When one or more natural teeth are missing or failing, possible replacement options include implants and dentures. Each treatment has its merits, and it’s important to understand how they work, the treatment process, how they may benefit your dental health, and approximate costs.
Choosing the right solution can depend on your preference, budget, and dental and medical health. Ultimately, each serves the same purpose: they help you chew food, improve speech, restore your appearance, and support the facial muscles in your cheeks and lips. However, there are some significant differences between these two options.
Dental Implant Procedure
Dental implants are small screws surgically inserted into the jawbone, into a small hole prepared by your implant dentist. New bone soon grows on and around the post during Osseointegration, fusing it in place and ensuring it is strong enough to hold a new prosthesis.
It can take several months for Osseointegration to complete, and at this stage, an implant abutment is fitted onto the post and will support the new prosthesis, which may be a crown, bridge, or implant denture.
Dentures are removable prostheses and can replace one or more missing teeth in an arch or complete arches of teeth. They consist of an acrylic base plate that supports the replacement teeth, which are normally also made of an acrylic material.
Making dentures does not require oral surgery and begins with an impression of your mouth. Detailed measurements are also made to assess your bite and the dimensions between your upper and lower jaw to ensure you can chew food properly and speak clearly once the dentures are made.
A wax try-in or preliminary set of dentures is fabricated in a dental lab so we can place it in your mouth and make any necessary adjustments before sending the dentures back for processing, where the wax is replaced with acrylic.
Once ready, we can try in the dentures, make any necessary adjustments, and provide instructions on how to begin using them and care for them. The entire process can be completed within a matter of weeks.
How to Choose?
Your choice may depend on the following factors below:
Dental implants need a specific amount of strong, healthy jawbone for support. If you lost teeth quite some time ago or had gum disease, there may be insufficient jawbone to support them, and you might need bone grafting.
Although bone grafting is straightforward, it can increase the overall costs and time and may require an additional surgical treatment. However, dental implants help protect the jawbone surrounding them, preventing further bone loss.
Dentures are made to fit over the jawbone, relying on it solely for retention and support. However, over time, the jawbone will resorb, gradually reducing the retention and stability of the denture so it can begin to shift around uncomfortably.
Because dental implants are anchored firmly in the jawbone, they provide much better support and greater chewing strength than dentures. With dental implant crowns and bridges, biting and chewing strength is close to normal teeth. An implant overdenture also provides far greater biting and chewing strength than an ordinary denture.
An ordinary denture significantly reduces biting and chewing strength, limiting food choices and potentially affecting overall nutrition. Hard, crunchy, or sticky foods must be avoided as they could damage the dentures or cannot be chewed, making it trickier to eat nutritiously.
Following a good oral care routine is important whether you choose implants or dentures. However, if you fail to clean dental implants properly, the gum and bone surrounding them can become infected. Ultimately, this may lead to implant failure.
If you opt for dental implants, you must follow a good daily oral care routine and see your dentist regularly for checkups and hygiene appointments so the implants can be cleaned professionally. This routine isn’t time-consuming or tricky, but it needs commitment to ensure you protect your investment in dental implant treatment.
Even if you choose dentures, they still need good daily maintenance and must be left out overnight and stored in a special soaking solution to help keep them fresh, clean, and comfortable.
Dental implants offer a more permanent solution for tooth loss, so if you are younger, it is worth considering them. They should last for decades or even for life with the right care.
However, if you are older, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have implant treatment, as many people in their 80s or even their 90s have received implant teeth and benefited from this procedure. Provided you have reasonable dental and medical health, there is probably little to prevent you from having this procedure.
Dental implant treatment is more expensive initially, and the overall costs can depend on whether you need additional treatments like bone grafting, the implant system chosen, and the materials used to fabricate your final prosthesis.
However, in the longer term, it can be a cost-effective solution for tooth loss, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of having teeth that feel similar to natural teeth. If you have dental insurance, some of the implant treatment costs may be covered. Otherwise, dentures offer a low-cost solution for tooth loss.
Dental implants have a high success rate, typically 95% or more depending on good implant planning, placement, and after-care. However, complications such as infection or mechanical problems can occasionally affect the implant components.
The most common problem with dentures is a lack of retention. Even a well-fitting denture will gradually become loose and ill-fitting as the jawbone resorbs. It can start to move around uncomfortably on the gums, creating sores and causing difficulties with speech.
Although denture adhesive offers a solution, it can be messy and expensive and doesn’t address the underlying problem. Jawbone loss will continue, and the bony ridge that originally supported teeth will gradually diminish in height and width.
Your options for replacing missing teeth can also include other treatments, such as a partial denture or dental bridge.
Partial dentures can replace one or more missing teeth where some natural teeth remain. They are constructed using an acrylic baseplate, often strengthened with a lightweight metal framework made from chrome cobalt. Sometimes, metal clasps fit around the adjacent natural teeth to help improve denture stability.
Like an ordinary denture, a partial denture is far from perfect and can begin to fit less comfortably due to bone resorption. The clasps can place natural teeth under additional pressure, increasing the risk of these teeth failing.
However, it is a cheap, quick solution and is removable for easy cleaning. A partial denture can be provided as a temporary solution after tooth loss and is worn until a more permanent solution is given, such as dental implants or a dental bridge.
A dental bridge is supported by natural teeth, using crowns fitted over these teeth that support the replacement teeth or pontics. Dental bridges are a popular solution that can provide good patient satisfaction.
However, the teeth supporting the bridge must be significantly reshaped to fit the crowns comfortably. Without proper ongoing oral care, these teeth could eventually become infected and start to decay. The additional strain of supporting one or more pontics can also increase the risk of these supporting teeth failing.
Deciding between dental implants and removable dentures is a big decision; it is important to consider all options and work out your priorities for treatment. Although implants cost more, the results can last longer and benefit oral health. You also gain the confidence of teeth that remain firmly in place and can eat a far greater range of foods.