One of the first things that someone notices about a person is their smile. If you're missing a tooth or multiple teeth, or you have broken teeth, you might be embarrassed to flash a smile to your loved ones or the new people you encounter each day. Not only can missing and broken teeth be embarrassing, but they can be painful as well.
For many people, including seniors, dental implants can be the solution to these problems and more. Here's a look at who is a good candidate for dental implants, why you might need them, and how you can find affordable senior dental implants.
Why Would Someone Need Dental Implants?
The number one reason why people get dental implants is that they have missing or broken teeth. This can be one tooth, a few teeth, or an entire mouthful. This can happen for any number of reasons, including tooth decay, gum disease, an injury to the mouth, or teeth grinding.
People who get cavities often may also opt for dental implants so that they can live a cavity-free life. If you were born without a tooth or certain teeth or born with an issue like a cleft lip, you might also want to get dental implants.
Who Can Get Dental Implants?
In most cases, you need to be an adult to get dental implants, although some older teens may qualify too, if they've reached the age when the jaw stops growing (usually between 15 and 18). That age is usually slightly younger for girls compared to boys.
Your jawbone must be intact, and you must be free from any gum disease. You must also be a nonsmoker and, if you're diabetic, you'll need to have the condition under control. People with alcohol problems, and those who take certain types of medications, such as steroids or immunosuppressants, aren't usually good candidates.
If you have heart problems, uncontrolled diabetes, poor bone density, gum disease, or have previously undergone radiation, you'll need to be evaluated by a dentist and likely a doctor to determine if you're a good candidate. In some cases, you can work to become a good candidate by eradicating your gum disease or getting your diabetes under control. For people who are an infection risk, you may be asked to take antibiotics prior to your surgery.
How Will My Dentist Help Me Determine If I'm a Candidate for Dental Implants?
Your dentist can help you determine if you're a good candidate for dental implants by looking at your medical history and giving you a physical exam. They'll also take X-rays and models of your teeth and gums. You will likely also see other oral health specialists, such as a periodontist or oral surgeon.
If you're not a candidate, your dentist may work with you to help you become one. For example, if you have gum disease, they might help you to eradicate it.
How Do Dental Implants Compare to Other Procedures?
Compared to other procedures, such as bridges and dentures, which can help restore broken or missing teeth, dental implants have the most realistic appearance and most closely mirror real teeth. They help you keep the natural shape and contour of your face and, if they're successful, you don't have any restrictions on what you can eat overall. For most people, they're the best option for restoring your smile and oral health.
How Can I Find Affordable Dental Implants for Seniors and Other Groups?
The biggest drawback of dental implants is that they can be costly, especially when compared to other options for fixing broken or missing teeth. However, if you're age 55 or older, you have some options. There are also plenty of options for veterans, people who are disabled, and people who are considered to be low-income. If the cost is a concern for you, talk to your dentist, and see if they can recommend some of these programs. You can also start with a quick online search. Type in phrases like "affordable dental implants for seniors near me."
Always check with your local community health center as well. They may be able to point you in the right direction. If you're willing to work with your local dental school or be a part of a clinical trial involving dental implants, you can often find discounted and even free options for dental implants. For seniors aged 55 and older, look into the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a program aimed at improving the health of older people to keep them out of nursing homes.
Always check with your insurance to see if your implants might be covered, whether you have private insurance, Medicaid, or you're covered as a veteran by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You might also look for dentists in your area that claim to be budget-friendly or offer a payment plan. You can use a health savings account (HSA) to pay for dental implants.