Beyond Dentures—New Ways to Save Your Smile


Talking about dental health can be nerve-wracking, especially since so many of us fear the dentist. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic states that 36% of individuals have a fear of the dentist, and 12% have an “extreme fear.” Even if you’re not scared, going to the dentist is often associated with a less-than-pleasant experience, and that can lead to dread.

One of the reasons some seniors choose dentures when they begin to experience tooth problems associated with aging is that they might feel it is easier to get dentures rather than have any extensive work done on their teeth. Dentures are a quick fix that can be created in a matter of days or weeks[1]. The Journal of Aging Research and Lifestyle points out that more than half of seniors aged 65 to 74 are wearing some sort of dentures, either full or partial. However, only about half of those who get dentures are happy with them, and only about 5% are completely satisfied with their choice[2].

While dentures might work for some – and were the most common choice in the past – today, dentures are often the last resort after bridges and implants.

The Importance of Dental Care

Dental care matters a great deal when it comes to overall health. One of the most important points for seniors is that the teeth can affect a person’s ability to eat. Teeth or gums that hurt, dentures that don’t fit well, or having no teeth at all can contribute to unintentional weight loss. That weight loss can be dangerous for seniors who are underweight or even those who are at a healthy weight at the time the dental issues begin[3].

In addition, good dental care can lead to improvement in other areas of your health. For instance, gum disease can make it more difficult to control diabetes[4]. It is also associated with other severe issues, such as heart disease and stroke, according to

Losing too much weight and not eating enough are two things that can lead to an increased fall risk. That’s because as you lose weight, your balance and equilibrium might be off. And not eating enough can lead to feeling faint, dizzy, or weak. Any of these issues can make you more likely to fall down. A medical alert pendant or bracelet can help with peace of mind, but it’s important to get your teeth fixed to avoid more problems in the future.

That’s where implants and bridges come in.

Making the Case for Implants

A whopping 70% of seniors deal with the loss of at least one tooth, according to OralB. Losing a tooth or two is an unfortunate part of aging for some. In many cases, the loss of a single tooth is remedied by an implant, allowing you to keep your other teeth and simply replace one over the span of a few dental procedures.

Dental implants are a permanent solution. Sometimes known as caps or crowns, these implants are shaped and colored to match your existing teeth as closely as possible. Due to this careful consideration, it might be impossible to look at someone’s teeth and know that they have an implant at all. Implants are attached to your jawbone with titanium pegs, where they eventually fuse with your jaw over time. The pegs are topped with crowns. This is done through surgical procedures in your dentist’s office.

When you lose your teeth, you might also suffer from bone loss. That’s because the gap from the missing teeth can allow the other teeth to shift out of position in your mouth. The body then begins to absorb the bone, which can lead to slight disfiguration of the jaw, as well as a sunken appearance to the face. Dental implants fill in the gaps and keep your remaining teeth steady in their places, thus helping to avoid bone loss and the facial changes that can occur when those remaining teeth slowly migrate. Once in place, dental implants are there for at least 20 years, perhaps longer. That eliminates the worry about bone loss for quite some time[5]!

The only big problem with implants is the cost. They are implanted during a surgical procedure, and that can be expensive. In addition, many insurance companies, even those that offer dedicated dental insurance, might not cover the expense of implants. However, there might be a solution in mini dental implants, which are smaller than the typical implants and can be inserted into the bone in a minimally invasive procedure[6]. Though these still might not be covered by insurance, the overall cost could be more affordable.

Many people opt for implants. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, 2.3 million implant s are created annually, making implants the most common restorative procedure.

(An important note to remember: If you are having an invasive dental procedure, you might lose some blood or feel adversely affected by the medications given during that procedure. That’s another excellent reason to consider an emergency response solution, such as a medical alert watch or pendant. This protection against falls can help ensure your peace of mind as you recover.)

What is a Dental Bridge?

A dental bridge is a false tooth or teeth held in place by your remaining teeth. They are often made of porcelain or plastic, and just as with dental implants, they are colored and shaped to match your remaining teeth. Dental bridges don’t require surgery and can be created over the span of a few weeks and only a few dental visits. Dental bridges are great for those who have lost one or two teeth and have strong remaining teeth that could last for many more years.

