Millions of Americans suffer from tooth loss – at least 1 in 6 adults over the age of 65 have lost all their teeth. Dental implants can be a welcome solution to tooth replacement. If you are exploring the transformative potential of dental implants, it’s crucial to understand what makes someone an ideal option for implant candidacy.

Let’s delve into the factors that determine your suitability for dental implants and what you need to consider before taking the decision. 

Before choosing dental implants, talk to your dental provider about the potential benefits and risks and whether you are a good candidate for the procedure.

What are Dental Implants?

3D image of 3 parts of a dental implant - post, abutment, and crown - inserted in the mouth

Dental implants are a tooth-like replacement that is firmly placed in your mouth by attaching it to a metal post implanted in your jawbone. Implants can replace a single tooth or an entire row of teeth; unlike dentures, they are a fixed, permanent solution.

There are a myriad of benefits to getting dental implants. Unlike dentures, with implants, there is nothing covering the roof of the mouth, which helps with both speaking and tasting. They are less prone to plaque build-up, reduce the risk of bone shrinkage due to missing teeth, and make chewing easier. Perhaps best of all – with the proper care, implants can last you for the rest of your life.

You can learn more about dental implants here!

Who is a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?

Factors that determine if a patient is or isn’t a good candidate for dental implants include bone and gum health, as well as overall health in general. 

Age is only a factor for young people, as their bones are still growing and changing, but there is no upper age limit for potential candidates.

Patients actively undergoing periodontal therapy are not candidates for dental implants, but periodontal maintenance patients are – provided they demonstrate good dental homecare.

A basic candidate checklist would include:

  • Good health undergoing elective surgery and going through the healing process make it vital to be healthy enough to be able to heal properly.
  • Adequate bone in your jaw – this is for the post to be able to attach to, though if you don’t meet this requirement, a bone graft can be used to first augment bone volume and provide a foundation for implants to be placed later.
  • Healthy gums – the gums grow around the implant and help hold it in place, as well as helping you heal properly.
  • Can afford the cost – dental implants are often not covered by insurance and can be very expensive.

Who is Not a Good Candidate?

Though dental implants can be a potential solution for many with tooth loss, there are factors that may make someone ineligible for the procedure.

Medical Reasons

The following are characteristics of those who might not be an ideal candidate for the procedure: 

  • Significant immune deficiencies – a healthy immune system is vital for the healing and overall success of any dental implant. Those who are immunocompromised are not ideal candidates for implants.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions – due to the body’s need to heal from the surgery as well as accept the implant into the bone and tissue properly, some medical conditions may make a patient unsuitable for implants. However, it often depends on the severity of the condition. People with heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, auto-immune diseases, hemophilia, and cancer may not be qualified, though every case is unique. If you have any of these conditions, it is still worthwhile to talk to your dental and medical providers to see if you could still be a candidate. 
  • Alcoholism and heavy smokers – smoking and alcohol can both lower the body’s immune system in different ways. Those who use these substances frequently would most likely not be able to maintain a successful dental implant.

Dental Reasons

  • Uncontrolled gum disease – because of the vital role that the gums play in integrating the implant successfully, it is imperative to have healthy gums. Those with uncontrolled periodontitis are not eligible for implants, though once you have been treated for it, you may become a candidate again.
  • Excessive grinding and clenching – grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw can put too much pressure on the implants, which in turn can lead to long-term damage.
  • Previous dental work – having had previous dental solutions such as bridges or dentures does not mean you shouldn’t consider implants. However, the issue ends up being one of bone density. Because these types of dental work do not stimulate the jaw bone, some amount of bone loss is possible over time. If this is the case, implants may still be an option but would require a bone graft procedure.

Other Factors to Consider

  • Pregnancy – The American Pregnancy Association says high-stress levels in an expectant mother can affect the development of the baby. Since surgery is likely to heighten anxiousness during an already stressful time, it is recommended that implant surgery be held off till after you have given birth.
  • Medications – if you take certain medications, including steroids or drugs that suppress the immune system, it may be dangerous for you to undergo implant surgery.
  • Younger patients – as a teenager or young adult, your jaw bone is still growing, making a successful permanent implant impossible.
  • Older patients – while they are minimal, there are potential risks associated with dental implant procedures. The time it takes to heal from the procedure generally increases with age, and older patients’ bone structure can be weaker than what is needed for successful implants. Though success rates are still high, careful consideration and consultation with your dentist is important.

Can I Get Dental Implants if I Already Have Dentures?

Dentist showing denture impression to patient

Dentures, like bridges, do not automatically disqualify you from being a candidate for dental implants. Your dentist will take into consideration your bone density, gum health, and oral hygiene, among other factors, to determine if dental implants are right for you.

Are Other Options Available?

If you believe you might not be a good candidate for dental implants, there are other options available to you. Dental implants may not be the right fit, but dentures and dental bridges can be a resolution to tooth loss.

  • Full Denturesalso known as complete dentures, these are removable devices that replace the entire upper and/or lower teeth, thus requiring that all those teeth be missing or removed. They are removable and need to be cleaned once a day.
  • Partial dentures – these only replace a few teeth in a row as opposed to the entire upper or lower sections. Partial dentures are also removable.
  • Dental bridgeunlike dentures, dental bridges are fixed in your mouth. They fill the gap left by missing teeth by placing artificial teeth in the holes and bridging them to your natural teeth on either side, which supports the bridge.

Still Not Sure if Dental Implants are Right for You?

If you are still unsure if dental implants are right for you, reach out to Dr. Le and our staff at Bunker Hill Dentistry in Houston. 

We are dedicated to addressing all your inquiries and worries while discussing various options to enhance your teeth and smile for optimal results.

Learn more about getting implants at Bunker Hill Dentistry