As an experienced implant dentist, I answer a myriad of questions about implants every week. One oft-posed question is this: “Is there an age limit for dental implants?” And my answer is, “Actually, there are age limits for dental implants, but they’re not what you might presume.”
Can You Be Too Young For Dental Implants?
As is the human condition, we arrive into this world toothless, and toothless we remain until we are four to five months old. That’s when our first baby teeth begin to cut through the gums, usually causing distress and disruption of sleep for our exhausted parents. Our baby teeth (“deciduous teeth”) continue to erupt until we are about two and a half, by which time twenty have appeared, including incisors, canines, and molars.
Then, from about 12 to 14 years old, we have what’s called a mixed dentition. Mixed dentition is the transitional period when ] baby teeth are being lost, and adult, or permanent, teeth are coming in. During these years, most of us have some adult and some baby teeth simultaneously.
Dental implants during these years are not usually an option. If a natural tooth is knocked out, a quick-thinking parent should put it in a cup of milk to keep it moist and rush to the dentist, who may then be able to replant the tooth. But a replanted natural tooth is not a dental implant, which is a valuable sidebar for any parent with an active child.
But Children Lose Teeth All The Time
If you have children, you know how accident-prone they can be. Many kids lose or break their teeth by falling off a bike, being hit by a misdirected baseball or hockey puck, sledding accidents, or face-planting while on the run. I’ve witnessed it all with my own children!
So, you may wonder what’s the lowest age limit for dental implants.
It’s a commonly held belief that adolescents (ages 10-18 years old) do not stop growing until they reach at least 18. Adolescence is a period of rapid growth, and along with the rest of the body, the facial bones are growing, too.
If dental implants are placed while facial bones are still growing and baby teeth are still present in the mouth, there’s a good chance there will be problems down the road because the neighboring teeth will continue to grow, but the implant tooth will not. When a tooth is out of alignment with its natural neighbors, long-term esthetic compromise and a potential risk to the implant’s health is a risk.
Another Age Limit For Dental Implants
Another age limit for dental implants goes beyond numerical age – it’s a person’s physiologic age. In other words, their developmental maturity. As a general rule, a girl must have begun menstruating, and a boy should have body hair, have experienced voice changes, and needs (not wants!) to shave. Also, no growth can have occurred within six months.
What About Adult Teeth That Never Came In?
Some teens have one or more adult teeth that are congenitally missing. They just never developed. Unfortunately, the tooth most likely to be congenitally missing is the upper lateral incisor, which, as you can see below, results in an obvious esthetic problem that can be devastating for self-esteem at that age.
As I mentioned earlier, patients under 18 years old or those who haven’t finished growing and maturing are not candidates for dental implants. The good news is most dentists can fill in a gap with an esthetically pleasing alternative until the child is above the lowest age limit for a dental implant.
(Interesting note: David Bowie is a famous person whose upper lateral incisors never came in. See the article below)
The Average Age For Dental Implants
The average age for dental implants is about 52 years old. The most common reasons for having a missing tooth or missing teeth in your 50s are:
- An accident
- A fractured tooth
- A failed root canal
- Severe tooth decay
- Advanced gum disease
Is There An Upper Age Limit For Dental Implants?
Can someone be too old? There is no absolute upper age limit for dental implants, but it all depends on the general and dental health of the patient. A careful review of your physical and medical history, the medications you take, any chronic conditions you might have, and past medical and dental treatments will determine if you are a candidate.
I often consult with the care teams of my older patients to help manage any underlying conditions or medication schedules and minimize potential risks to their well-being. So, what’s the upper age limit for dental implants?
Well, case in point:
At 91 years old, my patient Clare had a molar that had to be removed, and she insisted that it be replaced. “I’ve had a tooth there for over 80 years, and I want it back!” she declared.
After carefully reviewing her overall health, medical history, dental history, and the medications she was on, she was determined to be a good candidate for dental implant therapy. The day I placed her molar implant just happened to be her 92nd birthday! Despite a partially numb mouth, she enjoyed a piece of cake as we sang, “Happy Birthday!”
So, if everything else checks out, you cannot be too old for dental implants.
New Developments Make It Possible For More People To Get Dental Implants
I recently returned from a trip to Budapest, where I attended a very select and intensive five-day didactic and hands-on training course with a world-renowned implant clinician and educator named Dr. Istvan Urban. I learned how to perform Dr. Urban’s innovative methods for bone grafting and bone and soft tissue regeneration, which make it possible to regenerate lost and missing bone, even in patients who previously had no other options besides bridges or dentures.
Dr. Urban’s techniques have transformed my practice. Many patients, who before were not candidates, are now thrilled to enjoy the many benefits of dental implants!
Now that you are clear on the age limits for dental implants and the new techniques available, if your dentist once told you that you are not a candidate, it’s time to check in with them again. Dental implants can enhance your quality of life and restore the gleam in your eyes when you smile.
For me, nothing is more gratifying than restoring a patient’s dental self-esteem. I’m sure your dentist feels the same way!