After wearing dentures for 18 years, is it too late for dental implants? My dentures won’t stay in, and my entire experience with wearing them has been disappointing and frustrating. It’s almost time for new dentures, and if I can minimize my misery, I would love it. Thanks. Vera from Biloxi, MS
No, it’s not too late for dental implants. There isn’t a limit on how many years you can wear dentures before you’re not a candidate for implants, but you’ll need to be patient with the process. We’ll explain.
Dentures and Jawbone Resorption
The longer you wear complete removable dentures, the more your jawbone will shrink. Jawbone shrinkage occurs in areas where teeth are missing. And when all your teeth are missing, the entire surface of your jawbone shrinks. Your body takes the minerals from the bone and uses them elsewhere. As your jawbone shrinks, it’s more difficult for your denture to stay in place.
Dental Implants and Bone Volume
An implant dentist or oral surgeon places implants in your jawbone with the goal of the bone and implant fusing to anchor a denture or arch of teeth. If you have significant bone loss, your jawbone won’t support implants.
If You Don’t Have Enough Bone for Dental Implants
If you don’t have enough jawbone to support dental implants, implant dentists offer two treatment options—bone grafting and All-on-4 dental implants.
Bone grafting for dental implants
Bone grafting for dental implants is a procedure that takes bone from one part of your body, like your hip, to use it for building up your jawbone. As an alternative, a dentist might use sterilized or artificial bone. Depending on the type of bone used and the extent of bone loss, the Academy of Osseointegration says it can take four to twelve months for grafts to heal. After healing, you can receive dental implants. Your implant dentist will explain your options for grafting.
All-on-4 dental implants
All-on-4 dental implants are a system that angles implants in the front of your mouth. The bone in the front of your mouth is often thicker than other areas. And angling the implants increases contact with the bone and resistance to movement. Implant dentists use 3-D cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans to see your bone structure and identify a precise location for All-on-4 or All-on-6 dental implants. This process prevents the need for bone grafting. But your implant dentist will determine if you’re a candidate for this treatment.
For predictable results, look for an implant dentist who is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. Dentists with fellowship have advanced dental implant training and experience and have completed rigorous testing and examination of their patient cases by a review board.
You can receive implant-supported dentures and have a comfortable, confident smile at last.
Steven Brooksher, DDS, a Baton Rouge dentist, sponsors this post. Dr. Brooksher is an accredited cosmetic dentist and a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He completes implant surgery and restores implants with dental crowns or dentures.