There are four main types of bridges[7]:

·         Fixed bridge: This is the most common, with two or more crowns and filler teeth that are all connected. The crowns are placed over the existing teeth to keep the bridge in place.

·         Cantilever bridge: Instead of connecting to two teeth, this bridge connects to only one tooth.

·         Resin-bonded bridge: Also known as a Maryland bridge, this is for those who are missing their front teeth. It’s supported by a careful framework that seamlessly attaches the new teeth to your existing teeth.

·         Implant supported bridge: Just as the name suggests, this bridge is held in place by an implant rather than by your remaining teeth.

The downside of dental bridges is that most must be replaced after five to seven years. They can begin to lose their natural-looking appearance during that time, making them stand out against your other teeth.  And unfortunately, there is the possibility that you could develop cavities, decay, and other damage to the teeth surrounding the dental bridge, as the bonding required for the bridge can affect your ability to properly clean the remaining teeth[8].

However, if your mouth is filled with relatively healthy teeth, you’ve lost only a few teeth, and you can’t handle the surgery required for implants, a dental bridge could be the ideal solution.

Are Dentures the Best Idea for You?

Though implants and bridges have clear advantages, some might choose to go with dentures, either full or partial sets. Why?

Dentures are a solution for those who have extensive tooth loss. That’s a lot of people – today about 36 million individuals have no teeth at all, and 23 million of those are of the elderly population. Among those who have no teeth at all, 90% of them use dentures[9].

Dentures are a removable solution that has been around for hundreds of years, and thus, many seniors are quite familiar with them. However, it’s important to remember that the old versions of dentures – those that were very clearly false teeth – are a thing of the past. Today’s dentures are so well-made and well-fitted that it can be impossible to tell that someone is wearing them[10].

However, dentures do come with some issues, no matter how good they look. Since they are removable, they have to be attached to the mouth with denture adhesive, which can sometimes fail to keep them in the proper position. This can lead to slippage of the dentures, which can be embarrassing if it happens in public. In addition, that slippage can make it tough to eat, which leads to the unintentional weight loss that we mentioned earlier, as well as the associated problems.

Dentures must be adjusted on a regular basis. That’s because your jawbone will slowly change over time without natural teeth to hold it in place and help prevent bone loss. These fittings can be uncomfortable. Dentures don’t last forever, as the material can begin to break down over time.

Though full dentures are what we typically think of when talking about false teeth, there are also partial denture options. These are dentures designed to fit over your remaining teeth and use those as an anchor, thus reducing the need for adhesive and creating a more natural look to the mouth.

Paying for Dental Procedures

Many seniors can take advantage of dental services at a reduced rate. However, this more commonly applies to dental cleanings and small procedures. Your local dental society can help you find low-cost or free programs at public health clinics, dental school clinics, and the like[11].

When it comes to coverage for dentures, implants, or bridges, most are not covered under Original Medicare, but some might be covered under Medicare Advantage plans. Private dental insurance might cover certain procedures as well[12]. Medicaid could cover dental bridges or dentures, but might not cover more invasive procedures like implants, often deeming them not “medically necessary.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, recipients of Medicare who opted for dental procedures often paid more than $1,000 out of pocket, with the average cost of dental care reaching $922. Carefully weigh the costs and speak to your dentist about what might be more affordable for you, as well as what might be most practical for the long run. For instance, will it be more affordable to get a dental implant that needs to be replaced in 20 years, even if the up-front cost is more, than opting for a cheaper bridge that must be replaced every five years or so?

Maintaining Good Health

Dental bridges, implants, or dentures are all part of maintaining your good dental health well into your golden years. Whether you need an implant to replace one lost tooth or dentures that will provide a full set of teeth, there are good options to help keep your mouth healthy and allow you to eat what you want, when you want.

As you get older, it’s important to consider other ways to stay as healthy as possible. Fall prevention is an absolute necessity for good long-term health, as a fall can lead to serious injury or even death. Though a medical alert system with fall detection can’t prevent falls, it can certainly provide you with the peace of mind that as soon as a fall happens, help is on the way. A device with fall sensors can determine if a fall has occurred and alert trained professionals immediately to get you the help you need. Consider an Alert1 Medical Alert today! Make it part of your to-do list for better overall health.