Age Factor for Dental Implants?

Holly, from New Brunswick, asks:

My mother is 70 years old and is considering dental implant surgery. She’s had a full upper denture plate for most of her adult life and she hopes to avoid the pain, bleeding, and endless re-fittings that her own mother endured in the years before her death at 94. She’s been told that due to lack of bone, however, she would need a graft (from the hip).

However, I am very concerned about the age factor and would like to know some
stats re. dental implant surgery vs. the age of the patient. Are there
any specific risks or potential complications that older patients
specifically need to consider? Are there a certain types of dental implant
that are more successful for older patients, or that hold up better as
they age?

Some details: My mother doesn’t smoke or drink, other than the
occasional glass of wine with dinner, she eats well, and has been told
she does not have osteoporosis (as her mother did have), although she
is very petite at 5’2″. She has arthritis (hands, shoulder, knees and ankles), for which she uses
over-the-counter pain medication (i.e. Tylenol), and she’s been found
to have a slight iron deficiency in recent years, for which she’s
taking iron supplements. She was taking hormones for many years (re.
menopause) but went off them a year or two ago on the advice of her
doctor (concerned about potential risks).

Overall, she’s considered healthy, but I’m worried and would appreciate
some solid information and examples, from both doctors and anyone who’s
had the surgery in their Golden Years.

Thank you in advance for your input.

20 thoughts on “Age Factor for Dental Implants?

  1. Dear Holly:
    First you need to know that implants were initially developed for older patients that could not work a removable prothesis and later they have become the choice for younger patients, and also I am talcking about the original branemark ones and implants have been improved over the years.
    So as you can see no problems with age, specially in healthy non smokers.
    Having said that…. I have some thoughts about the graft. I would not go for a hip block in an older arthritic patient. Bluntly said there is a risk that she will have sequels to that surgery (i.e. motion problems, limping and its been heard of older patients that never realy walk correctly again). I would go with a human block like puross or similar, but that is just an opinion.
    Best of luck to your mom.

  2. In my practice, I have had the priviledge of treating more than one thousand patients over 65 years of age with dental implants. Our records indicate about one third of these people are over 70. My criteria for treatment is health related, not age determined. Your mother can expect a good result and probably a longer life because of dental implants. At the very least, she will eat a better diet and feel more secure with a firm dental appliance. For a better quality of life, go for it!

    Mike McBride

  3. Holly:

    The Guinness world age record for implant surgery is held by a Mrs. Margaret Brown who was 94 years and 354 days old when she had two lower jaw implants placed by a general dentist in Ontario, Canada on June 13, 2002. She lived for another 3 years with successful denture retention. The dentist used Tenax implants which, at this time, are available only in Canada, South Korea and the Caribbean islands.

    While that is a charming show-and-tell example of anecdotal evidence, science strongly suggests that any implant system with regulatory approval would achieve the same results. (Jokstad A, et al Quality of dental implants. Int Dent J. 2003;53(6 Suppl 2):409-43.)

    Here’s more science. A peer-reviewed study of 133 patients without teeth who were 80 older ( Engfors et al, Clin Implant Dent Relat Res. 2004;6(4):190-8) concluded that “Implant treatment in the elderly patients showed treatment results comparable to those observed in younger age groups.” And another study showed that “Dental implant-retained and/or implant-supported prostheses are viable treatment options for older patients.” (Garg AK, et al. Dental implants and the geriatric patient. Implant Dent. 1997 Fall;6(3):168-73.)

    Concerning grafting with hip bone, I fully agree with Dr. Berg that the risk is significant and that your mother should investigate less traumatic methods. For a start, she should get cross sectional x-ray imaging of the intended implant site completed. These are inexpensive techniques which show bone shape accurately and enhance diagnosis and treatment planning.

    Best wishes to your mother.

  4. Holly,

    You have some pretty valid surgical concerns for your 70 year old mother. But,I must say that age by itself and arthritis are not contraindications for reconstructing your mother’s upper jaw with a hip graft and dental implants. The only fairly well documented contraindications for implants and grafting include: steroid user, HIV+ patients, uncontrolled diabetics, smokers, and possibly oral/IV bisphosphonate users. Unfortunately, those patients who most need bone graft reconstruction are in their 60-80’s and most have some degree of mild arthritis. As you mentioned, your mother is fairly healthy with good cardiovascular or respiratory function. She should be able to tolerate the general anesthesia and surgical procedure. If the procedure is done correctly, your mother should have no hip joint problems as most hip grafts are harvested from the anterior iliac crest well away from the joint itself. Realistically, your mother can expect some post-operative bruising, tenderness/pain, and some initial limitation of weight bearing on the affected graft side. Most of these post-operative findings will disspate over the first week. Many of my patients leave the hospital after a 23 hours stay and are able to ambulate on their own with the help of a walking cane. Depending on the size of the bone graft reconstruction, you may want to ask your surgeon about an alternative tibial bone grafts. Hope everything works out for your mother. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.

