An individual with no teeth along the upper or lower jaw but enough bone underneath may be a candidate for implant-supported dentures. This type of dental restoration is more advanced than traditional dentures, offering greater stability, bite strength and no need for paste or adhesives.
About Implant-Supported Dentures
Generally, dentists construct implant-supported dentures for the lower jaw. In this area of the mouth, traditional dentures have been known to slide around and lack the bite strength of natural teeth.
Traditional dentures are often sufficient for the upper jaw, but implant-supported dentures for the top are growing in popularity. This solution reduces the “hardware” extending across the roof of the mouth, allowing for a more natural sensation when the patient eats or speaks. As a secondary benefit, implant-supported dentures in both the upper and lower jaw are less likely to move around.
Patients interested in this procedure have a choice of two solutions: Ball- or bar-retained dentures. For both, the dentist begins by securing two implants – titanium posts – to the jawbone for support. Then the dentures, made of porcelain or acrylic, are attached.
Bar-retained implant-supported dentures feature a metal bar that goes along the perimeter of the jaw with clips or similar attachments to secure the dentures. Ball- or stud-retained dentures attach through a series of metal sockets.
Getting Implant-Supported Dentures
First, a patient’s mouth, medical and dental history are assessed to determine if implant-supported dentures are the best solution. During this exam, the dentist will take a series of X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans of the mouth and create an impression of the patient’s teeth. These scans show how much jawbone the patient has to support the set of implants and points out any nearby nerves or sinuses that could be affected.
If the patient is not already wearing temporary dentures, the dentist may have a set made. This set may be used as the final implant or a guide for proper implant positioning.
Adding the Implants
With implant-supported dentures, the posts are typically placed toward the front. As the jawbone ages, this area tends to offer more stability than the back of the mouth and has fewer nerves.
If patients opt for implant-supported dentures on the lower jaw, at least five months are needed for the implants to be placed and secured. Procedures for the upper jaw can last up to seven months.
Generally, two surgeries are required – one to place the implants and another to expose them from under the gums. Bone grafting or removing teeth extends this timeframe.
For the first procedure, the dentist will drill into the bone to place the implant and close the area with stitches. Depending on the patient, three to six months will pass before the second procedure. During this time, the metal implant fuses to the jawbone, becoming more stable.
After confirming its strength with an X-ray, the dentist makes a small incision in your gums to expose the implant. A healing cap is added on top, so the gums can heal around the implant.
Adding the Dentures
Over the next few weeks, the healing caps will be removed and replaced with abutments, the screws on which the metal bar will eventually be placed. Once the bar has been added, the patient can see how well the dentures fit.
Should everything fit as expected, the bar or ball attachments are secured and at a follow-up visit, the dentures will be clipped or snapped into the attachments. At this stage, many patients are given a permanent set of dentures and the temporary set becomes a backup.
At this point, your dentist may instruct you on basic maintenance:
- Patients are advised to take out removable dentures each evening to clean the gum area.
- At night, patients should avoid sleeping with the dentures in.
- If the set is permanent, your dentist will provide brushing and flossing tips to maintain their appearance.
Benefits of Implant-Supported Dentures
Compared to traditional dentures, implant-supported dentures:
- Are easier to care for and maintain
- Stay in place better, creating the look and feel of natural teeth
- Are less likely to irritate the gums
- Encourage bone growth, reducing potential bone loss
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