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#HRB30 Story

Info for implants: replacing all your lost teeth

16 December 2016

A HRB-funded study at Trinity College Dublin and the Dental Hospitals in Dublin and Cork looked at older people who had lost all of their teeth and found that: Only 15% of people in the study chose dental implants over removable dentures; Those who chose implants tended to be younger and more open to new ideas; People thought the procedure to get implants was more invasive than it is. The researchers developed a short questionnaire to help dentists and GPs to identify people who would be likely to benefit from, and want, dental implants.

Trinity College Dublin, lead researcher Prof Brian O’Connell

The problem

Many older people in Ireland have lost all their natural teeth, which can limit their food choices and affect their confidence and social lives. People who have lost their teeth may be offered dental implants (replacement teeth that are implanted into the jaw) but not everyone wants them – they may want removable dentures or ‘false teeth’ instead. Why do people avoid implants? And how can we tell in advance who is likely to want them?

The project

A study at the Dental Hospitals in Dublin and Cork, gathered information from 125 older patients who had lost all of their teeth. Everyone on the study got fitted for dentures (false teeth), but they were also offered implants for a nominal cost. Only 15 per cent of the older people in the study chose to get implants, and the researchers looked at what influenced those choices.

The outcomes
  • People who chose to have dental implants rather than removable false teeth tended to be younger, they had lost teeth more recently and they were more open to new ideas.
  • The people who wanted implants were not always the people who clinically needed them the most. 
  • A short questionnaire that GPs and dentists can use as a tool to evaluate whether a patient is suitable for, and wants dental implants. 
  • Many people were put off implants because they thought the procedure was more invasive than it is, suggesting that a public education campaign could be of benefit.

Prof Brian O’Connell says:

'As the population of Ireland gets older and are more likely to lose teeth, we will face big challenges in dentistry. This HRB-funded project has identified the need for more education and public awareness about dental implants, and we have developed a questionnaire-based tool for GPs and dentists to use to assess a patient’s willingness and suitability for implants'.

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