  5. Holly-70 is not too old. I might consider the IMTEC miniimplants if MOM doesn’t want a hip graft and she might have enough bone for this. But a hip graft is predictable outcome with a high success rate in the right hands

  6. I placed implants in a 98 year old man last year. We immediately loaded the 5 of them in his lower jaw. They all are doing well with his definitive restoration. Age is not a poblem, 70 is young and should not deter you from the benifits of implants.

  7. Dear Holly,
    I can only agree with all the posts here. To add to dr. Tenax, contraindications for implant prosthodontics related to elderly include poor oral hygiene and selfesteem, inability to perform oral hygiene maintenance, severe osteoporossis and certain autoimmunity problems. Several problems have been reported /Romanos, NYU/, but not confirmed nor published yet, related to use of Fossamax during implant therapy. All in all, I can only reafirm other colleagues opinion that your mother could and should improve her quality of life with implant prosthodontic therapy. Best wishes to her!

  8. Thank you all so much for your help and support! I feel much better armed now, with specific info to go by.

    I think mother was deciding not having the surgery after all (due to the cost), but I’ve really felt it would be worth it the long run. At least now I may be able to convince her.

    She just needs to ask the surgeon the right questions, and hopefully get answers (and flexibility, if needed).

    Thank you again. : )

  9. My 12 year old daughter currently has braces. She is missing the teeth beside each of her two front teeth. Our options with braces are to pull her canines forward and then have cosmetic dentistry, or to leave spaces for implants. Our concern is her age. She will be around 14 when her braces come off. Is this too early for implants? She is concerned about wearing a partial until she is old enough for implants. Any suggestions on the best way to go?

  10. ELIE DDS
    DEAR SHARON
    YOU SHOULD WAIT FOR THE END OF BONE GROWTH : AROUND 18 OR 20 YEARS OLD TO PLACE A FINAL IMPLANT CAUSE THE BONE AT 14 IS STILL IN REMODELING AND NON MATURE. THE IMMEDIATE SOLUTION MAY BE A MINI IMPLANT AS TEMPORARY REPLACEMENT OF THE LATERAL INCISORS OR A MARYLAND CERCON ZYRCONIUM BRIDGE LAYED ON THE LINGUAL FACES OF THE NEIGHBOURS TEETH WITHOUT ANY ENAMEL GRINDIND OR TOOTH PREPARATION IF THE OCCLUSION IS NOT IN DEEP BITE-
    GOOD LUCK
    ELIE

  11. Age 14 is not the age to place implant.
    Best solution for replacing missing front teeth in young kids is to place MARYLAND BRIDGE or just resin bonded bridge.
    In my office I just use RIBBOND(a special fabric) to connect two teeth across missing tooth with bonding and build up nice tooth over RIBBOND with tooth colored resin.It lasts for many years.And in case if chips off, it can be easily repaired.
    Very cost effective way to replace single missing tooth in front.
    I uasually do same procedure for adult patients waiting for implants restorations after bone graft or implant surgery.

  12. I’m 68 and considering the implant procedure instead of full dentures. The cost is high.

    Smoke a pack of cigarettes a day! I’ve tred to quit altogether, but it’s been tough.

    Will smoking any amount prohibit the success of the operation?

    Thx…

  13. I am a 65 year old chain smoker, about a pack a day. What are my chances of a successful implant retoration of full upper and lower teeth?

  14. I have read in studies on PubMed that smoking has actually impacted the success of implants only very slightly, if at all.

    Also, many years ago, my dentist told me to take large amounts of Vitamin C as it promotes healing. So, I’ve taken it ever since, in the powdered sodium ascorbate form. I just mix it in my morning juice and other liquids during the day.

  15. My mother has a mental disability but has lost all her teeth for a few years now and complains of stomach pain because she eats whatever (a non meat eater), but cant afford for dental implants can she get help. Does Medicaid cover these and shes in PA.

    Any help would be greatly be welcomed.

  16. Dr.Tenax has answered fully.We all have been doing implant prosthesis for older group for a very long or we started with them only.Yes implants are very good for this group and age is no bar.

  17. Age is not important on its own. We have many patients over 80 with implants and great success stories.
    Age is only an indication of what are important factors – the health of the bone and the bodies healing abilities. The medications the person uses and the amount of bone they have left. The older we get, the greater the chance that any or all of these are diminished.

  18. Regarding dental implants in the elderly, nothing is mentioned about the risk of antibiotics typically prescribed by the dentist at the time of the procedure. I am 70 and just had a tooth removed with a bone augmentation. The Periodontist prescribed antibiotics. On the last day of the antibiotics, I developed severe diarrhea. I went to the Emergency Room and was diagnosed with C-Difficile caused by the antibiotics. The diarrhea caused a severe drop in potassium which is very dangerous. I spent 7 days and nights in the hospital hooked up to an IV. 20%-25% of people will get a recurrence. There are people who have had to have their colons removed because of this. The antibiotics to cure this condition cost well over $1000 for a ten day supply. In my research it says that people over 65 are more susceptible to this problem with antibiotics. My G&I says that they are seeing lots of cases. I have had two dental implants previously. Now I have to be very selective about any procedure requiring antibiotics. Dentists are not telling people about the risks

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