Dental implants have a high success rate and can be an effective long-term solution for replacing missing teeth, but they're not the best choice for everyone.
Depending on the type of implant you choose, you'll normally need to have a large enough jaw to support the implant and be free from oral health problems and medical conditions that could affect the success of the treatment.
Your dentist can tell you whether you're a candidate for dental implants at your consultation.
Is there an age limit for dental implants?
There's no upper age limit for dental implants. While older people may be more likely to have a smaller jaw or a health condition that could make them unsuitable, success rates are comparable at all ages.
On the other hand, there is a lower age limit – dental implant surgery is not generally recommended for patients under 16. This is because teenagers' jaws may still be developing, which could cause the implant and tooth to shift position later.
How much bone is needed for a dental implant?
Your upper or lower jaw should be large and strong enough to support an implant for the long term. If you have a small jaw, or a bone condition, this could affect your suitability or healing time after surgery.
A bone graft procedure could help to increase the size of your jaw, but not everyone is suitable for this procedure. If you're replacing all your teeth with implants, full arch implants may not require as much support from the jaws.
Do you need healthy gums for dental implants?
Gum disease (periodontal disease) is one of the most common oral health problems. It can affect healing and the long-term success of implant treatments if the gum supporting the crown is swollen or bacteria under the gum wears down the supporting jaw bone.
Your dentist will screen for gum problems when they assess your suitability for implants. If you have gum disease, this will need to be treated before your implant procedure can begin.
Mild gum disease (gingivitis) can usually be treated by improving your oral hygiene at home or seeing a hygienist. Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) may require surgery, and your gum will need time to heal before an implant treatment.
Can smoking cause implants to fail?
Smoking reduces blood flow to the gums and jaw, which affects healing following oral surgery. A 2007 study of implant patients found that 15.8% of implants failed in smokers compared to just 1.4% in non-smokers.
The more you smoke, the greater the risk of implant failure. Your dentist will recommend that you quit smoking while your mouth heals and while the implant bonds with the jaw bone. This can take several months.
What else could make me unsuitable for implants?
Certain health problems that affect bone healing could also make you less eligible for dental implants. Your dentist will discuss your medical history during your consultation.
If you're not a candidate for dental implants, there are more ways to replace a missing tooth. Depending on how many teeth you want to replace, your dentist might discuss the pros and cons of partial dentures or a dental bridge.
Find out more about dental implants in Auckland
If you want to know more about replacing missing teeth, or you're ready to take the next step, call our team at St Heliers Dental Centre to book an implant consultation.
 Fixed Implant‐Supported Prostheses in Elderly Patients: A 5‐Year Retrospective Study of 133 Edentulous Patients Older than 79 Years. Clin Implant Dent Relat Res, 6 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1708-8208.2004.tb00035.x
 Smoking can cause implants to fail. Br Dent J 202, 182 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/bdj.2007.157