Finding a tooth replacement treatment that improves your daily life.
Healthy teeth are designed to do their jobs effortlessly. If you’ve suffered extensive tooth loss, however, once-simple tasks like eating can make you self-conscious and can often become surprisingly difficult. Thankfully, dental restorations can improve your daily life by restoring the function, appearance, and health of your teeth, but different restorations have their own unique benefits and drawbacks.
Whether you’ve had dentures for years or are just now beginning to explore your treatment options, you may find yourself trying to decide between getting dentures supported by dental implants or traditional dentures. These treatments can both be used to replace all or most of your teeth, but they’re surprisingly different.
To help you make the best choice for your daily life as well as your short- and long-term oral health, here’s a comparison of the two different treatments.
The Placement Process
The processes for getting implant-supported dentures and removable dentures are completely different. Implant-supported dentures typically take much longer than removable dentures, requiring multiple visits over the course of several months. This longer timeframe is because you need time to heal between procedures.
During your first dentist appointment, x-rays and impressions of your jaw and teeth will be taken to determine the best placement for your implants. You’ll then schedule another appointment to undergo your first procedure to embed the implants in the bone of your jaw. You’ll need to heal for up to six months, during which time the bone will grow around the titanium post to hold it more firmly in place—just like a tooth root. After enough time has passed, you’ll undergo a second procedure to secure abutments to the metal rods, which is the section that your dentures will be attached to. You’ll need to heal for several more weeks before Dr. Staley begins the process of fitting test dentures to your implants to ensure they function well, feel natural, and look the way you want them to. Your dentures are highly customizable, so you’ll be able to have a say in the size, shape, and shade of your new teeth.
Removable dentures only take a few appointments over the course of several weeks to receive. Dr. Staley begins by taking measurements and an impression of your mouth, which is used to make your dentures. You’ll have several appointments at our office to try out test dentures, which helps make sure that your dentures fit well and that the size, shape, and shade of your new teeth look right.
Since they’re supported by implants that are embedded directly into your jaw bone like tooth roots, implant-supported dentures benefit from a deep-rooted stability that removable dentures simply can’t match. Traditional removable dentures are held in place by suction and do help you to eat and speak normally, but they aren’t rooted in place as firmly and therefore have a few restrictions.
People with removable dentures may find it difficult to eat chewy food like steak, sticky food like caramel, or to bite directly into fruits like whole apples. They aren’t secure enough to be treated like natural teeth, so you can’t forget that you’re wearing them. The stability that implant-supported dentures provide, however, allows them to function and feel like natural teeth. You can eat all of your favorite foods without worrying about whether or not your implant-supported dentures can handle it.
The deep-rooted support that implant-supported dentures benefit from means that they’re incredibly stable. You’ll never have to worry about them slipping while you’re speaking, laughing, or eating, so you can relax and fully enjoy social events. Since removable dentures are held in place by suction, they’re not always completely stable. If they fit well, your removable dentures shouldn’t slip or fall out when you’re trying to eat or speak. Unfortunately, sticky food can pull them off even if you’re trying to chew carefully, but this shouldn’t happen if you’re careful about what you eat. Removable dentures begin to fit more loosely as time passes, though, making it more likely that they’ll slip out of place. You can use dental adhesives and have adjustments made to the dentures to combat this, but it’s an issue you’ll need to be aware of before you commit to removable dentures.
Implant-supported dentures rely on more advanced technology to provide the stability that they’re so famous for. Digital x-rays and impressions are taken to determine the bone density of your jaw and decide on the ideal placement of your implants. When it comes time to design your dentures, removable dentures rely on molds of your mouth taken with putty, but implant-supported dentures often use digital scans. These are taken to create a 3D image of your implants, gums, and jaw, which are then used to help create your dentures.
Impact on Bone Health
While the stability that implant-supported dentures offer is one of their best qualities, their most important attribute is one you don’t see: implants’ unique ability to preserve the bone density in your jaw. Natural tooth roots stimulate the jaw bone, telling it to keep sending nutrients and blood flow its way. When you lose teeth, those signals stop, which prompts your body to begin reabsorbing the bone.
Implants take the place of natural tooth roots, providing the stimulation your jaw needs to maintain a healthy bone density. The titanium metal actually encourages bone growth, so implants can reduce a small amount of bone loss as well. Removable dentures simply can’t provide this deep stimulation, so they can’t prevent bone loss in your jaw. Unfortunately, they actively make the problem worse by causing additional bone loss. This happens because the dentures constantly rub against and put pressure on the ridge of bone that they rest on, accelerating bone loss there.
Effects on Face Shape
When you picture someone with dentures, don’t you immediately think of the wrinkled skin over a sunken jaw? This stereotype exists for a reason—that appearance is the eventual result of continued bone loss from missing teeth and removable dentures. Removable dentures fill out your face and maintain its shape while you’re wearing them, stretching out the skin over your mouth. Over time, however, the bone loss in your jaw will eventually change your face shape, giving it a more sunken-in appearance even when you’re wearing your dentures. Implant-supported dentures protect your original facial structure by preventing bone loss in the first place.
Need for Denture Adhesives
Implant-supported dentures are locked into place on the metal abutment of your implants, so they don’t require creams or adhesives to keep them in place. Removable dentures that fit well don’t need creams or adhesives to stay in place, either, but continued bone loss means that these dentures begin fitting more loosely over time. When this happens, you’ll need to use creams and adhesives to keep them in place until you can make an appointment with your dentist for an adjustment. Once your removable dentures have been adjusted, you shouldn’t need to use the adhesives anymore.
As removable dentures become loose from bone loss, they’ll need to be adjusted or repaired so that they fit well again without the use of adhesives. In general, it’s recommended that your removable dentures be checked every year to ensure they fit well. Dr. Staley can make adjustments to your dentures as needed, but they’ll likely need to be replaced in five to 10 years. Implant-supported dentures won’t loosen or slip so they won’t need repairs or adjustments. That said, the dentures themselves will eventually need to be replaced due to wear and tear.
Short- and Long-Term Costs
When you compare the immediate costs of these types of dentures, implant-supported dentures are significantly more expensive. This is largely due to the surgery needed to place the implants themselves. As a result, removable dentures are a more immediately economical choice.
When you look at the long-term benefits and costs involved with each type of denture, however, implant-supported dentures should be viewed as an investment. They cost more upfront, but you won’t need to spend additional money making repairs and adjustments to them throughout their lives. Removable dentures come with regular costs and do need to be replaced more often. Implant-supported dentures aren’t just a financial investment, though—they’re an investment in your health. They protect the bone density and therefore the long-term health of your jaw, which is a value that a price tag simply can’t be attached to.
Implant-supported and removable dentures may sound similar at first glance and do perform similar jobs to restore the appearance and function of your teeth, but the two treatments are surprisingly different. Each has very different benefits in both the short- and long-term. If you’d like to learn more from your dentist about which option is best for you, feel free to call our office and schedule a dentist appointment at any time.