Dental implants are the best replacement option for adults of all ages with missing teeth. They are the only tooth replacement solution that completely replicates the way a person’s natural teeth look and work. Only dental implants can restore a person’s ability to speak and chew normally, with the same stability and security as natural teeth.
But can senior citizens get dental implants?
Even though traditional dentures might be the first thing to come to mind when you’re considering tooth replacement options for seniors, seniors can indeed have dental implants. In fact, seniors have the same success with dental implants that other age groups do.
Dental implants for seniors are the best choice for replacing teeth because they:
- Are permanent—they never have to be removed, unlike dentures, which must be removed at night.
- Need no special cleaning. Maintenance for dental implants involves regular brushing and flossing, exactly the same hygiene routine you perform with natural teeth. No special cleaning solutions are required.
- Don’t slip. Dentures can slip out of place, while dental implants are as firm and secure as natural teeth.
- Deliver superior comfort. Dental implants feel just like natural teeth. Unlike dentures, which can rub sore spots into the gums, dental implants never pinch, rub, or irritate sensitive gum tissues.
- Are durable and can last a lifetime. Unlike dentures made of acrylic, zirconia dental implants won’t crack, chip, or split. They also resist staining.
- Are the only tooth replacement technology that stops the loss of bone density in the jaws. Because implants work like an artificial tooth root, they stimulate the bones, blood vessels, and nerves of the jaw, halting thinning of the bones.
- Improve a person’s overall health. Dental implants allow a person to chew more effectively, improving digestion. They also restore a person’s bite force to normal, allowing them to eat a wide variety of healthy foods
- Improve a person’s speech. Dental implants are positioned like natural teeth, allowing a person to enunciate clearly
Dentures are fragile, stain easily, and require specialized care. Dentures are also prone to slipping, which can cause embarrassing accidents. Other disadvantages of dentures for seniors include:
- Dentures cannot be worn overnight
- Some foods cannot be eaten with dentures, including chewy, fibrous, crunchy, or hard foods
- Dentures can rub sores onto delicate gum tissues
- Dentures must be relined periodically
Seniors can be great candidates for dental implants. A senior needs to be in good general health and have sufficient bone mass in their jaws to support the dental implant. However, seniors who have experienced bone loss in their jaws may still be good candidates for dental implants, as the bone grafting procedure allows a doctor to add bone mass to the jaws.
Most people are good candidates for dental implants, as long as their jawbones are fully grown, and they are in overall good health. However, dental implant surgery, whether a person receives a single implant or a full-arch restoration like 4-on-1 full mouth dental implants, requires a significant period of healing.
That means people who have any condition that slows or significantly impairs the body’s ability to heal may not be good candidates for dental implants. People who are in poor general health or are undergoing complex medical treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy may also be poor candidates for dental implants. The best way to know if a person is a good candidate for dental implants is to arrange a consult with an oral surgeon.
How Old Do You Have to be To Get Dental Implants?
A person needs to be old enough that their skeletal growth has stopped. For most people, that will take place from around age 18 to 22. Dental implants are typically not installed before a person is finished with puberty, as bone tissue is still growing toward its final thickness and density.
Sometimes a person’s jawbone doesn’t develop into its full adult size until they reach their early to mid-20s. This is one reason why the consultation stage of the dental implant process is so important. A doctor will take X-rays and detailed digital scans of a person’s face and jawbone, which help indicate if the jaws have finished their development.
It is almost never too late for dental implants. As long as a person has sufficient bone mass to support a dental implant, the procedure can be done. Even if a person has thinned or thinning jawbones, a bone graft can allow them to still receive dental implants.
Dental implant surgery, like all surgical procedures, is not entirely without risk. However, a senior is typically at no more risk from dental implant surgery than any other age group assuming the person is generally healthy; that said, it is important to consult with your doctor and oral surgeon to know your exact risk.
In dental implant surgery, a person’s gums are surgically opened, and artificial tooth roots in the form of small metal posts are placed into small holes drilled in the jawbone. Gum tissue heals over a period of a week to 10 days. And it takes around 3 months for the bones of the jaw to fuse to the new titanium implant posts.
Advantages of Dental Implants for Elderly Patients
Dental implants have many advantages over dentures (be it traditional or snap-on) and other forms of artificial teeth.
Dentures cause painful sores on delicate gum tissue, making it uncomfortable to chew. Dental implants don’t have that problem. Because they’re placed into the jawbone and become a part of the jaw, eating and speaking are much more comfortable.
Dentures are made of bulky acrylic, which feels like plastic and can retain bad tastes and odors. Dental implants made of zirconia don’t have those problems and feel more like real teeth.
Not only do dental implants not cause changes in a person’s facial features, but they also prevent bone loss in the jaws. It’s the loss of bone tissue in the jawbones that can cause a person’s facial skin to sag and droop when natural teeth are lost and not replaced
A person can eat whatever foods they want with dental implants, including fruit and fibrous vegetables, ensuring better nutrition. Dental implants also seniors to chew properly, improving digestion.
Missing teeth can hurt a person’s confidence and diminish their self-esteem, but dentures don’t completely replicate the appearance of natural teeth. Dental implant crowns made of zirconia look like natural teeth, feel like natural teeth, and have the same strength as a person’s original set of teeth.
Daily maintenance of dental implants takes much less time and effort than dentures. There’s no need for special cleansers and dental implants never need to come out. Simply brush and floss like you would with natural teeth. Dental implants also never stain, so you won’t have to visit your doctor for tooth whitening.
As well, unlike dentures, dental implants require no special long-term maintenance, unlike dentures which often need to be replaced every 5 years or so.
There are several ways a senior citizen can finance dental implants.
- Dental or Health Insurance. While it is rare for any form of insurance to pay for the full cost of dental implants, it may be possible to have some of the preparatory steps in getting dental implants covered, such as X-rays and other digital scans.
- Payment Plans. Some dental implant providers may offer payment plans that allow patients to pay for dental implants in installments.
- Healthcare installment plans. Healthcare installment plans can be provided by third-party lenders, with terms dependent on the patient or guarantor’s credit rating.
America’s First Dental Implant Centers offers a low price guarantee of $14,950 per full arch dental implant.
Dental Implants for Seniors FAQs
Dental implants are a great choice for people of all ages. As long as a person is in good overall health, they are most likely a candidate for dental implants. When considering whether or not to get dental implants, a senior should always speak directly with an oral surgeon.
Medicare does not cover dental implants for seniors. Most forms of insurance do not cover dental implants, except in some rare cases in which implants are placed as the result of an accident.
If a person has dental implants placed by an oral surgeon, the process is painless. Oral surgeons are medical doctors and are trained to safely administer IV sedation. IV sedation allows a patient to sleep comfortably throughout the dental implant surgical procedure.
During the days immediately after dental implant surgery, a person may experience some minor discomfort, which can be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers.
What foods can I eat during recovery from dental implant surgery?
During the first 48 hours after your dental implant surgery, you will need a liquid diet. Foods and beverages such as the following are all good choices:
- Clear soups and broths
- Protein or meal replacement shakes and smoothies
- Apple sauce
After a week to 10 days, you can return to a more normal diet, but it’s still best to avoid hard foods, as well as chewy, tough, and crunchy foods.
What are full-mouth dental implants?
Full-mouth dental implants, also known as 4-on-1, all-on-X, and teeth-in-a-day, replace an entire arch of teeth. Full-mouth dental implants are the most efficient and cost-effective way to replace an entire arch of teeth with only 4 dental implants per arch.