Dental implants, which are replacement teeth that mimic the natural structure of a tooth, have many benefits for those who have missing, broken, or decayed teeth. However, some may wonder if it is too late to take advantage of this technological advancement.
It is never too late to get dental implants as long as there is enough bone to grow onto the dental implant’s surface and anchor it. If there isn’t enough bone, bone grafting is a possibility.
In the rest of this article, I’ll answer your questions about dental implants in detail, including whether or not it’s too late to get dental implants, the benefits and risks of the surgery, who makes a good candidate for dental implants, and the healing process. We also have an article on All-on-4 dental implants you may find interesting.
Now, if you’re considering this procedure, keep reading!
Is It Too Late To Get Dental Implants?
As long as enough bone is left in the jaw to grow onto the titanium dental implants, it is not too late to get dental implants. However, dental implants are impossible without bone grafting if the bone has shrunk too small.
Dental implants are made with titanium, and through osseointegration, bone grows onto titanium because it mimics another living bone. This allows the implants to get solidly anchored in the mouth and increase their longevity.
For osseointegration to occur, there needs to be enough living bone in the jaw to grow onto the surface of the implants and anchor them. Unfortunately, the longer one waits to get the implants, the more the bone will shrink into the empty socket where a tooth once was as the body absorbs the minerals to use elsewhere. The bone continues to shrink unless it has another function, such as growing onto an implant.
Potential dental implant candidates who have had missing or damaged teeth for many years will likely not have enough bone to anchor the implants in the mouth. However, this does not mean it is too late for dental implants – it only means that the process will be a bit more complicated because bone grafting will be needed.
Bone grafting for dental implants is used when there isn’t enough bone, or the bone isn’t strong enough to keep the implant in place. Bone grafting involves taking a section of bone from a different area of the body or using a grafting material to create new bone. Dentists use imaging technology to determine how much graft is necessary.
Dental implants signal to the brain that there are teeth in the jaw again, which helps keep the jawbone intact and prevent facial collapse. Generally, dental implants are extremely successful.
Over a ten-year period, dental implants are reported to work in 98% of cases. Therefore, it may be time to consider dental implants if you’re one of the 36 million Americans with no teeth or one of the 120 million who have at least one missing tooth.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Dental implants can improve the quality of life for someone with missing or damaged teeth. Some of the benefits of getting dental implants include:
- Prevents the jaw from shrinking.
- Restores one’s ability to chew.
- Keeps adjacent teeth stable.
- Restores the ability to brush teeth properly and floss normally.
- Lasts a lifetime if anchored properly.
- Prevents gum disease.
- Prevents facial sagging.
- Prevents cavities.
- Improves nutrition and variability of foods.
- Improves speech.
As you can see, there are many great benefits to getting dental implants. However, there are also risks associated with the procedure that should be seriously considered.
Risks of Dental Implants
Dental implants have a good success rate. However, as with any procedure, there are some risks involved that one should be aware of before deciding that dental implants are right for them.
Here are some risks that you should be aware of:
- Natural teeth could be damaged during the placement process.
- An injury might occur during the surgery, including a possible fracture of the surrounding jawbone.
- An abutment screw could become loose, which results in a feeling that the tooth is twisting.
- Implant body failure.
- The possibility that the teeth do not bite together correctly.
- Difficulty cleaning gums around the implant.
These risks are rare, but they are possibilities that potential candidates should be aware of.
Best Candidates for Dental Implants
Dental placements can replace just one tooth, or they can replace an entire mouthful in place of dentures. The best candidates have healthy gums and enough bone in their jaw to support the implants. Good candidates are also generally healthy, as the surgery can be intense for those with other ailments, and the surgery requires anesthesia.
Candidates also cannot have gum disease. If you have gum disease, you must wait until after the infection is resolved to have dental implants placed. If you’re a smoker, this inhibits the body’s ability to heal and increases the chance of failure. Finally, good candidates already have an oral health routine that includes brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and going to routine check-ups twice a year to get the proper dental care.
How To Heal From Dental Implants
You may wonder about the recovery process if you’re considering dental implants. In most cases, osseointegration takes approximately three to six months, so recovery takes quite a bit of time.
Here are some things you’ll need to do if you get dental implants for osseointegration to be successful:
- Stay away from sugar — period. This is not always obvious for most people and ties directly to our next recommendation. We definitely recommend you read our article on how sugar can and will destroy your teeth, unless you stay away from it (as much as possible).
- Eat nutritious foods. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet when you have to eat soft foods, but good nutrition is essential because the proper nutrients help you heal faster. After the surgery, you’ll need to eat soft foods that require no chewing because jaw movement can cause irritation. I recommend steamed vegetables, smoothies, and protein shakes.
- Drink a lot of water. Staying properly hydrated allows your body to flush toxins and assists in the recovery process. Furthermore, you should avoid beverages that dehydrate the body, including caffeine and alcohol.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water regularly. Saltwater rinses decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth and can be quite soothing if you are experiencing pain. A salt water rinse is easy to make; you only need one teaspoon of salt and eight ounces of warm water. You can do this four times a day.
- Avoid biting your nails. Hard objects damage enamel and add pressure to dental implants, so biting your nails can be extremely damaging to dental implants, especially when they are new.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is harmful to your health whether or not you’ve had oral surgery, but if you smoke after the placement of dental implants, you risk causing your dental implants to fail. Nicotine reduces oxygen flow to your bones, making for a longer recovery process and negatively affecting osseointegration.
- Maintain good oral hygiene practices. Some people think that, because dental implants aren’t natural teeth, they don’t require the same upkeep. This is far from the truth. Ensure that you follow your dentist’s instructions and keep your mouth as clean as possible. This helps you avoid infection.
- Use ice packs to reduce swelling. Not only does applying an ice pack to the site help decrease swelling, but it also helps with pain relief. Only apply ice packs for twenty minutes at a time to avoid ice burn.
Recovery may seem scary, but it shouldn’t dissuade you from pursuing dental implants if you think they could improve your quality of life.
It is never too late for dental implants. If you have enough bone in your jaw to grow over the surface of the implants and anchor them in place, you’re an ideal candidate for the procedure. If the bone in your jaw is too small or weak to grow over the implant, you will need bone grafting first, but you can still get dental implants after you heal from the graft.