Value of Dental Implants

Part
01
of three
Part
01

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.

IMPROVED APPEARANCE

  • 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.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

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.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Dental Implants - Case Studies: Global

Overall, patients of all ages and different geographical locations around the world are happy with their dental implants. Patients are especially happy with the ability to chew on the implants as well as the way they improve their smile and the way they feel about themselves.

KREATIV DENTAL CLINIC UK-PATIENT REVIEW

  • Christine had gotten to the point she was losing teeth and her mouth was quickly getting worse. She couldn't bite and enjoy the foods she liked, like salads and apples.
  • She had partial dentures for a long time but had a lot of pain, to the point she had to take them out to eat. Because of where she lived, partial dentures from their national provider were her only option.
  • Christine's treatment consisted of dental implants, crowns, and bridges, which gave her a great smile and the ability to bite and chew without pain.
  • She is no longer afraid to smile and says her implants and other dental work feel like her normal teeth.
  • Christine says she can now eat what she wants without pain or worry.

PATIENTS IN NANJING, CHINA ARE HAPPY WITH THEIR IMPLANTS

  • 373 patients that had their implants done between 2016 and 2018 at a hospital in Nanjing, China were asked about their happiness with their implants and service.
  • 162 or 43% of patients participating did not have college degrees.
  • About half of the patients had been missing teeth for 1 to 2 years. About a third had been missing teeth for over 2 years, and 20% had been missing teeth for less than 1 year.
  • All the patients participating had only had one implant. The teeth that were implanted most often were part of the upper and lower back teeth.
  • Patients that participated ranged from 18 years old to over 45 years old, and there was no difference in how happy they were based on their age.
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not happy and 5 being the happiest, the patients were very happy with the chewing ability of their implant. The score was 4.68. They were also very comfortable with their implant with a score of 4.69. The patients also felt that their implant was the right color, scoring 4.54 and had little issue with keeping their teeth clean, at a score of 4.60.
  • Other points of satisfaction for the patients were with cost and pain. On the same 1 to 5 scale, the patients felt that the costs were worth it, scoring 4.56. Patients also felt that the level of pain they had during and after the surgery was fine, with scores of 4.64 and 4.52.
  • The main points of unhappiness were with patients that had to have extra bone put in to support the implant.

PATIENTS IN SOUTH KOREA ARE HAPPY WITH THEIR IMPLANTS

  • 26 people with complete tooth loss were evaluated at the University of Wonkwang in South Korea. The total number of implants done on those 26 patients totaled 370 teeth.
  • When a person loses all their teeth, this affects the ability to chew well and the way they look. Dentists are using implants more and more to treat patients with no teeth.
  • Patients were treated with complete upper and lower implants and dentures, based on the health of the mouth.
  • Patients for this study were from different age ranges; 50 years old and under, 50-60 years old, and seniors over 60 years of age.
  • Overall, all the patients that participated were happy with their implants, including all age ranges.
  • All patients below age 60 were very happy with chewing with their implants, and two-thirds of patients over 60 years old were very happy. One-third of patients over the age of 60 were happy but not very happy.
  • Also, almost all the patients from all age groups were either happy or very happy with how their implants look. Only 1 patient was less than happy. Two-thirds of the patients over the age of 60 were very happy and one third were happy, but not very happy.

Research Strategy

Extensive research yielded very limited information regarding individual case studies that met all the requested criteria, such as direct information related to value of dental implants for persons of low socioeconomic status or that have neglected their teeth or suffered from bad dental hygiene. In addition, individual case studies that covered the requested information from the patient's perspective regarding pain, chewing and other problems were not all discussed in one single patient review. Some reviews were strictly related to appearance, others were clinical in nature, and many others were simple reviews on whether the patient would recommend that particular clinic to others.

In order to arrive at the above conclusion, the research started by searching directly for individual case studies related to the benefits of implants for seniors or persons with extensive dental health issues from a global perspective. This initial search led to sources about patients traveling abroad to get their dental implants or to clinics in countries that offer these services to patients.

