A dental implant is an artificial replacement for the root of your tooth. It screws into your jawbone and supports a fake tooth (crown). It has many benefits, but not everyone is a great fit for an implant.

Dental implants are installed surgically while your mouth is numbed with a local anesthetic. The surgery itself takes about 90 minutes, but the whole process might take as long as 6 to 12 months because you usually need multiple dental appointments.

Dental implants can provide a natural-looking and natural-feeling replacement for a missing tooth that lasts for many years. However, they can be more expensive than the alternatives and may not be suitable for people who can’t undergo dental surgery.

Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of dental implants compared with other dental surgeries.

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Illustration: Bailey Mariner.

Dental implants are generally very durable and closely replicate the look and feel of a natural tooth when covered with a crown. They offer many benefits over available alternatives.


The gold standard for treating missing teeth is a titanium dental implant. Dental implants can last longer than alternatives and have a success rate above 97% for 10 years.

In a large 2021 study examining the life span of 10,871 implants over 22 years, researchers found implant survival rates of:

  • 98.9% at 3 years
  • 98.5% at 5 years
  • 96.8% at 10 years
  • 94.0% at 15 years

For reference, a 2021 review found that complete dentures last an average of 10.1 years. Dental bridges generally need to be replaced every 5 to 15 years.

Prevents bone loss

Dental implants may help prevent bone loss that occurs after you lose a tooth.

When you lose a tooth, your jawbone is no longer stressed in that part of your mouth. Over time, your body breaks down and reabsorbs some of the bone tissue.

Numerous studies have found that 30% of the alveolar ridge is lost after tooth loss. Your alveolar ridge is the part of your jawbone that contains your tooth socket. Most bone loss occurs in the first 6 months.

In a 2016 review of studies, researchers found evidence that implants seem to have a noticeable effect on alveolar ridge preservation by lowering the rate of bone resorption. Resorption is when a substance — in this case, bone — is destroyed before the body absorbs it.

Natural look and feel

A dental implant acts as an artificial root for your tooth. Dentists can put a crown on the top of the implant that helps mimic the look and feel of a natural tooth and may feel more comfortable than alternative treatments such as dentures.

In a 2016 study from Sweden, researchers found that 94% of 400 people who responded to a questionnaire sent by mail said that they were sufficiently satisfied with the aesthetics of their implant.

Keeps adjacent teeth stable

When you’re missing a tooth, the surrounding teeth can migrate toward the gap and cause problems with your bite and ability to chew. An implant can fill the gap between your teeth and keep up the health of your surrounding teeth by preventing them from drifting.

Restores the cosmetic appearance of your face

Jawbone loss after losing a tooth or teeth can reshape your face. It might lead to changes such as:

Facial changes are usually most noticeable if you’re missing many teeth.

Dental implants may help prevent these changes by helping keep the structural integrity of your jaw and preventing bone loss.

Behaves like natural teeth when speaking and chewing

A dental implant more closely mimics your natural teeth when chewing than traditional dentures or bridges. It also may help preserve your speech patterns by filling holes in your teeth that cause changes to the way air passes through your mouth when you talk.

Overdentures are false teeth that attach to an implant (or multiple implants) but are removable. In a 2019 study, researchers found that a group of 32 people had improvements in their speech quality after receiving 5 or 6 mini implants to support overdentures after an adaptation period of 4 months. Some people had minor problems with “s” sounds after treatment.

An implant-supported denture is another term for overdenture.

Restores bite force

In a 2016 study, researchers found that implant-supported overdenture of the lower jaw increases biting force compared with traditional dentures.

Improves quality of life

In a 2019 study, researchers reported no implant failures at a 3-year follow-up appointment among 98 people who received implant-supported overdentures. The researchers concluded that implant-supported overdentures could increase quality of life with limited risks and high rates of implant survival.

Dental implants offer some advantages over traditional dental bridges such as:

  • They tend to last longer.
  • They tend to look more natural.
  • They tend to lead to less decay in surrounding teeth.
  • They don’t require damaging surrounding teeth.

Learn more about the pros and cons of dental implants and bridges here.

Dental implants offer some benefits over traditional dentures such as:

  • They more closely resemble and feel like your natural teeth.
  • They require less daily maintenance.
  • They may provide more comfortable chewing.
  • They generally last longer.
  • They may help preserve jawbone tissue.

Learn more about the pros and cons of implants and dentures here.

The main drawbacks for implants are:

  • They’re generally more expensive than other treatment options.
  • Your insurance might not cover them.
  • They require dental surgery.
  • The whole implantation process will likely take multiple dental appointments and up to 6 to 12 months.
  • They may first require a dental bone graft.

Like all surgical procedures, dental implants come with some risks including:

  • damage to surrounding teeth or tissues
  • bleeding
  • implant failure
  • gum recession
  • infection
  • allergic reaction to anesthetic
  • nerve or tissue damage

Implant failure rates have been reported as 11% in smokers and 5% in nonsmokers.

Learn more about dental implant risks here.

The ideal candidate for dental implants is somebody with good overall dental health and a missing tooth or a tooth that needs to be extracted. To receive an implant, you need to be in good enough health to undergo dental surgery.

Some conditions that may make you ineligible for a dental implant include:

Dental implants generally cost more than other treatments such as crowns or bridges, so they may not be the best option if you don’t have dental insurance.

Dental implants are durable dental prostheses that replace the root of a tooth. They can be covered with crowns, dentures, or bridges.

A dental implant can offer natural-looking and long lasting results, but they tend to be more expensive than other treatment options. A dentist can help you decide if an implant may be a good option for you or if another dental prosthesis might be better.