Long Will Your Dental Implants Last?
Dental implants aren’t magic. They are medical procedures with a high success rate, but not 100% success. And they do become more likely to fail with time. But with proper care and in the right person, they can last a very long time, and by the end of each of these studies, most people still had all their implants in place and functional.
Based on these studies, a person without a history of gum disease has a very high chance (90% or more) of getting ten years’ life out of their dental implants, and pretty good odds of getting much, much more than that. A person with a history of gum disease has a lower chance, but with appropriate care, even poor candidates can get success with dental implants.