Denture technology is moving toward using dental implants to anchor dentures. Implants are titanium posts that are inserted into the former tooth sockets. The jawbone is allowed to grow back around the implants, making them similar to natural tooth roots. The dentures attach to those implants, which are placed at various necessary support positions in the upper and lower jaw. Implant-supported dentures have several advantages:
- Dentures don’t move, rub, and cause irritation because they are anchored in place by the implants.
- The dentures don’t slip when speaking, biting, or chewing.
- Food doesn’t work its way under the dentures when you eat
- The risk for bone loss is reduced, as implants maintain the normal downward pressure that stimulates the jawbone.
- Lower jaw dentures are more stable compared to traditional prosthetics.
What are denture implants?
Denture implants are traditional dental implants with a different role. Instead of simply replacing a single missing tooth, these implants serve as anchors for dentures. In most cases the patient will have lost all of his or her teeth and dental implants are strategically placed on each arch to be used as anchor points for the dentures. This provides stability to the dentures that is not there with regular, unanchored dentures. The attached dentures can either be removable or permanently attached.
What is the difference between regular dental implants and denture implants?
Rather than having an artificial porcelain tooth attached to the implant and the abutment above it, these implants attach directly to the denture, which snaps onto the implants. The implant and abutment are the same in both of these cases, but what is attached to the abutment is different. Two methods for attaching the denture are used. There is a bar-retained method, where a metal bar runs through the denture and clips to the implants. Or there is a ball/socket method, where the implant abutment has a ball that snaps into a socket on the denture.
What are the benefits of using implant-supported dentures?
Traditional dentures have been around a long time, but they’ve always been known for slipping, being tough on the gum tissue, precluding the wearer from eating certain foods, and for allowing the jawbone to deteriorate under them. When implants are used to anchor dentures, they change the experience for the patient.
Here are some of the benefits. Implant-supported dentures…
- Won’t slip when eating
- Allow you to eat foods like corn on the cob again
- Will not come loose when speaking
- Don’t irritate the gums
- Don’t need to be refit as often
- Provide energy through the implants down into the jawbone, keeping it healthy
- Give the patient a whole new level of confidence
Am I a candidate for implant-supported dentures?
Everyone is a candidate for implant-supported dentures. The process is simplified if the patient has no remaining teeth on the arch in question, but if the patient has a series of remaining healthy teeth, we may opt for an implant-supported partial denture.
The question of candidacy here is if there is adequate bone mass to anchor the implants. But even if the patient has lost a significant amount of bone mass due to missing teeth for a long period of time, this can be rectified by rebuilding the bone with bone grafting before placing the implants.
What is the process for getting denture-implants?
This process usually takes at least two surgeries and a minimum of five months. First is the consultation with your Taylor Street Dental dentist. That’s the time where we will take x-rays and a CT scan, make impressions of your gums, determine how much bone mass you have, and where we think the anchoring implants should be. Impressions will allow us to make a temporary denture.
- First surgery — This is the placement of your implants. After making a small incision in your gums, we drill a tiny hole in the location of the former tooth root. We then screw the titanium implant (which is shaped like a screw) down into your jawbone. Then we close the small incision with a couple stitches. We do this for each implant. Now we wait for your jawbone to grow around the implant, a process known as osseointegration. This can take up to six months.
- Second surgery — When your implants are fully part of your jawbone, you return and we expose the tops of the implants through tiny incisions. A healing cap/collar is placed onto the head of each implant. This guides the gums to heal around it. This takes 10-14 days. You return and we remove the collar and attach the regular abutment onto each implant. Depending on which method we are using, the abutments will either have a ball on top or will have fittings that will attach to clips on the denture. We take impressions to guide fabrication of your final denture.
- Insertion — When your dentures are finished we now place the bar onto the abutments, if we’re using that method. Then we fit the bar and the denture framework together. You try the fit and adjustments are made as needed. If everything works well, the teeth are secured in the denture framework permanently and you have a new smile. If we’re using the ball-socket method, this step is a little more straightforward. Once your dentures are finished, we snap the denture onto the balls. We test your bite and make adjustments as needed. If the fit feels right, you’re good to go.
How long will denture-implants last?
The implants themselves will usually last the remainder of the patient’s life. They become a part of the jawbone. The dentures that attach to the implants have variable lifespans, depending on your eating habits, if you grind your teeth, and the like. However, unlike traditional dentures, which need to be refit usually yearly because of your deteriorating jawbone and your changing gums, implant-supported dentures will not change because the implants are helping to keep your jawbone healthy.
What are the drawbacks of implant-supported dentures?
There is really no downside functionally to using implants to anchor the dentures. Implant-supported dentures are more expensive than traditional dentures. Plus, the process takes longer, as the implants need to be placed and allowed to integrate into the jawbone. This takes up to four months for implants in the lower jaw, and up to six months in the upper jaw. But most patients feel the wait is worthwhile because of the stability the implants add to their dentures. Also, while the implants are anchoring in we provide temporary dentures.
Is the procedure painful?
There is some pain when we initially place the implants, but it is not acute and can usually be handled with over-the-counter pain medication. There are no nerves in the jawbone, but your overall jaw can ache. The stitches to close the gums are minor and only hurt for a couple of days. You’ll need to be on a soft diet while your gums heal. The second surgery to place the abutments is even more minor. Placing the dentures in the final appointment is painless.
When it comes down to it, there is far more pain associated with the process of getting used to wearing traditional dentures than is involved in placing your implants with this method.
Are there risks with implant-supported dentures and this process?
The only real risk in having dentures supported by implants is that the implants will “fail.” This means that the jawbone would not grow around the implants and make them a part of the jaw. This is rare; implant placement is incredibly successful. Even if they were to fail, the situation can be fixed with bone grafting. Otherwise, this is a very safe, satisfying option for denture wearers.
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