When you have lost most or all of your natural teeth, you might wonder how much to realistically expect from a dental appliance. Is it truly possible to regain the appearance and functionality of your natural teeth?
Two options to consider are traditional dentures and implant-supported dentures. It is important to understand the fundamental similarities and differences between the two.
What Are Traditional Dentures?
Traditional dentures are made from an acrylic base attached to a set of artificial teeth. They float on top of the gums, and can be easily removed for cleaning. Since they are not attached to the jawbone, traditional dentures may shift as you eat or talk, creating challenges that natural teeth do not have. Some of the complications associated with traditional dentures include trouble eating, mouth sores, discomfort, and problems talking.
Another complication with traditional dentures is bone loss. Since the denture sits on top of the gum, it does not stimulate the underlying bone. Over time, the jawbone will begin to decay. This can lead to premature aging and a sunken, hollow appearance.
With proper cleaning and care, acrylic dentures last about five to ten years.
What Are Implant-Supported Dentures?
Implant-Supported dentures address many of the issues and challenges of traditional dentures. They will not move during eating or talking, and dental implants are the only form of tooth replacement that stimulates bone growth, rather than allowing the jaw to atrophy.
An implant is a titanium screw that replaces the tooth root. The implants are embedded directly into the jawbone, providing an extremely stable foundation for an individual crown or a full denture appliance.
The denture itself is still made from acrylic. However, rather than floating on the gum, the appliance hooks onto the implants using a latching system. As a result, the denture functions exactly like normal teeth and will not move during eating or talking.
Implant-supported dentures can be either removable or permanent, depending on your preferences:
- Removable: Removable dentures affix to conventional dental implants, mini-implants, or a bar that is connected to the implants. They can be easily removed for cleaning at night or following meals.
- Non-Removable: These dentures attach permanently to the implant. You can clean them by brushing and flossing, exactly like regular teeth. Although they are permanent, they can be removed by a dentist if necessary, without damaging the implant.
Drawbacks of Implant-Supported Dentures
Implant-supported dentures provide a better quality of life compared to the traditional denture. They are the best option for fully replacing the function and appearance of natural teeth. However, there are a few reasons why someone might choose the traditional option instead.
- Implants require oral surgery to install the titanium screws. However, this surgery is straightforward, and usually takes around an hour to complete. Patients typically only require a local anesthetic.
- Dental insurance will not always cover the price of implants, which can be quite expensive. This cost should be weighed against the benefit and the longevity of the implant, which can last for 15 years or more with proper care.
Deciding how to replace your natural teeth is a personal decision that should be made with your dentist. Knowing what your options are and how they will impact your health is an important step towards making a decision that works best for you.