Nothing expresses confidence more than a big, beautiful smile but for the 178 million Americans who are missing at least one tooth, this may be a difficult feat. The American College of Prosthodontics (ACP) notes that the problem gets worse as we age, with 30% of adults aged 65 to 74 having no natural teeth. Children can also lose teeth, due to causes such as accidents or injuries, or hypodontia – an inherited condition characterized by developmentally missing teeth. If you or your children have gaps you would like to fix, you may have thought about getting implants. In this post, we highlight important considerations that will determine whether or not this procedure can be the solution you are looking for.
Why implants are important
Families often consider implants because missing teeth can make individuals reticent to smile or embarrassed in work or social settings. However, there are important functional reasons why implants can be helpful. As stated by the ACP, “Losing even a single back tooth can cause surrounding teeth to shift and drift toward the open space, affecting the way you chew food making it more difficult to clean the area and it can all lead to bone loss.”
What happens when you leave an implant for too long
Placing an implant soon after losing a tooth will ensure that surrounding bone isn’t lost. Implants are not a cheap treatment, but they can help you save on health costs in the long run, since if you wait too long, you can lose bone, thus making a bone graft necessary. This procedure is considerably more costly, and there is no guarantee of success. Moreover, the five-year survival rate for implants fitted into your own, natural bone is 92% compared to 90% of implants placed into a bone graft.
Are implants always indicated?
‘Get a new set of teeth in a day’ is fast becoming a popular motto in some dental clinics, but you might be surprised if your dentist tells you that prior work is required before you or your child can have an implant placed. For instance, gum disease needs to be addressed to increase the likelihood of implantation success. Additionally, your dentist might recommend orthodontics to treat a misaligned bite, or other treatments before you are ready to have an implant placed. Sometimes, if the gap is small, the dentist might recommend doing nothing at all.
What is the minimum age for implants?
Children should be at least 15 (in the case of girls) or 17 (boys) to have implants since bone growth should be fully complete when implants are placed. If your child is younger or your dentist otherwise thinks it is a good idea to wait awhile, you may be recommended one or several options, including removable partial dentures, bridges, braces containing an artificial tooth, or space maintainers (to keep alignment just right until a more permanent solution can be provided).
Implants can help you or your older kids smile with confidence, but if for any reason the timing is not right or other dental work needs to be completed, then the wait will definitely be worth it. Your dentist will find other solutions that can help fill a missing gap. Eventually, implants can help you enjoy food and even sleep well, ensuring you do not lose vital bone or change your natural bite.