Some dental clinics, and especially franchise companies, announce a lifetime warranty on fixed prosthesis treatments. Fixed prosthesis is defined as any restoration replacing a dental absence which cannot be removed by the patient himself. This is why they belong to the category of bridges, placed over implants or natural teeth, independent of its material (metal ceramic, zirconium, resin, etc.). Overdentures are not included, as they are necessarily removable by the patient to maintain proper hygiene, even though it is held with two or more dental implants.
These lifetime warranties are like a contract between the dental clinic and patient. In general it contains the information that the guarantee only covers parts and components which have been used in the restoration. Yet, it does not include failures by biological matters which depend on the patient. So what does this mean?
This would mean that in the event that a dental implant needs to be removed due to an infection or bone loss in short, medium, or long term, the treatment cost rapidly increases for the patient. If in the meantime where the implant is being removed, the rehabilitation turns out to be useful and necessary, a new dental implant and crown needs to be placed, whereby the patient needs pay the additional costs.
Costs would also increase when a tooth has a root canal whose nerve has been damaged and stopped functioning. If the root fractured or got an infection, no warranty applies to this case. Although the tooth is unusable, the crown may be in an excellent condition which means that the warranty is not applicable. Even if this tooth has a periodontic problem (gum disease) which must be removed or treated, the warranty does not apply either to this case.
So when can the patient actually make use of his warranty? In the case that the ceramic cracks, the guarantee can be used. Likewise, implant restoration are covered due to the uncontrolled forces and missing sensitivity of the patient while biting. In fact, in many cases it is impracticable to remove the restoration as it can be profoundly attached to the implant abatements. Therefore, in practice the dental clinic tries to calm down the patient and to postpone the restoration which then later might never take place, unless the aesthetical damage is visible.
Nothing can be guaranteed for a lifetime. The materials are subject to wear off with the usage. All materials used in the mouth will suffer a fatigue after a long period, and in the best conditions it grows old with the mouth. The gum recedes and the covers will need to be changed in order to maintain the aesthetic. The implants will also lose bone by time, which in some cases can remain unchanged. Yet, in extreme cases where the bone strongly diminishes, the implant needs to be removed (periimplantitis). In fact, according to high quality studies, the life span for adequately performed and controlled rehabilitation for dental implants is between 20 and 30 years. On the contrary, breast implants need to be replaced every 10 years.
An enduring work needs to be properly planned, and be thoroughly and accurately implemented. In addition, the health of the tooth must be maintained by both the dentist and patient. This is why, the most important factor to enable the highest life span possible, is in the hand of the patient. It is important to choose a dentist with profound experience, skilled hands, and a personal interest to assure his patients a long lasting beautiful and healthy smile. Slogans which preach lifelong guarantees should be therefore avoided by patients during the search.