Dental Implants - Benefits
Seven benefits of dental implants to seniors and/or people who have neglected their dental health for years include improved appearance, improved ability to chew, jaw bone protection, the lack of damage to surrounding teeth, the lack of adhesives, longevity, and a lower risk of gum disease. Details of these benefits are below.
- The single biggest benefit for most people who get dental implants is that they improve their appearance.
- Many people who have a need for dental implants have had to have their natural teeth pulled due to "injury, infection or decay," leaving gaps in their smiles.
- Dental implants can give patients the "confidence to smile, eat, and engage in social activities without worrying about how they look or if their dentures will fall out."
- Confidence has been scientifically linked to overall wellness, which is why improving the appearance of a person who has lost teeth is a primary benefit of dental implants.
IMPROVED ABILITY TO CHEW
- Many people who have dentures or missing teeth find it difficult to eat their favorite foods, and even if they can eat them, they often experience pain when chewing.
- Dental implants become a part of the jaw and as such, allow people to chew whatever foods they want without pain and without worrying that they will fall out.
- This aspect of dental implants positively impacts a person's overall health in that they have increased confidence while eating and no longer experience pain.
- Moreover, the ability to chew better means that food will be properly broken up before swallowing, thereby reducing the risk of choking.
JAW BONE PROTECTION
- When a tooth is lost, whether it is knocked out or pulled, it causes bone loss in the jaw and the longer the gap is there, the more bone is lost.
- Bone is lost because when there is no tooth with a root there, the body does not need to send blood and nutrients to the area anymore, which means the jaw bone deteriorates.
- If an implant is not placed within a year of a lost tooth, the area where the tooth is missing can suffer 25% bone loss, which will continue to get worse as time goes on.
- Getting a dental implant in place of a missing tooth right away can prevent this loss and actually even make bone grow.
- The prevention of jaw bone loss is important to overall health because if left untreated, it can cause even more teeth to fall out, which can then lead to the collapse of facial features.
- Other issues that can result from the loss of jaw bone include headaches, jaw pain, and poor nutrition from the inability to eat all kinds of foods.
- Getting dental implants can prevent jaw bone loss from occurring and thus, the potential problems related to untreated bone loss can be avoided.
NO NEED FOR ANCHOR TEETH
- Some treatment options for missing teeth like bridges require dentists to anchor the hardware to other teeth. However, if a person has too many missing teeth due to neglect or injury, such a device may not be possible.
- Even if a bridge is a potential solution, the dentist has to alter the anchor teeth by making them smaller so that the bridge can be attached by crowns on either side of the hardware.
- Dental implants do not require alterations to other teeth because they are self-supported.
- This means that "more of your own teeth are left intact, improving long-term oral health."
- In addition, implants make it easier to clean between teeth than other options like bridges, which also improves dental hygiene and ultimately, overall health.
NO ADHESIVES REQUIRED
- Dentures are one type of treatment for missing teeth, but they often require adhesives to keep them from falling out of the mouth, especially as dentures become looser with bone loss.
- Adhesives are meant to be temporary solutions to ill-fitting dentures, but in cases where patients cannot afford new dentures, they may be forced to use adhesives for a longer amount of time.
- Denture adhesives contain zinc, and while zinc is "an essential ingredient for good health," too much zinc "can lead to health problems such as nerve damage, especially in the hands and feet."
- Since the damage occurs slowly over period of time, a person may not even know their adhesives are causing health problems until it is too late.
- The Federal Drug Administration has issued a warning about denture adhesives that contain zinc, saying "overuse of zinc-containing denture adhesives, especially when combined with dietary supplements that contain zinc and other sources of zinc, can contribute to an excess of zinc in your body."
- Dental implants do not require adhesives because they are essentially screwed into the jaw.
- This lack of exposure to excessive amounts of zinc will reduce the risk of nerve damage and other problems that can negatively impact a person's overall health.
IMPLANTS LAST LONGER
- Dental implants can last much longer than other options and for many people will not need to be replaced over the course of a lifetime.
- Bridges typically last about 10 years and dentures have to be replaced every five to eight years.
- The titanium screws used to secure implants in place are nontoxic and will not be rejected by the body, so the person with the implant can simply take care of them as they would their normal teeth: by brushing, flossing, and seeing a dentist regularly.
- The regular replacement of bridges and dentures requires more visits to the dentist and more procedures to undergo, which can negatively impact a person's health, especially if anesthesia or other drugs have to be involved. This is even more of a health risk for elderly people.
- Moreover, while dental implants cost more than bridges and dentures to begin with, over time, the replacement hardware can really add up.
- Seniors who are on fixed incomes may find the one-time costs of dental implants better for their financial well-being than the unpredictable costs of replacing dentures or bridges.
LOWER RISK OF GUM DISEASE
- Missing teeth can trap food and bacteria, which can then lead to gum disease, especially if proper dental hygiene is neglected.
- A dental implant removes that gap and therefore, removes the possibility for food and bacteria to become in that space.
- Gum disease can result in numerous serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and rheumatoid arthritis. In younger women, it can cause premature birth.
- Experts are not sure how gum disease is linked to these health issues, but many believe "that oral bacteria can escape into the bloodstream and injure major organs."
- Therefore, dental implants can be a way to lower the risk of gum disease and the potential resulting health conditions.
To find benefits of dental implants to seniors and/or people who have neglected their dental health for years, we began by searching through formal studies published on Google Scholar and other academic research sites like NCBI, the NIH, and more. While the benefits of dental implants has been studies, the language used in these reports was technical and difficult to understand. In addition, none were focused on specifically on people who had neglected their dental health. Therefore, we decided to search more user-friendly venues to find benefits that are explained in simpler terms.
This strategy led us to general health sites such as WebMD, VeryWellHealth, DocShop, the Mayo Clinic, and others. Here, we found many benefits of dental implants, but again, there wasn't anything specific to people who had neglected their oral or dental health for years. However, we discovered that neglected oral health often leads to gum disease and cavities, which are in turn, leading causes of tooth loss. Since dental implants are specifically designed to replace lost teeth, we assumed that most of the benefits of dental implants would apply to people who have lost teeth due to gum disease and cavities, and by extension, to those who have neglected their dental health for years.
Once we made this inference, we were able to identify seven benefits of dental implants to seniors and/or people who have neglected their dental health for a long period of time. We specifically chose only those benefits that impact a person's overall health and wellness and did not choose other benefits of dental implants that are not directly health related.