Dental implants are the number one recommended way to replace missing teeth as far as dentists are concerned, but when is it too late for dental implants?
In most cases, it's never too late for dental implants. The main concern with patients interested in getting implants is that they have gone too long with missing teeth, and their jawbone density has depleted.
While implants do require a certain amount of healthy jawbone for placement and osseointegration to take place, this can typically be resolved with a bone graft.
That being said, there may be some cases when it is indeed, too late to get dental implants.
In this article, we'll cover the following:
- When it's too late for implants
- When it's not too late for implants
- Other reasons you can't get implants
We hope this information helps you decide if implants are right for you.
Table of contents
When is it too late for dental implants?
Some dentists will tell you it's never too late for dental implants, but that isn't always the case — it's more of a way to motivate patients to get their teeth replaced, and at least consider implants.
There are some cases where solutions like all-on-x dental implants are a good option, or getting a bone graft prior to placement — and these options are definitely worth considering, but for now, let's have a look at some cases when implants might not be an option.
Too much bone loss
One of the disadvantages of dental implants is that you need to have a strong jawbone to get them placed.
When you go a long time with missing teeth, your jawbone begins to lose its density. That's partly because tooth roots help nourish and stabilize the surrounding bone. The longer you are missing tooth roots, the more bone is lost. Unfortunately, most of the bone loss that happens does so in the first few years after losing a tooth.
While bone grafts can help fortify your jawbone so you can still get dental implants with bone loss, there are some cases when too much bone is lost for even a bone graft to do much good. In this case, it would be too late to get dental implants, and you'll need to consider your other options.
Elderly with chronic illness
Older people who have lost some teeth are great candidates for implants, especially if they have good hygiene routines. But, oral surgeons will typically not recommend dental implants for patients over 85.
That's because the very elderly have more chronic illnesses, which makes it more difficult for the body and mouth to heal after surgeries, and one of the disadvantages of dental implants is that they require plenty of proper healing time.
The delayed healing process means that it isn't as safe to get dental implants placed. Another thing to consider is that implants are made to last for decades, and so, while it's not the happiest thing to point out, people over the age of 85 may not need such a long-lasting solution.
But, if you are over 85 years old, in good health, without any chronic illnesses, and want dental implants, your dentist may very well recommend the procedure for you.
Severe gum disease
In many cases, yes, although you may need a gum graft. But, if your gums are too weak from years of chronic gum disease, you might end up with dental implants showing through the gums, or loose implants that need to be removed.
Other risk factors for getting implants
Besides old age and bone loss, there are other factors to consider that might impede your safely getting implants. Let's have a look at those now.
- Systemic diseases: Systemic diseases like Parkinson's or diabetes, and autoimmune diseases create a greater risk of infection after surgery. In this case, your dentist may not recommend you for dental implants, because they could do more harm than good, and you may end up needing dental implant removal. Additionally, if you have osteoporosis and you take medication, you may not be a good candidate for dental implants. Read more in our guide to teeth implants and osteoporosis.
- Chronic tobacco and alcohol abuse: If you smoke or chew tobacco, your dentist might not recommend you for implants. That's because these products contain chemicals that lower the blood supply to the jaw, hindering the healing process and creating a greater risk to the patient. Smoking also increases the risk of implant failure. Alcohol also inhibits the healing process of the gum and bones.
- Under 18: In this case, it's too soon to get dental implants. Dentists won't typically place implants in patients under 18. That's because for many minors jaw development is still in process. However, it's still worth talking to your dentist, as your jaw may be fully developed, and dentists may adjust their recommendations for exceptional cases.
Solutions for when it's too late to get implants
You don't know that it's too late for you to get dental implants until you speak with your dentist. However, if it turns out that it is too late, don't worry — you can still get your teeth replaced and have a healthy and beautiful smile.
A dental bridge is a good option when you are missing just one or two teeth. A bridge is an artificial tooth that is secured in place with caps that are fixed to the adjacent teeth. Bridges are stable and long-lasting. They look just like natural teeth and are much more affordable than dental implants.
Depending on the number of teeth you are missing, you can get a full or partial denture. High-quality dentures won't slip or click and will look just like natural teeth. They are also much less expensive than dental implants, and continuous wear helps to keep your facial muscles from sagging inward.
If you've gone a long time without replacing your missing teeth, it may be too late to get dental implants. In this case, you'll need to consider your alternatives, like bridges and dentures.
In many cases, however, if you've suffered bone loss in your jaw, your dentist may recommend that you get a bone graft, which will allow for safe dental implant placement.
If it is too late for you to get implants, or if you aren't eligible due to systemic or autoimmune diseases, age, or tobacco use, don't despair because you can still have a beautiful and healthy smile with dental implant alternatives.