While loss of teeth is common as we age, seniors often consider solutions to help restore their smile. Many people associate the smile with a person’s identity and are interested in a getting natural-looking dental implants.
Loss of teeth can also pose challenges beyond physical appearance. Tooth loss can negatively impact ability to chew some of the foods you enjoy as well as your overall speech, as the tongue touches the teeth for numerous articulations in connected speech.
Restoring your smile with dental implants can help boost your confidence and sense of self, and it is an investment that carries great longevity.
Are Dental Implants Right for Me?
There are a few different options available for individuals looking at replacing their natural teeth. Some of the most common selections include dental implants and dentures or partials. All of these major options can help you get your smile back, but research may be needed to find the best choice for you.
Many people have some experience with dentures, either through personal use or knowledge gained by interacting with older adults who have them. Dentures are made to look similar to natural dentition. Your dentist will make an impression of your gums and then adjust the molding as needed to provide the best comfort and fit. While dentures can be a cost-effective option for the replacement of teeth, they need to be cleaned frequently and sometimes require re-fittings, as the mouth can change over time. Dentures can be challenging to keep in place and may cause soreness and irritation of the gums. 
Dental implants are often a more desired option for older adults who would like to restore their smile. A major benefit of dental implants is that they are made to fit securely and do not need to be removed. Dental implants look like natural teeth and provide longevity of use that cannot be paralleled by dentures. Although dental implants are more expensive than dentures, an investment in implants is long-lasting and eliminates the challenges and discomforts often associated with dentures. For many aging adults, dental implants are the most preferred option for restoring the smile in a manner that is both safe and effective. [1, 2]
What is the Process for Getting Dental Implants?
Placement of dental implants occurs over the course of several months. Once you choose your dentist (or oral surgeon), you will be asked to come in for a consultation so that the professional can examine your teeth and complete x-rays to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate for the procedure. Your dentist should be able to walk you through the entire process and help you feel confident and prepared for the next steps. 
Some dental implant candidates will need to have unhealthy teeth removed prior to undergoing the placement of implants. Once the mouth is prepared, the dentist will drill a small hole into the jawbone and place a prosthetic root into the bone. The prosthetic will integrate with the jawbone over time, which provides the base to support the crown. While most individuals are able to tolerate the procedure well enough to get back to their regular schedule the next day, there are also options for sedation and local anesthesia. [1,3]
After the jawbone and prosthetic effectively integrate, your dentist will place an abutment onto the prosthetic implant, which will serve as the base to support your new tooth. The dentist will then construct the tooth and attach it to the abutment. The entire process can take from three to nine months (depending on several factors, such as removal of damaged teeth and number of implants needed), but the investment will last for a lifetime. Overall, the procedure is very safe with rare complications that are typical of any type of dental procedure, such as infection or breakage of the crown. While all procedures come with some level of risk, getting dental implants is generally a low-risk procedure. [1, 3]
Can I Afford Dental Implants?
One of the main concerns of many seniors considering dental implants is cost. Like most procedures, the cost of dental implants can range widely, depending on the dentist or surgeon, the number of implants needed, and the number of teeth that need to be extracted in preparation for the implants. An important factor to keep in mind is the longevity of dental implants. While dentures are often uncomfortable and will likely need to be replaced over time, dental implants offer a long-term solution to restoring your beautiful smile. [1, 2]
According to Forbes, the average cost of a dental implant was around $3000 to $4500 in 2021. It is important to note that this cost fluctuates significantly based on the needs of the individual. For example, if a patient needs several teeth next to each other, he or she may be appropriate for use of a bridge with just a few implants to cover the entire area, saving significant amounts of money. 
While insurance companies have not traditionally covered dental implant procedures, this has been changing over time. Keep in mind that about 80% of dentists are able to offer you a payment plan to be able to pay off your investment. In addition, patients can use benefits such as health savings accounts to pay for dental implants. These benefits are improving the accessibility of dental implants for seniors. 
How do I Maintain my Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a convenient way to restore your smile without worrying about extensive maintenance that is different from how most people take care of their natural teeth. Individuals with dental implants can take good care of them by routinely brushing and flossing their teeth, just as they would do previously. 
It is also important to continue going to the dentist for visits every six months to receive cleanings and any additional maintenance that may be needed. You can reduce the risk of crowns cracking or breaking by not chewing hard candy and other foods that tend to also be challenging to chew with natural teeth. 
Regardless of age, dental implants are an excellent option for restoring your smile in a manner that is safe, effective, and cosmetically appealing. Receiving dental implants is a relatively routine procedure that comes with few risks that are associated with having any type of procedure. Dental implants are natural-looking and can help improve your body image, ease of chewing, and clarity of speech, especially in comparison to more traditional dentures.