How Long do Dental Implants Last?

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

Dental implants are perhaps the most obvious way that dental science has made the biggest strides in recent years. Thanks to a simple surgery, those with gaps in their smile or teeth that are damaged beyond repair can undergo a simple surgery and walk out with dental implants that look and behave exactly like real teeth.


As your Chapel Hill dental implants dentist, Dr. Diane Hourigan fields a lot of questions about the permanence of these implants. They look and behave like real teeth, sure, but will complications arise somewhere down the road? Will the implant ever need to be replaced?


These are great questions that can only be answered by a professional. Thankfully, it’s a question Dr. Hourigan is qualified to answer.

Are Dental Implants Permanent?


The short answer is, “No,” but with proper care, the lifespan of a dental implant could be as long as 25 years or more. The trick, of course, is taking take care of them, just like it is for the remainder of your healthy, natural teeth.


The following are a few ways to extend the life of your dental implants to ensure you don’t have to replace them any sooner than necessary:


  1. Brush and floss every day, just as you would with normal teeth, and make sure you hold your biannual appointments with your dentist for routine cleanings. This is the single most important thing a patient can do to extend the life of their dental implants.
  2. Avoid chewing down on very hard items, especially if they aren’t food.
  3. Stay healthy in a general sense. There are links between general health and dental health, so living a healthy lifestyle is good for all your teeth and your dental implant.


Of course, having the procedure done by a professional with years of experience is another way to ensure the implants last longer. If they are installed skillfully in the first place, there is a better chance they’ll hold up over time. That’s why choosing Dr. Hourigan for this procedure is so important.


How to Know if An Implant Should Be Looked At


Inevitably, dental implants can get to a point where they need to be replaced. Dental implants have a 95 percent success rate, but that does leave room for certain complications. Dental implants are, by design, easy to remove and therefore easy to address these concerns, but we still suggest that patients watch out for certain things.


For example, it is possible to contract an infection near the implant area. An implant can get loose or fall out completely. A patient also may experience numbness around the area of the surgery, and in some rare cases, sinus problems can arise due to the location of the implant.


If any of these things occur or something just doesn’t feel right with an implant you’ve had done (by Dr. Hourigan or any other dentist), set up an appointment so we can get to the root of the problem and make any corrections to whatever is causing the issue with the implant.


Done well, dental implants cause no problems for the patient, and properly maintained, they can last as long as decades. They are not permanent solutions, but they last a very, very long time and help Dr. Hourigan’s patients enjoy more functional bites and fuller smiles.



Do you brush and floss routinely, avoid sugary foods and drinks, and see your dentist for scheduled appointments but still get cavities? Do you have friends who don’t follow healthy oral habits and don’t deal with tooth decay and wonder if there’s any fairness left in the world?

Your Chapel Hill general dentist understands your frustration! How is it possible to take care of your teeth and still get cavities? It turns out that your genes may be responsible.

It’s Not Just about Bacteria

Keeping your mouth free of harmful bacteria is essential if you want a healthy smile, but another significant factor is the resistance of your teeth. A recent study by two researchers from the University of Zurich shows a definite condition between defects in the gene complex that’s responsible for the formation of tooth enamel and the rate of caries (cavities).

What This Means for You

There’s a lot more study that needs to be conducted in this area to understand how these findings can change the way we approach oral health care. But whether or not your genetic makeup puts you at higher risk for tooth decay, there are always steps you can take:

  • Make sure your oral hygiene’s up to par – Brushing and flossing for decades does not make you an expert, and if you aren’t doing it properly, you may not be getting the benefit of your efforts. Talk to your hygienist to “brush up” on your oral hygiene for the best results.
  • Keep up with routine dental appointments – Prevention is the key to enjoying good oral health, making semi-annual exams and cleanings with your family dentist crucial. Decide if you’d rather take a couple of hours out of your week now or wait until you need costly and complex treatment!
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink – Certain foods, especially those high in sugar and acid, are very damaging and weaken dental enamel which can lead to cavities.

Please Call to Arrange an Appointment

Your family dentist can offer you many helpful tips for keeping your smile healthy, regardless of genetics. If you would like to learn more, please call the Chapel Hill general dentist to arrange a convenient appointment.


Many people think of the dentist only as a place people visit to get cavities filled, but the reality is that most of a dental practice’s day is dedicated to routine cleanings designed to keep patients from ever getting cavities in the first place. While it seems like it should be common sense to get regular dental cleanings every six months, there are many people who ignore this recommendation. For the following reasons, all of Dr. Diane Hourigan’s patients should schedule an appointment with their Chapel Hill family dentist twice a year for cleanings:


#1 It Prevents Cavities


Even those people who brush and floss their teeth every single day can end up with the kind of plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth that can cause cavities. Professional cleanings help prevent this from happening, as trained specialists with specific dental tools can do a much better job clearing your teeth of plaque than anything you may own at home.


#2 Cleanings Cost Less Than Fillings


Something else to keep in mind is that many insurance plans cover two cleanings per year, which means they are essentially free for some patients. Even for those that don’t have dental insurance, the cost of a cleaning is considerably less than the cost of a filling or root canal. It’s better to prevent the damage than experience the pain and expense that comes with these types of cavities.


#3 Check for Oral Cancer


While most people will live their lives without oral cancer, the mouth isn’t an area that they are able to check easily without professional assistance. Dr. Hourigan can check not only your teeth but other areas of your mouth to perhaps identify cancer signs early enough for them to be treated in a timely manner.


#4 X-Rays Help Find Hidden Issues


While you can make a pretty good guess about the quality of your teeth from the outside, you cannot physically see what is happening underneath your gums and in your jaw without the assistance of an x-ray. X-rays are a routine aspect of biannual cleanings, and they can identify impending issues with wisdom teeth, your jawbone, and of course your teeth, where not all problems are visible on the surface alone.


#5 Boost Your Overall Health


Studies have long since proven that there is a direct correlation between dental health and overall health. Regular cleanings help improve your dental health, thereby preventing a lot of the other illnesses and infections that can occur as a result of a compromised immune system.


Schedule an Appointment

More than anything else, Dr. Hourigan wants her patients to be happy and healthy, all while sporting a great smile, and the best way she can help ensure that happens is to get those patients in for their regular dental cleanings. They save money, they improve overall health, and they make your smile look as great as it possibly can. Knowing all of this, why wouldn’t you want to get your teeth cleaned twice a year?