When it comes to replacing one or two broken or missing teeth, dentures can be a convincing way of filling the gaps without paying the high costs of dental implant installation.
However, replacing several missing teeth, especially adjacent teeth, with dentures can be much more challenging. The wider the gap, the larger the denture must be, leading to more discomfort and shifting of the oversized dentures and denture plates.
There is, however, an alternative to bulky conventional dentures. Implant-retained dentures are a relatively new addition to the field of tooth replacement, but these hybrid devices can be used to create extremely convincing smiles that put your mouth through minimal discomfort.
What Are Implant-Retained Dentures?
If you choose to replace missing teeth with conventional tooth implants, you will have to have a hole drilled in your jaw and an implant placed inside for each individual tooth to provide the required strength and stability. Conversely, conventional dentures require no surgical implants, but rely on simple denture adhesives for their stability and can become loose and uncomfortable easily, particularly dentures that replace lower teeth.
Implant-retained dentures essentially split the different between the two replacement approaches and consist of a smaller, compact denture which is affixed with clips or rods to implants placed in your gums and jaw.
What Are the Advantages of Choosing Implant-Retained Dentures?
If you are considering getting rid of your dentures but don't want to go through the expense and trouble of having a full set of implants installed, implant-retained dentures can have a number of attractive advantages, including the following.
Unlike conventional replacement implants, an implant is not required for each individual tooth, as the dentures are formed into a single piece that still retains the appearance of separate teeth. This means that far fewer implants are required to keep the denture in place as a whole; for instance, a five-tooth denture can be kept stable and secure with two or three well placed implants.
Implant-retained dentures are usually considerably smaller than conventional dentures and do not require an extensive denture plate to keep them in place. This increases wearing comfort dramatically, and also helps minimise any initial problems you may have with eating and speaking.
Less Damage to Surviving Teeth
Having conventional implants installed in a gap in your teeth often obliges the dentist to reshape the adjacent living teeth, ensuring a comfortable fit. Implant-retained dentures, on the other hand, tend to fit snugly without extensive modification of existing teeth, decreasing the duration of the surgeries you undergo and keeping your remaining teeth at maximum strength.
Improved Gum and Bone Health
One of the chief disadvantages of conventional dentures is the way they cause gums to recede with the unnatural pressures on the gum line. Over time, this recession can extend to the jawbone itself, causing loss of jawbone density and structure that can potentially lead to weakness and visible changes to your face.
Implant-retained dentures, on the other hand, are anchored directly to the jawbone in the same way individual implants are and do not cause any problems with gum and bone loss.
While implant-retained dentures are more expensive to fabricate and install than conventional dentures, they are generally considerably cheaper than having conventional implants installed. They also require you to spend significantly less time in costly surgical procedures.
Are There Any Reasons I Shouldn't Choose Implant-Retained Dentures?
All of these advantages may make implant-retained dentures seem too good to be true, but their benefits are very real. However, there are also some circumstances in which having these dentures installed can be undesirable, impractical or even impossible.
Excessive Bone Loss
Since implant-retained dentures rely on the jawbone to provide stability in the same way standard implants do, they may not be suitable for use if you have suffered extensive loss of bone in the affected jaw, which, for instance, can be caused by wearing improperly fitted dentures for extended periods.
In many cases bone augmentation can be used to make your jaw strong enough to accept implants, but this is not a foolproof solution and will add to your dental bills.
Unwillingness to Remove and Maintain
Implant-retained dentures should also be avoided if you are unable or disinclined to remove them at night for cleaning and maintenance, which they require just as regular dentures do.
Grinding or clenching your teeth can be a very expensive habit if you have implant-retained dentures installed, as the extra pressure created places enormous strain on the reinforcing bars that keep your denture rigid. Excessive grinding or clenching can therefore cause your denture to become badly loosened, necessitating more frequent (and more expensive) repairs.
Hopefully, this blog post will help you decide whether your missing teeth can or should be replaced with an implant-retained denture.
However, if you have any more questions or concerns, or wish to arrange a consultation about having denture-retained implants fitted, do not hesitate to contact a dental professional.