Consumers may be skeptical about something advertised as permanent—when the product in question is so durable that you won't need to replace it. This can be a reasonable concern when receiving a dental implant. Yes, dental implants are often referred to as a permanent tooth-replacement system, but is this all that realistic?
Types of Implants
There are three primary types of dental implants. Endosteal implants are installed in your alveolar ridge (which is part of your jaw), whereas subperiosteal implants sit atop the jaw, beneath your gum tissues. There are also zygomatic implants for upper teeth, which are implanted in the cheekbone. Endosteal implants are the most common, and the most common material for the implant is titanium alloy.
The titanium alloy bolt is installed in your alveolar ridge, and a process called osseointegration begins. The bone and surrounding tissues basically heal around the implanted bolt, holding it in the desired position. An abutment will then be added to the implant's peak, and the prosthetic tooth is mounted to the abutment (and will either be cemented into place or secured with a screw). The implant is now finished, but is it going to be permanent?
The Titanium Alloy Bolt
It's fairly straightforward—the implanted titanium alloy bolt can be permanent, while the abutment and prosthetic tooth are intended to offer many years of service without actually being permanent. Teeth (prosthetic and natural) inevitably experience wear and tear, and this can ultimately lead to the gradual deterioration of the visible portion of the implant. The prosthetic tooth and its abutment will eventually need to be replaced, although the implanted bolt can offer a lifetime of service.
This isn't to say that there's nothing that can jeopardize the titanium alloy bolt implanted in your alveolar ridge. It's possible for an infection to destabilize the bolt's connection with the bone. These infections (known as peri-implant mucositis, which can advance to the more serious peri-implantitis) can largely be avoided with proper oral hygiene. Your dentist will also assess the components of your implant during your regular checkups, identifying the early signs of any potential infection.
Other Risk Factors
As might be expected, physical trauma (such as an accident) can destabilize or even dislodge a dental implant. Protect your implant by wearing an appropriate mouthguard when playing sports. Additionally, avoid any unnatural, excessive pressure on your implant. Teeth are intended to grip, tear, and chew food—not to open bottles and packets. If you're sensible about avoiding activities that could conceivably destabilize your implant, then the implant bolt can, for all intents and purposes, be permanent.
Some components of a dental implant will need to be upgraded (at some stage in the relatively distant future), but the bolt implanted in your jaw can be permanent—provided you take proper care of it.
For more information on dental implants, contact a dentist near you.