How Dentures and Implants Can Work Together
Implants and dentures can work together to provide a highly-effective and permanent solution to tooth loss.
Dentures are custom-made in a dental lab from impressions taken of your mouth and are typically used when several teeth or all the teeth are missing. There are two main types of dentures: partial dentures and full dentures.
With full dentures, a flesh-colored base fits over the gums. The upper base covers the roof of the mouth, and the lower one is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate the tongue. A partial denture, which rests on a metal framework attached to natural teeth, provides a removable alternative to a dental bridge.
A dental implant1 is a titanium post that is inserted surgically into the jaw to provide an artificial tooth root. Over time, adjacent tissue heals around the implant, which becomes a permanent part of the bone.
Implants with an artificial crown fitted on them can be used to replace an individual tooth, several teeth or all the teeth. They can also act as a support for dentures. Used in conjunction, dentures and dental implants create a tooth replacement system with many advantages over standard dentures.
Implant-retained dentures are often used for the lower jaw, where conventional dentures tend to be unstable. However, you can still have an implant denture in the upper jaw. Implants are usually inserted in the jaw at the front of the mouth, where there tends to be more bone than in the back.
You must have sufficient bone structure to support an implant – or undergo a graft. Because an implant is a surgical procedure, patients need to be in good general health. Conditions like diabetes may slow healing after surgery.
Problems with Conventional Dentures
Many people who wear traditional dentures complain of embarrassing problems with keeping them in place, especially in the lower jaw. Denture adhesive is commonly used in a bid to overcome this issue by boosting the natural physiological forces that hold dentures in place.
However, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration2 (FDA) says that in general, dentures that have been fitted properly and are well maintained should not need enhanced adhesion, and that denture adhesive does not necessarily solve problems with badly-fitting dentures.
Implants to stabilize dentures provide an effective alternative to adhesives, holding them securely in place but allowing for easy removal for cleaning.
Benefits of Implant Overdentures
Implant-supported dentures give you the best of both worlds: the stability and durability of implants and the simplicity of dentures. Because these dentures – or overdentures – are secured to implants, they won’t suddenly pop out when you're talking or eating. Another benefit of implant-supported dentures is that they are often less expensive than individual implants throughout the mouth.
Other advantages of implant-supported overdentures include:
- Enhanced stability. A conventional dental prosthesis sits on the gums and, despite the use of denture adhesive, can become loose, slip or fall out of place. Implant overdentures are fixed to metal supports attached to implants that have fused with the jaw bone. This makes them just as secure as natural teeth.
- Improved appearance and functionality. When natural teeth are missing, the adjacent bone no longer has to support them, so the body starts to resorb the bone as redundant, significantly impacting facial appearance and oral functionality. Traditional dentures can’t prevent this problem, but implants help to preserve the structural integrity of the jaw.
- Permanent solution. Implant-supported dentures provide a permanent solution to tooth loss because the implants become part of your jaw. Other methods of tooth replacement, including standard dentures and bridges, may well need swapping over time.
- Clearer speech. Poorly-fitting dentures can slip within the mouth, causing you to slur your words or mumble. Implant overdentures impact positively on speech ability.
Bone Loss Issues with Regular Dentures
Dentures will over time gradually become loose due to shrinkage of oral bone structure.
This bone loss occurs because regular dentures, unlike implant overdentures, have no roots and can’t direct the bite function to the jaw. This results in bone recession, as it would if you had a toothless mouth.
Eventually, standard dentures will have to realigned or replaced: prolonged use of a badly-fitting dental plate may cause further bone loss.
On the other hand, implants are unique in dentistry because they promote bone growth, and have a bite pressure that’s as strong as natural teeth.
The titanium in an implant bonds with the jaw in a process called osseointegration – from the Latin “ossum” (bone) and “integrare”, to make whole. This fuses the titanium post and bone into a single, solid unit. The process provides the stimulation that bones need to thrive. Without it, the jaw will degenerate with time.
Overdentures Boost Your Self-Esteem
Dentures and implants work together to enhance aesthetics and functionality. They improve your facial appearance while optimizing your oral health by allowing you to bite and chew normally.
Implant-retained dentures can give you back your smile and self-confidence while maintaining the structural integrity of your jaw and giving you a bite power much stronger than that of conventional dentures.
Dental implants have a success rate of up to 98 percent, and implant overdentures, when looked after properly, can last a lifetime. Overdentures should be removed daily for cleaning and at night before you sleep. You should also clean your gums and the implant attachments. Avoid sticky or hard foods, which can damage the dental plate.