What is too young for dental implants?
Too young for dental implants? What are the age limitations for dental implants?
Who is too young for dental implants?
This is a question we sometimes hear from patient’s parents and the answer is it depends! The short version is we can place the dental implant when the individual stops skeletal growth, as it turns out this never really stops in the jaw bones but I will touch on that more later. We often state the minimum age is 18-20, however if we can wait until mid-twenties I feel that is safer.
It was once our believe that once the child stopped growing vertically we were fine to move forward with dental implants. However, many cases and a lot or research is showing that late jaw bone growth is common and we have continual movement and growth of out jaw bones throughout life. Unfortunately, a dental implant acts like an ankylosed tooth, in other words it stays in place and does not move with bone growth the way teeth do. This creates a potential for functional and esthetic issues.
In a fantastic lecture seen here from Bahat, you can see what happens to dental implants over the years. They stay put and the teeth move down creating a look of teeth that are too short and do not hit together when biting. It is unknown at what age this patient was but I am guessing she was young.
What can you do for someone who is too young for dental implants?
There are several options to temporarily close spaces while waiting for growth to finish. These options are in our alternatives for dental flipper page.
What happens when we place a front dental implant on someone that is too young?
This is far easier to show than to tell, but basically it appears that the crown has sunk into the jaw. In females the tooth may also look too far forward. This is because there is differences in how make and female bone growth occurs. The example shown above is a great example. In reality the bone continues to change and teeth continue to slowly erupt. This leaves the dental implant behind and it’s crown therefore appears shorter. Cases of this can be seen in literature and on dental blogs like dentaltown.
Video on when is too young for dental implants – hint we never stop growing so never totally save!
So is there ever an age where we can guarantee that someone is no longer too young for dental implants?
The short answer to that is NO! The same issues can occur later in life but at this point we can not predict who it will occur to. For instance the first case seen below also from Baht’s lecture and is someone that appears to be older based on amount of dentistry they have. The second case is a 35 year old woman and is only 15 months post crown delivery. However, situations as extreme as this are rare for older individuals. We have only seen extreme cases a handful of time in our practice.
The third case is a patient we saw at 42 and had the implant when he was 31. His implant is now causing some soft tissue problems though and may end up being more than just a cosmetic issue. You can see the tooth on the implant is both inferior and lingual to the other teeth which is in agreement with facial bone growth down and forward.
Criteria that helps determine if the patient is too young for dental implants.
Besides age and skeletal growth there are a few other issues that may help us. Even though cranial facial changes occur throughout life they vary from person to person. The most prominent changes occur on individuals with long and short faces, so be aware of those people.
More information on dental implant issues including late growth issues can be found on our blog on dental implant problems.