New studies have identified a potential weakness in dental implants. In dental implants that have an abutment between the implant and the crown, the repetitive mechanical stresses of compressing and stretching as you chew can lead to progressive wear between the units.
However, the wear only really starts to show at 200,000 cycles, and by 1 million cycles it had worsened, but wear had actually slowed. But how do we translate these “cycles” into your daily chewing so that we can get an idea about how long before implants begin to be fatigued?
How Many Bites Do You Take in a Day?
To figure out the loading cycles your dental implant experiences in a day, we have to know how many bites the average person takes in a day. Although there is a movement for the 100 bite diet, it’s likely that most people take significantly more bites over the course of a normal day.
Since there are no good statistics about how many bites people take, we have to extrapolate from the number of calories people consume daily. The Calorie intake for the average American is 3770 per day. The average man takes in about 17 Calories per bite, so that’s about 220 bites a day. On average, people chew about 15 times per bite, making about 3300 loading cycles per day, though if you follow the British maxim of 32 chews per bite, it would account for over 7000 chews per day, and if you’re a Fletcherizer, you might chew as much as 159,000 times a day, though Fletcherizers are unlikely to consume 3770 Calories per day!
Working with the realistic estimate of 3300 loading cycles per day, it turns out that a dental implant might actually begin to show appreciable wear, then begin to see reduced wear patterns within 60 days, similar to the wearing-in period for a car. And you’ll break the 1 million cycles mark within the first year. And that’s not counting loading because you clamp your teeth for swallowing or to help lift or perform other exercises.
So does this mean that we should be worried about this particular problem with dental implants? It is certainly a concern, since over the first ten years of its life, a dental implant will be exposed to about 12 million load cycles from chewing alone. That’s a lot of potential wear.
In real-world situations, this represents a small but significant concern for dental implants. Although mechanical failures occur in less than 0.2% of implants, they do account for nearly 10% of failures, and they do tend to increase with age, as we might expect. As we continue to understand the factors that contribute to mechanical failure of dental implants, we can design new and better implants that stand up better to chewing forces.