What to Know About Dental Implants for Seniors

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 02, 2023
4 min read

When you reach a certain age, it's normal to have questions about whether dental implants are right for you. You may think about what kind of success rate you'll have with implants based on your age. You may wonder whether dental implants work just as well for older patients as they do for younger ones.

Luckily, dental implants are just as effective and long-lasting in older age. Dental implants often change older people's lives for the better, giving them improved physical health and more confidence. No age is too old for dental implants.

Dental implants are like artificial tooth roots shaped like screws. An experienced dentist will place dental implants in your jawbone which will then bond with your natural bone. This becomes a base for supporting artificial teeth, also known as crowns.

A connector, also known as an abutment, is placed on top of the dental implant to hold your crown. The crown is custom-made to match your teeth and fit in your mouth.

Dental implants are the strongest, safest, and most predictable dentistry procedures. 

Dental implant procedures usually include a few different steps:

Consultation. An experienced implant dentist will examine your mouth, take X-rays (3-D images), and discuss implant options and a plan for your dental implant surgery.

Dental implant placement. During your next appointment, your dentist will put the dental implant in your jaw, exactly where your missing teeth should be. Most people experience less discomfort and pain than expected and usually return to work the next day.

Keep in mind, though, that each person's experience is unique. IV sedation or local anesthesia can be used during surgery to keep you comfortable.

Post-implant surgery discomfort is like any other dental surgery. It may involve swelling, bruising, minor bleeding, or pain. Most patients usually manage any pain with over-the-counter medications.

Osseointegration. When your dental implant and jawbone start to grow together, they go through a process called osseointegration. During this process, a strong and long-lasting foundation is formed for your replacement teeth.

For a few weeks, your dentist may put you on a soft food diet to ensure the proper healing of your implants. Within a few months, you'll be back to your normal life.

Abutment placement. After your implant bonds with your jawbone, your dentist will place a small connector (an abutment) on the dental implant. In some cases, the connector can be placed when the implant is put in.

Attach new teeth. Once your gums heal from the initial surgery, your dentist will custom make your new artificial tooth by making impressions of your mouth with your remaining teeth.

The dentist can make one individual crown, an implant-supported bridge, or dentures containing multiple replacement teeth. Your artificial tooth or teeth will not decay but will still need the same routine care, check-ups, and cleanings as with natural teeth.

Check-ups. The frequency you are going to need to have your dental implants checked on depends on how many artificial teeth are implanted and the type of implant you receive. The entire process usually takes about three to nine months.

You can expect to have regular follow-up appointments with your dentist to make sure everything is healing well. 

After you have dental implant surgery, you can expect to experience:

Typically, the dental surgeon will use stitches that dissolve on their own. If your stitches aren't self-dissolving, your doctor removes them. Your doctor may recommend that you take pain medication or antibiotics.

Most dental implants for seniors are successful. In some cases, the bone doesn't fuse to the dental implant. In these cases, the dental implant is removed, and you can try again about three months later.

You can help your implants last by:

  • ‌Practicing good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly
  • ‌Seeing your dentist regularly and getting regular professional cleanings
  • ‌Avoiding damaging habits like chewing on hard candy or ice or using tobacco

Keep in mind that all oral surgeries include a small risk of bleeding disorders, infections, and allergic reactions. If an implant is placed too close to a nerve, for instance, it can cause numbness or tingling in the tongue, lips, gums, or face. If your body rejects the dental implant, it can cause pain at the implant site, along with swelling, fever, and chills.

If you are experiencing symptoms or suspect there is a problem following your implant, you should return to the dentist immediately.