Implant Supported Dentures; Are they Better than the Conventional Dentures?
According to the American College of Prosthodontics, more than 35 million US citizens have lost some, or all, of their natural teeth. Until recently, the most common option for replacing missing teeth were removable dentures, which derived their support and retention from the underlying soft tissues and the jaw bone. However, removable dentures are unable to restore chewing and speech efficiency, and facial aesthetics completely. Wearing dentures also results in an accelerated resorption of the underlying jaw bone which supports them and provides retention.
Alternative Options for Missing Tooth Replacement
Thanks to modern dentistry, multiple options are available to dentists for replacing missing natural teeth. Gone are the days when missing teeth could only be replaced with removable dentures. There are a variety of options to replace missing teeth. Some of them being:
1. Dental Bridges
Unlike removable dentures, bridges are fixed appliances that get their support from the adjacent natural teeth. In comparison to removable dentures, bridges provide superior aesthetics and tooth function. However, placement of dental bridges requires extensive removal of the sound enamel from the adjacent teeth, which may result in tooth sensitivity.
2. Implant Supported Prostheses
An implant is a metal fixture that is surgically placed inside the jaw bones, and functions as an artificial root. Just like the natural teeth, implants provide support for the artificial teeth that are attached to them with the help of abutments. Due to their ability to anchor themselves by fusing with the jaw bone, they have become the most preferred option for tooth replacement throughout the world. In addition to their use in replacing a single missing tooth with the help of a crown, dental implants can also be used to replace multiple teeth.
What are Implant Supported Dentures?
An implant supported denture is attached to one or more dental implants. Since dental implants are embedded into the jaw bone, they provide excellent retention and support to teeth which are attached to them.
What are the Different Types of Implant Supported Dentures?
There are three types of implant supported dentures:
• Fixed Dentures – in this type of prostheses, one or more implants are used to support a dental bridge. These dentures remain permanently attached to the implants, and they cannot be removed by the patient.
• Removable Partial Dentures – These are known as hybrid prostheses. These dentures are used for replacing multiple missing teeth. Implant supported removable dentures get attached to the implants with the help of “precision attachments” which allow for their easy insertion and removal. These precision attachments ensure that the implant-supported dentures do not move or slip while eating or speaking.
• Complete Dentures – dental implants can also be used to replace all missing teeth in a jaw. The best thing about these dentures is that only 4 implants can be used in each jaw for supporting a complete denture. Such type of prosthesis is known as an “all-on-four implant supported denture”. In cases where increased support is required from the implants, up to 6 or 8 implants may also be placed in a jaw for supporting the denture.
• Minis – In addition to conventional dental implants, which are relatively longer, mini dental implants are also available for replacing missing teeth. Mini implants are used in cases where there is very less space available for the placement of the longer conventional implants. They can also be used when patients cannot afford treatment with conventional implants, which are relatively expensive.
How are Implant Supported Prostheses Placed?
Placement of implant supported prosthesis is carried out in two phases. The first phase involves the surgical placement of the implant. While the healing of the implant placement site is underway, a suitable removable or fixed prosthesis is designed for replacing the missing teeth. Once the implant site has healed, the dentures can be attached.
What are the Pros of Implant Supported Dentures over Conventional Dentures?
You must be thinking, “why have implant supported dentures have become so much popular?!” Here are a few reasons:
• Excellent Esthetics – No matter how much effort your dentist has put in preparing your dentures, they will never be able to restore your natural smile! On the other hand, dental implant supported removable or fixed dentures appear and feel just like your natural teeth. Therefore, they not only give you a beautiful smile, but they also boost your self-confidence and personality.
• Durability – When placed carefully by an experienced and qualified dentist, implants can last a lifetime! On the other hand, both removable dentures and teeth bridges have a limited lifespan, and they require frequent repair or replacement. So, once you get your missing teeth replaced with implant supported dentures, you are basically set for life!
• Improved Chewing and Speech Capability – conventional denture wearers find it extremely hard to eat or speak properly. This is because they need to continuously use their tongue to keep the dentures from slipping out. Since implant-supported dentures are fixed in the mouth, they significantly improve your chewing efficiency, so that you can enjoy all those foods which you were unable to after losing your natural teeth.
• No Bone Loss – whenever you wear the conventional dentures, they directly exert forces onto the underlying jaw bone. This causes a rapid bone resorption in that region, thereby resulting in a change in shape and thickness of the bone. The bone becomes so thin that it can no longer support removable dentures. The reduced density of the jaw bone also increases the chances of fracturing on the upper or lower jaw. Implant supported dentures promote bone formation in their surroundings, thereby improving the success and longevity of the prosthesis.
What are the Cons of Implant Supported Dentures over Conventional Dentures?
Despite the virtually unlimited benefits of implant supported dentures, they also have their drawbacks:
• Complex Procedure – placement of implants is a complex procedure which requires extensive treatment planning. Placement of implant supported prosthesis is carried out in multiple steps. Therefore, the procedure may take up to 6 months, even a year for completion.
• Expensive – dental implants are more expensive than the conventional dentures or teeth bridges, and they are not covered by many insurance plans. As a result, many individuals cannot afford them.
Despite their few drawbacks, implant supported prostheses are still the treatment of choice for replacing missing teeth. If you are looking for lifelong replacement option for your missing teeth, then implant supported dentures could be the right choice for you!