We know we’re starting to sound like a broken record: dental implants can last forever. In fact, they last so long that we can’t measure how long they last. In other words, we don’t know what the lifetime of dental implants is. For years, we’ve been working mostly with 20-year studies, which show that the studies aren’t long enough to show how long dental implants last.
Now we’ve got a 30 year dental implant study to compare them to, and it shows the same thing: dental implants last essentially forever.
Dental Implants Supporting Fixed Dental Bridges
The main problem with this study is that it’s got a relatively small number of patients and dental implants, but that’s because 30 years ago dental implants were still a revolutionary procedure. They weren’t technically approved for use in the US yet. Dr. Brånemark really only shared the procedure to dentists worldwide in 1982, barely 34 years ago, and even in his home country of Sweden, they were only approved about 40 years ago. So the number of people receiving dental implants 30 years ago is very small.
This study focused on four patients who had five fixed dental bridges in their mandibles (lower jaws). These dental bridges were screwed to 28 dental implants. This means that the bridges weren’t removable and they had to support the full force of biting and chewing. Essentially, these were bridges that functioned just like natural teeth.
Among these four patients, none of the dental implants were lost. That’s right, this population had a dental implant survival rate of 100%. However, not all of the restorations survived. One of the dental bridges had to be replaced, so the bridges had a survival rate of 80%.
Not Without Complications
However, it’s also important to note that the dental implants were not without complications. A complete review of the dental records for these patients showed that over 30 years, they needed 21 repairs such as the replacement of individual denture teeth, replacement of the gold screws that secured the dentures, or hard relining of the dentures. There were an additional 19 adjustments to occlusion or contouring. In other words, a restoration needed a repair on average every seven years, and an adjustment every 8 years.
There was also some bone loss around the dental implants, an average of about 2.6 mm. That translates to an average of 0.087 mm per year. Considering some short-term studies estimate bone loss at 0.6 mm the first year and 0.2 mm per year after that, this shows remarkable long-term stability for dental implants.
Over-Engineering and Other Concerns
We have to note that by modern standards, these dental implant restorations seem to be over-engineered. That is to say that, compared to modern restorations, there were more dental implants per restoration than we would normally use (an average of 7 implants per jaw, compared to the 4-6 we might use today). Modern restorations might have fewer implants, and, possibly, smaller implants, than these restorations, which could affect their survival rates.
On the other, hand all these dental implants were placed in the lower jaw, which some studies show would tend to decrease their survival rate compared to those placed in the upper jaw.
Dental Implants: The Forever Restorations
With the understanding that this study is still very small, and that these restorations may have been over-engineered out of an abundance of caution, we still look at these results as indicative that dental implants really can be forever restorations. When properly designed, properly placed, and properly cared for, dental implants can last a lifetime. And the restorations placed on them also have long-term durability, although not nearly as long as the dental implants themselves.
Overall, dental implants are a wonder of reconstructive dentistry. If you are ready to get dental implants today for all your tomorrows, please call (702) 873-0324 today for an appointment with a Summerlin implant dentist Dr. James B. Polley.