How Old Do You Have To Be To Get Dental Implants?

While many people think of dental implants as a technique primarily used by older adults who are losing teeth due to age-related conditions, accidents and genetic conditions can cause even the youngest children to lose teeth. If you're a parent of a child or teen with one or more missing teeth, you're likely interested in when your child can fill in that gap with a nearly permanent implant. Find out what the latest research says and what determines the right age for this procedure.

Minimum Usual Age

The design of the dental implant limits its use in young adults and children who are still growing. Each implant is anchored in the bone of the jaw itself thanks to a durable metal posts that bonds to the bone itself. If the jaw is still growing and changing shape, installing a nearly permanent metal post in it will only lead to pain and potential damage to the jaw and the implant.

Most dentists performing implant services request that patients wait until they turn 18 before requesting this particular treatment. More temporary treatments like a partial denture or bridge can fill in the gap until this age is reached, or the child can simply wait it out in most cases with no permanent effects to their development due to having a missing tooth. Waiting until a child turns 18 and is no longer a minor also protects the dentist legally, but it's also an age at which practically every patient is done growing in the jaw and mouth.

Younger Exceptions

Dentists may decide to install dental implants in patients younger than 18, but this is decided on a case by case basis. The dentist must take extensive x-rays of the jaw and mouth to determine if the child or teen has done the majority of their growth in those areas. If there's still expansion and movement expected, the dentist is right in telling you and your child to wait a little longer.

Studies show that some successful implants have been placed in patients as young as 12, with many more placed successfully at an average age of 16. These patients were all judged to have passed their major bone growth spurt or needed an implant in an area of the jaw expected to change very little. However, the same studies also found that some patients experienced major facial and jaw developments as late as 20 years of age. This makes it essential to take a dentist's opinion into consideration after they do a thorough investigation of your child's jaw.

Variations in Care

Gender plays a major role in the age at which a patient can get their first dental implants. Most dentists allow female patients to have the procedure done a few years before male patients because on average they tend to have their growth spurt at a younger age. Major jaw developments are also less common in female patients past the age of 16 to 18. Male patients are much more likely to have a dentist push the procedure back as far to the age of 21. Some male patients take this long to fully finish growth in the face, and early implants aren't a good fit in those cases.

Maximum Age Limits

On the other end of the spectrum, there's no upper age limit for dental implants. As long as you're healthy enough to handle the surgery and have strong bone and jaw tissue in place, you can have the procedure done at practically any age. Of course, it is good to have implants installed as soon as possible after losing a tooth to prevent the other teeth from shifting in place and making the gap smaller and harder to fill later.

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