Dental implants are one of the most remarkable technologies of modern medicine. Using them, we can replace a lost tooth with a fully functional new tooth that is indistinguishable from your other teeth.
While that’s a pretty simple concept, the reality of it is that dental implants are a medical and engineering marvel because of all the development work that goes into ensuring not just that they function, but that we can give a full set of replacement teeth to people who didn’t used to be candidates. Or working to ensure that dental implants last a very, very long time. Sometimes, even the designers are surprised at how amazingly well they function.
That’s the case when it comes to an abutment designed by the manufacturers of All-on-4 implant dentures, which was estimated to last about one sextillion chews before even 10% of them would fail. The abutment is a connector between the dental implant and the restoration, typically a dental crown with this abutment.
How Big Is a Sextillion?
We’ll forgive you if you don’t know how much a sextillion is. We had to look it up, too. It’s a billion billion billion billion billion billion billions: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! And that’s how many chewing cycles researchers estimated it would take before the NobelProcera implant abutment would have a 10% failure rate.
To come up with this conclusion, they took a set of implant abutments from several different manufacturers, including the NobelProcera hybrid titanium-zirconium abutment. They then exposed the implants to 200 N force for a number of cycles to accelerate aging and wear. Once they determined the level of wear, they calculated the number of cycles it would take at a more normal biting force before 10% of the abutments would fail. The answer for the NobelProcera was the one sextillion number.
How much is a sextillion? It’s a huge number, but we’ll try to put it in context. $1 sextillion dollars could pay off the US national debt over 50 million times. And if you set your computer working, it would take it almost 8000 years to do a sextillion operations, 2000 years if it has a quad core processor. The fastest computer in the world, though, could do that many calculations in about two hours and 45 minutes.
So how long would it take you to reach a sextillion chews? For reasons too complicated to go into right now, 3300 is a reasonable estimate for the number of chews you perform each day, or about 1.2 million loading cycles a year for a dental implant. At that rate, it would take over 829 trillion years to reach a sextillion cycles, about 60,000 times the estimated age of the universe.
In other words, if that estimate is anywhere near accurate, those implant abutments will essentially never wear out.
How Did Other Restorations Fare?
But this wasn’t the only abutment that researchers analyzed. It was just exceptional. Researchers looked at three other abutments, and the time to 10% failures were one million, 20 million, or 30 million cycles, or less than one year, 17 years, or 25 years of use. In general, this shows that most implant abutments are very durable, but there’s wide range in the quality of the abutments.
Wondering about the variation in durability of the abutments, researchers analyzed them under a scanning electron microscope. They found that the abutments prone to early failure had been weakened by manufacturing, such as tiny cracks caused by grinding, or the presence of uneven crystals that created weak spots.
This is one of those places where cheap dental implants could really ending up costing you a lot in terms of durability and long-term survival. Just by using a cheaper connection piece, the time to failure of the restoration goes from less than a year to essentially forever.
At Advanced Dentistry of Tarrytown, we always strive to use the highest quality materials to ensure the longevity and beauty of your dental implants. If you want to learn more about getting the best implants in Westchester County, please call (914) 332-4402 today for an appointment with an implant dentist.