A crown is the most common restoration used to cover a dental implant. Crowns are strong, tooth-shaped caps that are used to restore a natural tooth or to cover a dental implant. While durable, crowns are designed to function similarly to natural teeth and are prone to wear and damage.
Dental implants are usually made of three distinct parts that come together to form a whole. The implant post functions as tooth roots, the abutment is a peg that connects the post to the restoration, and the crown is the top part of the implant. Implants are virtually decay-proof because they are made from lab-fabricated materials (usually porcelain, metal, or a combination of both). Even though dental implant crowns are resistant to decay, they can be damaged by other factors.
Dental Implant Longevity
Although the first dental implants were introduced in the 1950s, they were not widely available to the general public until the 1980s. Improvements and upgrades have increased their lifespan since then.
A patient who gets one or more dental implants today will have a series of titanium or ceramic posts placed through the gum line and into the jawbone, where they will fuse to the bone through a process known as osseointegration. The posts will hold an abutment and crown to replace missing teeth.
While they are not permanent, properly cared-for implants can last for 25 years or more, compared to a median of 10 years for bridges and dentures.
When is it time to replace a dental implant crown?
Here are four symptoms, it may be time to replace your dental implant crown:
Over time, a dental implant crown can sustain significant wear. Most crowns are intended to last 10 to 15 years on average, excluding crowns damaged by any unexpected trauma. Crowns, like teeth, are still vulnerable to damage. Crowns can be fractured when biting down on a hard object, in sports accidents, or from any mouth injury.
Tiny fractures in a crown can form after years of use. Bruxism, a condition in which a person unconsciously grinds or clenches their teeth, can cause a crown to fail even sooner. These minor fractures can weaken the implant crown and expose it to larger cracks.
Wear on the surface of the dental implant crown can be more rapid in patients whose teeth do not fit together correctly (a condition known as malocclusion). Those who have malocclusion usually have early crown wear.
Gum tissue recession
When crowns are not properly cared for, plaque tends to collect around the base. Tartar can accumulate at the gumline despite best efforts. Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental exams are crucial for the dental implant crown's long-term durability. Plaque cannot damage porcelain, but the acid produced by plaque bacteria can eat away at the gums.
Bacteria can begin to destroy gum tissue if left untreated. This is called a gum recession. The gums begin to pull away from the implant crown, revealing a dark line. Regular dental checkups will allow the dentist to detect any signs of gum recession before they become a major issue.
Infected gum tissue
Patients with dental implants may require professional dental cleanings more frequently than patients without a crown. If the bacteria at the gumline are not removed, they can spread to the jawbone and cause significant damage. An abscess may eventually form at the implant's base. The jawbone will begin to lose density, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of the dental implant.
The dentist may recommend the crown replacement at the first sign of seriously infected gum tissue, instead of replacing the entire implant at this stage.
Crowns can become loose at times. If the bond between the crown and the abutment fails, the crown may need to be replaced. When chewing or speaking, loose crowns may make a clicking sound.
Remember, regular dental checkups may help you avoid all the problems listed above.