Based on the information obtained from the first strategy, the focus shifted to searching through some clinics that were obtained from the initial search. Clinics from different areas were examined, these included Australia, Europe, India, Thailand, Mexico and Asia. The primary focus was case studies listed on these sites, as well as testimonials, and reviews. Many case studies involved the clinical presentation, such as one from FirstBite Dental in Australia, where the clinical presentation was reviewed followed by before and after photos. The overall statement shows that the patients were happy with the implants, but the subjective value of the implant was not discussed. After reviewing numerous written and video testimonials from different clinics, the patient in the first case study was located. Other testimonials from dental clinics in India and Australia, were more associated on whether the patient would recommend that clinic, based on overall satisfaction and care.

Lastly the approach shifted to searching for case studies with a focus on patient satisfaction with each component requested, chewing, costs, appearance, and pain. Once again, yielding results with reviews for the overall clinic as opposed to the actual implant itself. During this search, the two research studies presented in the findings were uncovered. The studies, though they did not pertain to individual patients, provided the requested information based on actual patients that met the criteria.

Part
03
of three
Part
03

Dental Implants - Case Studies: United States

Some examples of case studies that focus on the value of dental implants and how they can help people overcome a lost tooth/teeth, and show that painful chewing and other problems do not have to be ongoing if there is a loss of a tooth include Lisa Weller's dental implants that helped her to gain more confidence and secure a promotion at her workplace; John Landis case study of how the homeless veteran able to find a job after receiving dental implants; and the case study of a 73-year-old resident of New Jersey who gained more confidence after receiving a dental implant.

Lisa Weller Get a Job Promotion After Undergoing and Oral Surgery

John Landis Secures a Job After Receiving Dental Impants

New Jersey Patient's Life Changes After Receiving a Dental Implant


Research Strategy:

In order to find case studies of how dental implants improved lives of people who had dental problems for decades due to negligence of their dental health and required dental implants, we searched for charitable organizations that provide dental treatment to patients with limited resources, such as homeless, immigrants, and poor population. In our research, we included the feedback on the dentistry clinics websites was excluded to avoid the loyalty bias. We were able to find case studies which describe older patients with poor dental hygiene having successfully received dental implants. Although some case studies focus on the techniques chosen by the dentist, they also provide patients’ feedback and are valuable for our research.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "A study that evaluated patient satisfaction using the Oral Health Impact Profile 49 reported a significant degree of patient satisfaction with implant treatment. The authors of that study claimed that implant therapy improved the psychological well-being of patients, improved functionality, and enhanced the general health status."
  • " In the present study, there was a high degree of patient satisfaction regardless of patient age or the length of the period following implant placement, which is also consistent with previous studies"
Quotes
  • "A total of 373 patients completed the questionnaires."
  • "Bone augmentation and the period of teeth loss are negative factors affecting patient satisfaction, and the success rate and survival time of implants are considerable aspects for patients."
Quotes
  • "Here’s a snapshot of some of our happy dental implant clients before and after they had treatment."
  • "This patient presented with very loose teeth as a result of gum and bone disease. Our approach required a very comprehensive treatment plan, which included periodontics, dental implants, porcelain crowns and teeth whitening."
From Part 03
Quotes
  • "Her teeth had been deteriorating for nearly two decades, and she had no plans or hope for a fix"
  • "She said she used to cover her mouth when she talked or laughed. She wouldn’t even sing in the car. But now she feels free to smile, laugh, yawn and live in a way that many may take for granted."
Quotes
  • "'It was a little harder to eat,' he said, of the few months when he was missing the tooth. 'Anything that involved heavy chewing I had to eat on the other side. It seemed to me I was getting some kind of ache or pain on the other side of my mouth, perhaps from chewing unevenly.' "
  • "Richard chose to have the tooth restored with a dental implant and a single crown, rather than a bridge that would attach to his adjacent natural teeth or a partial denture that would not feel as comfortable"
  • "I now have a full, equally balanced bite; I can chew on whatever I want, on either side. It feels perfectly natural and there isn't a worry of over-use of one side of my teeth. It feels as though there’s a whole set of new teeth though it's really only one. It’s just perfect "