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Dental Implants A Last Resort, Says Study
October 16, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Dental implants don’t last longer than properly treated natural teeth, says a review of published research. The authors reviewed 19 studies on the long-term survival of either natural teeth or dental implants. The studies all had follow-up periods of at least 15 years.

Tooth loss ranged from 3.6% to 13.4% over that time. For "hopeless" or "questionable" teeth, the loss rate ranged from 20% to 62.3%. These are teeth that dentists believe are highly likely to need extraction. In comparison, implant loss ranged from 0% to 33%.

Reasons for needing a tooth removed include:

  • Serious decay
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Broken or cracked tooth
  • Infected or damaged root, or failed root canal
  • Trauma to the tooth

The authors note that removing a tooth is not reversible. They suggest that maintaining a natural tooth as long as possible, even if this involves treatment, may still be preferable to placing an implant. Once an implant is placed, there is no alternate treatment if it fails, other than placing a second implant. Second implants have a higher failure rate than first implants do.

An implant is a small metal post embedded in the jaw. To place an implant, there must be enough bone in the jaw to hold it in place. Once the bone heals around it, a tooth-like cap or crown covers the implant.

Implants can cost several thousand dollars. They usually are not covered by dental insurance.

The study appears in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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