If you're thinking about replacing your missing tooth with a dental implant, chances are that you've already done some research. You're aware of the considerable benefits of dental implants (mostly that they look, feel, and function just like natural teeth), but you're probably also aware of the drawbacks—namely, that implants require a minor surgical procedure and some recuperation time. Because implantation involves surgery, it's natural to wonder if you'll need to repeat the process at any stage in the future. So, how long is your implant going to last?
A Very Minor Procedure
The first thing to realize is that the required surgery is minor indeed when compared to other forms of oral surgery. It's so minor that you don't need to be sedated, and your dentist just needs to numb your jaw. The titanium alloy screw (which is the actual implant) is then placed in your jaw.
The Days Following the Procedure
Your jaw will be a little tender in the days following the procedure, but this can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. Your healing has begun, and this involves your jawbone actually regrowing around the implanted titanium alloy screw. There's a specific name for when your jawbone heals around the implant, and it's called osseointegration. It takes anywhere from two to six months, depending on the patient.
Osseointegration should be permanent. That being said, there are some scenarios that can cause an implant to detach (or have to be surgically removed), but they are rare and can be avoided:
- An infection (which can originate in your gums) that causes the implant's connection with your jawbone to weaken. This can be avoided by maintaining a high level of oral hygiene.
- Impact trauma (a physical blow to your jaw) could also weaken the implant's connection to your jawbone. Wearing a mouthguard while playing sports minimizes this risk.
At some stage, the dental crown (prosthetic tooth) attached to your implant will need to be replaced, but this is quick and painless, and doesn't involve any further surgery. Your dentist simply switches out the old tooth for the new one. It's also an infrequent event. On average, a dental crown lasts for around ten years.
So while it's theoretically possible for an implant to detach, for the vast majority of patients osseointegration is going to be permanent. You might not be looking forward to the thought of dental implant surgery, but please remember that it's minor, and the results should be permanent—so you won't have to do it again.