If you’ve lost a permanent tooth in an accident or to severe tooth decay or gum disease, you’ve probably talked to your dentist about dental implants. While dental implants have a number of advantages that makes them the superior tooth replacement option currently available, some patients may not make good candidates for the implant placement procedure. Four groups of people who generally do not qualify for dental implants include:
1. Children and Teens
Age is one of the few factors influencing dental implant candidacy outside of a patient’s control. A young person’s jaw continues to develop until about age 16-17 for girls and 18-19 for boys. Until that time, surgically inserting a dental implant post could disrupt normal jaw growth and impede the growth of the adult teeth into their normal position. If a young person loses a permanent tooth, most dentists can recommend several treatment options, such as placing a permanent dental bridge, placing a temporary crown (nicknamed a “flipper”), placing a spacer, or waiting until the patient’s jaw has fully matured before proceeding with dental implant placement.
2. Smokers and Chewers
Most dentists will not recommend placing dental implants for people who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes or who chew smokeless tobacco. Tobacco products contain chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide that prevent the body from delivering an adequate blood supply to the jaw. This, in turn, inhibits the body’s ability to heal properly. In addition, research has shown that smoking significantly increases the probability of dental implant failure. If a high risk for implant failure exists, most implant dentists opt to not perform the procedure, rather than waste both their own and the patient’s time and resources. Quitting the use of tobacco products and demonstrating a long term commitment to quitting may qualify patients for the procedure.
3. People Who Don’t Take Care of their Teeth
Poor oral hygiene (and the diseases that result from that lack of care) accounts for the majority of missing adult teeth in the U.S. Ironically, dental implants were designed to replace missing dentition, but if a patient has lost teeth to decay or gum disease and has not demonstrated an ongoing commitment to improving their oral hygiene, then they may not qualify for the procedure. Dental implants are impervious to tooth decay, but the area surrounding the implant can still fall victim to peri-implantitis if the patient does not practice careful dental hygiene.
4. The Very Elderly (with some exceptions)
Older people who have lost some or all of their teeth make ideal candidates for dental implants, especially implant retained dentures. However, in general, implant dentists, oral surgeons, and periodontists will hesitate before recommending implants for patients over the age of 85. The very elderly tend to have more chronic illnesses that could interfere with the healing process. In addition, the risks associated with surgery of any kind are magnified as a person reaches old age. Finally, dental implants were designed to last for decades, something people over the age of 85 simply won’t need.
It should be noted, however, that if an elderly patient is in very good health, has no outstanding issues that might interfere with a surgical procedure, and have a strong interest in receiving implants, a dentist may recommend the procedure.
About Brad Greenfield, DDS
Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, cosmetic, and laser dentistry with a holistic approach to patient care and comfort. To schedule an appointment at our Lake Orion, MI dentist office, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.