Previously, removable implants for the full mouth or partial dentures were common options for replacing missing natural teeth. Dentures are however a less popular alternative compared to getting permanent teeth, and dental implants are gradually becoming the most popular option for tooth replacement for elderly patients for many good reasons. Here we will give you useful information to assist you with your choice.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are tapered metallic posts that have threads around the circumference. They are tightly fixed into the jaw bone, so that they will work like artificial tooth roots. High quality crowns are then placed on the previously chosen abutments. These metallic implants become quite similar to a natural root, through the Osseo-integration process. This occurs when living bone cells start to grow into the metal surface that is inserted into the bone.
This process usually is done in between 3 to 6 months, at this point the metallic implant has become a natural part of the jaw bone. Some kinds of dental implants are even able to be prepared and inserted in the same day.
What are Dentures?
Dentures are a set of upper and lower artificial teeth, which are supported on a gum colored acrylic base. The base sits on top of the gum, and suction between the base and the gum helps keep the denture in position. Dentures are partial or complete. Dentures are generally inexpensive, and can be made readily after measurements of your teeth and gums are taken, and a check up is performed to inspect for gum recession or gum disease. At least two appointments are required to get a set of dentures that will replace your missing teeth. However, there are many limitations with this method.
Limitations of implants
No matter how well built and placed they are, implants have their limitations too.
- Not Fit for Everybody – Since implants are directly rooted in the jawbone, there needs to be sufficient bone mass and quality to sustain the chewing forces applied to the supported teeth. Those who suffer from certain chronic or untreatable diseases may not be good candidates for implants. Also, dental implants are not advised for adolescents whose jaws are still growing.
- Bone and Gum Grafting – Some patients jawbones may not be strong enough to support implants. In addition, some may not have enough gum flesh to cover the implant structure. However, in such situations, bone and gum flesh can be grafted if needed.
- Cost – This is a big factor to consider when trying to decide between getting implants or conventional dentures. Dental implants do have a higher cost which can rise if other preparatory operations are needed. These can include extracting existing teeth, grafting bone and gum flesh, etc.
- Length of Treatment – Generally, the implant procedure takes many visits and can take more than six months to complete fully. This allows enough time for your gums to heal after initial extractions, it also allows Osseo-Integration to begin. The Osseo-integration process could take 3 to 6 months of recovery time to settle completely. However, with modern dentistry, you can have new implants in just a single visit. This is known as same-day-implants or immediate implants. In such cases, you must take care to avoid hard foods until the process of Osseo-Integration is complete.
- Implant specialists – Not every DDS will have the ability to provide an implant supported denture. Our dental office can give you reliable implants.
Limitations of dentures
- Must be Removed – Dentures need to be removed during sleep and for cleaning. This frequent removal of the dentures can weaken them and they may crack or break.
- Storage – Dentures must be stored in a water or a special liquid to avoid shrinkage and warping when they are removed.
- Brittle – Dentures need to be handled with care, they can break or crack and not be usable.
- Slip-off embarrassment – Since they are stuck to the gum with suction, dentures are able to slip off.
- Bone Loss – Dentures are placed at the base of the tooth gap, on top of the gum. Bones in these empty sockets can deteriorate and shrink, this is called bone resorption.
- Need for Relining – Bone loss and acrylic shrinkage can cause the dentures to not fit in time. They must be relined frequently or replaced.
- Limited Shelf Life – The expected life span for permanent dentures is between 7-10 years – then they will need to be replaced.
- Pain – If a set of dentures isn’t made correctly or there was an error while the molds are prepared, the dentures can unintentionally hurt the gum.
Teeth Replacement with Dental Implants
Either a single molar can be replaced with a single implant, or a full set of teeth can be fitted permanently over the jaw. In some situations, as few as four implants can replace and improve your lost natural teeth. This is known as an ‘all-on-four bridge’. There needs to be sufficient and healthy bone structure to retain the implants against forces (like chewing). However, if the jaw lacks enough bone, a bone graft can be performed.
Gum flesh can also be grafted, this covers the implants for aesthetic purposes. Implants are usually not advised for diabetic patients due to having porous bones, so make sure to consult your physician about potentially getting dental implants.
After reading this, it is clear why people are frequently choosing implants over dentures, despite their cost. In most cases, patients find that the cost is outweighed by the appearance and functional advantages that implants have over the conventional dentures. However, if you have any doubts, make a consultation appointment. We would be happy to take care of all your dental concerns.
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Zahid H. Ahmed, DDS, FICOI, FAGD
Committed to exceptional dental care, with a gentle touch.
Dr. Zahid Ahmed combines current advances in dentistry with holistic health to bring patients the best possible dental care. His goal is to provide patients with personalized service, creating lasting relationships based on trust and expertise.
Dr. Ahmed received his DDS from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. He has worked as an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF and maintains a position as Clinical Instructor at Stanford University. He is recognized as a Fellow in both the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD) and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (FICOI). He believes continuous learning in dentistry allows him to stay current, and provide the best possible dental care for his patients.
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Zahid H. Ahmed, DDS, FICOI, FAGD
Monica Louie, DMD
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