Is it ever too late to get dental implants? This is a question that we get asked a lot and it is unsurprising. As we age, our teeth and gums can often decline and over time they are likely to require replacement. So many of us have long been used to using or hearing about regular dentures that any talk about dentistry advances and the introduction of dental implants is likely to stir up interest. The common concern around these is whether it is still possible to have dental implants, at a later stage in life or after having had dentures for several years, if not decades.
This being the case, today we want to talk you through how dentures work in comparison to dental implants and discuss the possibility of having dental implants later in life, possibly after wearing dentures.
What’s the issue with dentures?
We are aware that whilst dentures have performed well for a number of years and can continue to do so, they do come with a few issues.
Firstly if dentures do not fit perfectly, you might encounter problems as they become sore and painful, possibly infected. This is likely to lead you to be uncomfortable whilst eating and speaking and it can have a real impact on your confidence in wearing them.
People can be concerned about them slipping from time to time. This can sometimes happen when you laugh or cough, or perhaps whilst you are eating or chatting. Dentures also require that you remove them to clean them thoroughly, and you need to be very careful not to drop them or chip them whilst doing so.
In addition to these points, particularly when being used over the longer term, dentures can move out of shape. This is because over time your body will recognise that the jaw bone is no longer needed to support your teeth and it will begin to gradually shrink. This means that your dentures will start to slip more and eventually they will no longer fit. Your jawbone shrinking can then give the appearance of becoming drawn around your mouth and cheeks and in doing so it can age you prematurely.
How do dental implants work differently?
Unlike dentures, your dental implants cannot be removed. The implants are fitted to small titanium screws that are inserted into your jawbone, with a fake tooth placed over the top. This can be completed one by one, or your dentist might recommend All on 4 dental implants.
All on 4 implants work similarly, but rather than one screw per tooth, four screws are inserted into your jawbone and a full bridge is then attached to them. This procedure can mean that you can get a full set of implants fitted in one day.
As the screws are inserted into your jawbone, your jawbone no longer shrinks and erodes over time as it recognises that it is still required to support the implants. This means that the implants will not move.
There will be no periodic slipping with dental implants, so you can rest assured that you will be able to laugh, eat and converse freely with your implants secured in place.
Dental implants do not need to be removed so you must look after them similarly to regular teeth. As they are not attached quite as firmly to your jawline as natural teeth, you must take extra care to avoid any infections by brushing and flossing for several minutes after each meal daily.
Having looked at the differences between the two options, you are probably circling back round to that initial question once more and wondering whether it is now too late for you to get dental implants.
Is it ever too late to get dental implants?
The short and simple answer is no, it is never too late to get dental implants. Of course every patient would need to be assessed on a case by case basis, but as a general rule, age is not a barrier to having dental implants.
Age does not directly have a bearing on your ability to have dental implants, though if you have worn dentures for many years or you have allowed your teeth to significantly deteriorate, it might just require an extra stage to enact the procedure.
As we have explained, over time, your jawbone can and will shrink if it is not supporting your natural teeth. When this happens it can mean that there is insufficient bone, or bone that is too soft, for your dentist to insert your dental implants. However, this problem is not insurmountable.
Your dentist can perform a bone graft in order to build your jawbone back up again so that it is able to support your dental implants. This is normally a simple outpatient procedure in order to prepare your jaw for the implant surgery. In cases where it has shrunk over the years, this will probably also have the instant effect of improving your facial muscles and taking a few years off your appearance.
Of course, every patient and individual case will be different so you would require a full consultation to assess your individual needs. In some cases, there might be a bone graft that can then take a few months to take, prior to completing the dental implant procedure. Whilst in other cases it might only require some minor work and grafting and could be done all at the same time.
We hope that we have managed to answer your questions about dental implants and covered how they might be a better option for you than dentures. The pressing concern is often around age and whether you have left it too late to look into getting dental implants, especially as they are a relatively new procedure. Our advice would always be to book a consultation with your dentist with a view to getting dental implants and they will be able to fully assess your situation and advise you on the best course of action. Do not worry that it is too late, it is rarely too late.