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.
What Are 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.
What You Can Expect With Dental Implants
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 scheduled appointment, your dentist will place the dental implant in your jaw where your tooth is missing. Most people experience less pain and discomfort than expected and usually return to work the next day.
Keep in mind, though, that each person's experience is unique. Local anesthesia or IV sedation can be used during surgery to keep you comfortable.
Post-implant surgery discomfort is like any other dental surgery. It may include swelling, bruising, minor bleeding, or pain, but 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, long-lasting foundation is formed for your replacement teeth.
For a few weeks, your dentist may put you on a soft food diet to make sure your implants heal well. 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 at the same time as the implant.
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 and 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 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.
How to Manage Dental Implants After the Procedure
After you have dental implant surgery, you can expect to experience:
- Swelling of your gums and face
- Minor bleeding
- Bruising of your skin and gums
- Pain at the implant site
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.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Dental Implants
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.