According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans over age 65 is expected to double by 2060. This older population will live longer and, at the same time, live wiser, choosing to make healthier decisions to keep them active well into their 80s and 90s. The enjoyment of nutritious food is at the top of the list, but only for those who have the healthy teeth needed to help them chew and eat.
With the aid of the latest dental technology, including robotic dental implant placement and bone grafting techniques to combat bone loss, skilled periodontal specialists can usually treat their senior patients as effectively as they would younger patients. There is no reason seniors shouldn’t be able to experience the same pleasure of eating and obtain the resultant nutritional benefits they did in their younger lives. The older population shouldn’t have to deny themselves because of missing or failing teeth or faulty dentures.
Regaining the Joy of Eating
Enjoying meals is one of life’s biggest pleasures. Hippocrates, for instance, is attributed to have said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
The joy of eating is a common denominator that brings us closer to each other. We celebrate over food, mourn over food and simply relish our time experiencing various tastes and textures. If you can’t chew properly due to missing teeth, you miss out.
Studies suggest that nutrition is also affected as individuals are forced to adjust their eating habits when teeth are an issue. People restrict their diets by consuming softer foods that are perhaps higher in sugar and starches and lower in protein and other healthy nutrients. Poor oral health can then affect our entire body.
There’s no one-size-fits-all assessment when determining eligibility for dental implants. A thirty-year-old patient could present with worse bone deterioration and prohibitive health issues (luckily, there are few) than an 80-year-old. Regardless of age, each patient must be individually assessed with a full health evaluation and medical review before we can determine possible next steps.
According to Guinness World Records, the oldest individual to receive dental implants was nearly 101 years old. While this age may be unusual, many periodontists continually do work with patients in their 70s, 80s and even 90s on a daily basis — individuals who are now able to better enjoy their lives, sometimes after years of suffering with missing teeth or messy dentures. The periodontists will assess their individual situation: dental implants may not be the choice for an individual who has a lifetime history of gum disease, takes certain medications or is not able to perform basic oral hygiene maintenance like brushing and flossing.
Often dental implants can be strategically placed thanks to 3-D imaging and robotic-assisted surgery. In many instances, they can strategically place only 4-5 implants per arch with a full set of teeth. If bone loss has occurred, building up jawbone strength has never been easier.
Benefits of Dental Implants Can’t Be Denied
By treating gum disease, periodontists help patients keep their natural teeth as long as possible, which is ALWAYS the top priority. But if that’s not an option, dental implants are the next best thing. With dental implants, a natural process called osseointegration means the bone in your mouth naturally fuses with the implant “root,” allowing for full physical support that’s just like natural teeth. In addition to being able to eat all foods and enjoy more nutritious meals again, other key benefits of dental implants for seniors include:
- Easier speaking
- No removable teeth to clean
- No messy adhesive needed
- You can once again laugh and smile unconsciously
- No discomfort from an apparatus in the mouth
- Implants should last a lifetime
- Restores your bite force
- No loss of facial structure
- No need to remove your teeth when you go into a hospital
Changing Lives with Better Teeth
We can’t count the many older patients whose lives are totally transformed when they can once again eat properly, smile with confidence and share in family meals. These individuals no longer hide their smiles. They eat properly and don’t have to miss out on family fun because of their teeth issues.
There’s no denying that keeping your natural, healthy teeth is always the best option. But when that’s not possible, dental implants are without a doubt today’s best natural tooth replacement system, whether you’re 37, 57 or 87.
Frederic J. Norkin, DMD, is a founding partner at Boca Raton’s South Florida Center for Periodontics & Implant Dentistry. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and a fellow of the International Team for Implantology.