Older Adults Can Benefit from Dental Implants and Proactive Dental Care

Dental care is often overlooked in overall health care among older adults. Like younger people, older people sometimes don't like going to the dentist. Yet, dental implants and routine dental care will benefit physical and emotional well-being.

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Older Adults Can Benefit from Dental Implants and Proactive Dental Care
4 Min Read August 5th, 2022

Dental implants can often improve older adults' lives. The implants can give them improved physical health. They can enhance a person's attitude about themselves, improving their mindset and emotional well-being.

The National Association of Dental and Craniofacial Research (part of the National Institutes of Health) reports that both partial and total tooth loss in seniors has decreased from the early 1970s through today. 

For adults aged 65+ average of 20.7 remaining teeth, with 17.3% of seniors 65 years and older having no remaining teeth. Adults should have 32 teeth. Older adults, women, African American seniors, current smokers, and those with lower incomes and less education are more likely to have no remaining teeth.

Many issues result from losing a tooth, which is why there are so many benefits to getting a dental implant to replace missing teeth. In the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the team from University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom showed that those who lost all their natural teeth performed around 10% worse in both memory and walking than counterparts with natural teeth. 

Dr. Georgios Tsakos of UCL's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health says that noticing excessive tooth loss in adults is a chance to spot people at higher risk of faster decline later in life.

Tooth loss could be used as an early marker of mental and physical decline in older age, particularly among 60–74-year-olds. 

There are lifestyle and psychosocial factors to consider. Plus, some people fear going to a dentist and becoming proactive when they experience tooth loss.

As people age, their need for dental work usually grows too. Many folks would benefit from dental implants but worry about going to a dentist and fear getting them. However, there are many benefits to getting a dental implant from an experienced professional. Here's a deeper look into some of the benefits and why they matter to you and older family members.

Protect Gums and Bones

Dental implants cover exposed bone and tissue and support your teeth and gums. This is extremely important as your gums and teeth will shift to fill the empty spot, potentially causing many future dental problems. A dental implant helps avoid these issues and can help keep your mouth healthy.

Dental implants will not negatively affect the outcome even if the older adult has bone loss because of osteoporosis/osteopenia. Even with bone loss, dental implants can be placed successfully. 

Gain Back Function

Dentists don't do dental implants just for fun; they perform these procedures because of missing teeth. The loss of teeth can cause discomfort and loss of function, which dental implants aim to restore. Implants will help restore the function of the natural teeth, recover the overall health of the gums and mouth, and improve the quality of life for the individual.

So dental implants can be a powerful solution for anyone who has lost teeth and wants full function of their mouth, as long as they're good candidates for dental implants.

Increases Confidence

Some people will suffer from embarrassment and anxiety over their poor dental health. People who've experienced tooth loss also may experience a lack of confidence or self-consciousness. The implants can begin to restore their personal confidence when interacting with friends and family.

Naturally, some older adults will smile less often because they fear others will judge them for tooth loss. One of the benefits of a dental implant is helping restore a person's confidence and removing the problem that makes someone self-conscious.

Improve Speech Capability

When people speak, they use every part of their mouth to form sounds and words—teeth, tongue, lips, and soft tissue. Losing your teeth will change your speech and voice, potentially creating a speech impediment. Dental implants restore oral health and the shape of a person's mouth, allowing speech to return to normal.

Dental implants can restore so much of what missing teeth have taken from someone's life. If you think a loved one, or perhaps yourself, could benefit from dental implants, talk to your dentist about potential next steps and ensure it's appropriate.

Dental Health Remains Important with Aging

More than 1/4th of those aged 65 and older convey that the overall condition of their mouth and teeth is fair or poor. Some seniors do not buy dental insurance; perhaps they are many of the same people that didn't go to the dentist often when they were younger. 

Research says that nearly a quarter of people aged 65+ haven't seen a dentist within the past five years. Medicare doesn't cover routine preventive dental care or most dental procedures, although private dental insurance is available.

Plus, the older you get, the nerves at the tooth's core lose sensitivity. With less nerve sensitivity, someone might not notice the pain until a problem is well advanced. In addition, Harvard Health says the chance of having tooth damage severe enough to require a root canal or similarly invasive procedure triples once you're over age 65. 

The CDC says that some chronic diseases can impact oral health. Health problems like diabetes and osteoporosis are common among the older population, and poor oral health may contribute to the risk of certain conditions.

Over 120 diseases can potentially cause symptoms to develop inside of the mouth that a dentist can spot during a routine dental visit. Visiting the dentist is more than just about looking good - although that is also important. 

Too many people stay away from the dentist. The percentage of adults aged 65 and over who had a dental visit in the past 12 months, according to the CDC, decreased with age, from 67.7% among adults aged 65–74 to 64.1% among those aged 75–84 to 57.9% among those aged 85 and over. The chart below shows the percentage of adults aged 65 and over who had a dental visit in the past 12 months, by sex, age, race and Hispanic origin, poverty status, and dentate status: 

Graph showing breakdown by age, sex, and ethnicity.

Adults living in long-term care facilities, or receiving in-home care, should not ignore dental care. Staff and caregivers should pay attention to dental problems, and family members should seek professional dental care proactively to benefit health and well-being.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

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Long-Term Care Insurance is affordable for many people. Your age and health are some of the factors that go into insurance costs - How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost? | LTC News.

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