What Are Dental Implants?
There are many types of dental devices for seniors and older adults, but what are dental implants? Dental implants are for replacing missing teeth. They are becoming ever more popular, especially for seniors. Most of us lose a few teeth as we age and want to fill in the gaps in our smile, for both cosmetic and health reasons.
The options for replacing teeth are dentures, bridges and dental implants. Of these three options, implants are becoming the preferred choice for maintaining both oral health and a normal lifestyle. Dental implants are as effective for seniors as they are for younger people and in this article, you can learn what dental implants are and why they might be your best option for replacing lost teeth. We also discuss the process you should follow if you are considering implants, the potential costs involved and your options for financing the procedure.
What Is a Dental Implant?
Dental implants function just like your own teeth because they are a fixed and permanent replacement for missing teeth.
The term implant refers to a small titanium rod that is inserted into your jawbone, taking the place of the root of your tooth. The rod fuses with the bone. Then, a connector is attached to it. This connector is then capped with a crown that is colored and shaped to match your existing teeth.
Dental Implant Procedure
Implants can be inserted as a fixed point of attachment for dentures or a bridge where either a few teeth in a row or all the teeth in the upper or lower jaw need to be replaced.
Implants require a surgical procedure which is done by a specialized dental practitioner under either general or local anesthetic. As with any surgery, you will need to follow the after-care instructions carefully to avoid complications. There is some pain and discomfort afterwards, but this can usually be relieved by over-the-counter pain killers.
Considerations for Seniors
Dental implants are suitable and safe for people of any age, with many successful implants having been done on people over 80 years old. In older people, the implant may take slightly longer to fuse, and they might have to wait a bit longer before the crown is placed.
The Benefits of Dental Implants
Dental implants have many advantages over dentures and bridges, which are the other two options for replacing missing teeth.
Maintains Better Shape
Many people who consider implants are not even aware of one of their most important benefits, namely that they help to maintain the normal shape and structure of the jaw because both the tooth and its root are replaced.
Prevents Shifting Teeth
Like the key structures which support a building, our teeth and their roots support each other. Once one tooth is lost, a part of this support structure is weakened. The remaining teeth shift and can become loose. Furthermore, some of the bone that surrounded the root is absorbed and this changes the structure of the jaw. Over time, even facial features can be affected. Therefore, implants contribute to future oral and general health.
Allows You to Enjoy Food
Implants allow you to chew and enjoy all types of foods because they are fixed in place. With dentures, it is difficult to chew certain foods, limiting your diet to softer foods. This can have a long-term effect on gastrointestinal health and nutritional status in general.
Furthermore, with dentures and bridges, bits of food tend to get stuck between the teeth and the gums, often causing pain and irritation. Many people with dentures tend to avoid eating out with family and friends, which can contribute to social isolation.
Easy to Clean
Because they are just like your own teeth, implants are much easier to keep clean and care for than dentures and bridges. Also, because they are fixed and do not have to be removed, they cannot accidentally fall and break.
Realistic and Comfortable
Implants mimic your natural teeth. Unlike dentures, they do not cause discomfort and sore gums or move around unexpectedly. You can smile, talk and laugh with confidence.
They’re a Long-Term Solution
Implants are a life-time solution as they last for at least 20 years. Unlike dentures and bridges, they do not have to be replaced or adjusted every 5 to 10 years because of bone deterioration and changes in the surrounding teeth. While more expensive initially, implants are said to save money in the long run.
Starting the Dental Implant Process
Once you are considering a dental implant, your first step should be to consult a dental practice that specializes in the procedure. You will need a full examination to determine whether you are a candidate for implants. This will probably include a full 3D scan of your mouth.
This examination is done to determine the amount of dental work that will be needed. Your dentist will assess the gum and the bone at the implant site. If the tooth was lost quite a while ago the bone might already have receded and you may need a bone graft. The condition of the teeth surrounding the area of the missing tooth will be assessed. If they are already loose or are in poor condition, more than one implant or a bridge might be the recommended.
After the examination, the dental specialist will be able to provide you with a full quotation detailing the work that is required for your unique situation and the costs involved.
Cost and Financing of Dental Implants
The cost of dental implants varies between areas of the country and also depends on the extent of the work that needs to be done and the materials that will be used. The current average cost for a single tooth implant, without additional work, is $3,000 to $5,000. The average cost for a long-term fix for a full upper or lower jaw, with a supported bridge or denture, is $22,000 to $25,000.
Things to Keep in Mind
When you consider the total cost, you should keep in mind that implants are a long term solution that can, in the end, be a saving over requiring continuous replacements and short-term fixes.
Once you have received the detailed quote, your next step will be to submit it to your medical or dental insurance. These days, most insurers will cover at least a portion of the procedure, although it is unlikely that they will cover all of the costs.
Once you know what part the insurer will cover, you will be able to budget for the amount which you need to pay out of your own pocket. Most dental practices will also be able to put you in touch with companies that specialize in financing oral health care with affordable repayment plans.
Importance of Oral Health for Seniors
Implants help to maintain oral health throughout life and are much more comfortable than the alternatives of dentures or bridges.
Implants can help seniors to stay healthy as they continue enjoying all types of nutritious food. An attractive smile can also contribute towards their quality of life as they can socialize confidently with family and friends.