Dentures vs. Implants

Dentures vs. Implants

If you’re missing one or more of your natural teeth, you may want to replace the teeth and restore the appearance and function of the mouth. Two of the more common options for replacing missing teeth are dentures and dental implants. There are many factors to consider when deciding on which type of dental replacement is the best option for you; some of the more common considerations are personal preference; budget; and the health of the jawbone, oral cavity, and remaining teeth. Both dentures and dental implants have their own pros and cons, but you and your dentist can talk about the details and determine which option is best for you. You may also want to consider other dental restoration options like dental bridges; your dentist can tell you more about these options when you’re discussing your possible treatment plans.

Both dentures and dental implants serve the same overall purpose: they restore the form and function of the mouth, helping people who are missing one or more natural teeth to speak clearly and bite and chew foods that might otherwise be off-limits, supporting the musculature of the face and improving the appearance of the smile, and increasing the comfort and confidence of the wearer. While both dentures and dental implants can improve the function and appearance of the mouth, there are some important differences between the two types of dental restorations, and it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of any type of dental restoration before beginning treatment.

Dental implants have become increasingly popular as the U.S. population ages. Dental implants are small cylinders made of medical-grade material that are surgically placed into the bone of the jaw, where they are allowed to heal and fuse together. Once they have healed, the dental implant posts, which are the cylinders themselves, are topped with ceramic crowns or other dental prosthetics. The most common and effective dental implant treatment uses a single implant post to support a dental crown, or artificial tooth, resulting in a structure that looks and acts just like a healthy natural tooth. More recently, dental implants can be used to support a larger number of teeth with a smaller number of implants, sometimes using as few as two dental implants to support a full row of artificial teeth. In order for dental implants to be successful, there must be an adequate amount of healthy bone in the jaw to support the implants. When the bone is compromised, which can happen because of advanced gum disease, bone grafts or other tissue regeneration therapies may be necessary to rebuild the jaw before implants can be placed. When multiple teeth are being replaced, using fewer dental implants can help your oral surgeon take advantage of the optimal amount of healthy bone tissue to strategically support implants and possibly avoid additional surgeries.

To place a dental implant, an oral surgeon will drill a hole in the jawbone, in the spot where a natural tooth root once lived, and place a tiny cylindrical screw securely into the bone. The bone is then given time to heal, and, as it heals, it fuses with the implant post and creates a solid platform for a dental prosthetic. After the bone has fully healed, the artificial tooth or teeth can be attached to the dental implant post. The healing process can take several months, but it’s vitally important to let the bone heal fully before placing the prosthetic, as it creates a permanent anchor that continuously encourages the health of the jawbone.

Dentures are removable artificial teeth that can be crafted to fit any person’s mouth, no matter how much healthy bone may be present in the jaw. Dentures can be made to replace just a few teeth, or to replace an entire row of teeth; some people even wear dentures to replace both the upper and lower rows of teeth. When dentures replace just a few teeth, they’re called partial dentures, while dentures that replace an entire row are called complete dentures. Before custom dentures can be made, your dentist will make an impression of your gums and examine your bite, measuring carefully to ensure that the dentures overlap properly during chewing and speaking. Once the measurements and impressions are completed, they are sent to a lab, where a set of preliminary dentures will be made. Your dentist will adjust these preliminary dentures, fixing the alignment and the overlap of the upper and lower rows of teeth, and then send them back to the lab, where a final set of dentures is made. Dentures can be made to resemble natural gums and teeth and are held in place with denture glue that affixes the denture to the gums. This adhesive usually doesn’t taste good, and the dentures can still slip, which can cause painful sores on the gums and interfere with chewing and speaking.

Dental implants cost more than dentures and other removable dental restoration options like bridges. Prices vary based on a few different factors, but the average price of a dental implant tends to be between $1,600 and $2,200 for each tooth. The average cost of a complete row of dentures for either the upper or lower jaw is about $1,600. Dental implants require the same care that the natural teeth do, which includes brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush and flossing daily, along with regular dental checkups and professional cleanings. Dentures require more specialized maintenance. Dentures can’t be worn while sleeping, for example, and need to soak in cleaning solution or even water while out of the mouth for this duration. Dentures must be cleaned daily, and they are cleaned outside of the mouth. They should be removed and brushed after eating, and the oral cavity should also be brushed to remove bacteria and denture adhesive that might remain on the gums. As the bone degrades over time, which happens when there are no tooth roots present to stimulate its growth, dentures will need to be refitted. On the other hand, dental implants perform a similar role to the natural tooth roots, supporting the health and integrity of the bone and helping maintain the shape and structure of the jaw.

Dental implants can be a highly effective dental restoration option for patients with adequate bone and overall good health, but they can be prohibitively expensive and the procedure takes a long time, between preparation, placement, and healing. Dentures are affordable and quick, but they can be uncomfortable and can be a hassle to clean and maintain. Some options, like dental bridges and snap-in dentures, can combine some of the permanence of dental implants with some of the affordability of other restoration options, improving the variety of restoration choices for a greater number of people. Communicate clearly with your dentist and research your options; there’s a good chance there’s a solution for you.