Dentures vs Implants
Dentures and dental implants are amongst the options people have when they need to replace one or more lost teeth. Both restorations have their own pros and cons so discussing the options with a dentist, is important when choosing a solution. Other alternatives, like dental bridges, are also worth evaluating.
Determining the right treatment option will depend on multiple variables including preference, price, and the health of the patient’s jawbone and remaining natural teeth. Ultimately, dental implants and dentures serve the same purposes. They:
- Improve chewing ability allowing the patient to eat foods they otherwise could not
- Provide support to facial muscles
- Improve speech
- Restore the patient’s smile giving them a boost of self-esteem and reducing self-consciousness
However, there are significant differences between dentures and dental implants. This article will examine the benefits and drawbacks of each treatment that should be considered when choosing a course of action.
Procedures for Dental Implants vs. Dentures
The process for getting dental implants begins with an initial consultation with a dentist to determine the scope of work needed for the restoration. During the consultation, the dentist may perform an examination of the patient’s mouth, take X-rays, and discuss the implant process with the patient.
Placing a dental implant begins by first extracting any remaining root from the missing tooth. Once removed, or if the root was previously removed, the dentist or oral surgeon will drill a hole in the jawbone. Then, the metal implant, known as a post, is placed into the jawbone to serve as replacement roots for the lost tooth. Eventually, the post will be fitted with a crown but not until the jawbone and implant have fused together securely in place.
It may take a few months after the implant has been placed before the post can receive an abutment, the connector on which the crown fits. In some cases, the abutment and implant can be placed simultaneously. The procedure is complete when a crown, the artificial tooth color-matched to the patient’s natural teeth, is secured to the abutment.
Removable, prosthetic teeth, dentures can be fitted to the patient’s mouth regardless of how much jawbone they have. Dentures can be used to replace an entire set of upper or lower teeth (full dentures) or replace just a few lost teeth (partial dentures).
To obtain dentures, an impression is first taken of the patient’s lower and/or upper gums. The dentist will also study the patient’s bite and the alignment of their lower and upper jaws prior to the dentures being made. This helps ensure the denture’s length will optimize speech and chewing abilities.
Based on the impressions taken of the patient’s mouth, a preliminary set of dentures are manufactured in a laboratory and sent to the dentist. The dentures are then placed in the patient’s mouth and any necessary adjustments to the length or alignment of the teeth are made prior to the final set of dentures being made.
Designed to look like natural gums and teeth, dentures are held in place using special adhesives that bond them to the patient’s gums.
Cost of Dental Implants vs. Dentures
Compared to dentures and other options, like dental bridges, dental implants are more costly.
While cost can vary depending on several factors, including the location the dentist practices, the American Dental Association (ADA) reports the price for a single dental implant can range from $1,600 to $2,200 per tooth. Should multiple teeth, or an entire set of upper or lowers, be replaced with implants, cost can easily top $30,000.
Dentures are far less costly in comparison to implants. ADA figures show the cost of a complete set of upper dentures averages around $1,600 with lower jaw sets costing about the same.
Maintenance of Implants vs. Dentures
Dental implants can be cared for much like natural teeth. This means flossing daily, brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and regularly visiting the dentist for checkups.
To ensure their long-term viability, dentures require more daily maintenance. For example, dentures should not be worn at night while sleeping. Instead, they should be soaked in water or a cleaning solution overnight.
Dentures should be cleaned daily by removing them after meals and brushing them. It may also be necessary to brush away any pieces of adhesive that remain on the gums.
The bite changes over time and as such, dentures will need periodic refitting. Dental implants avoid this because the posts are permanent fixtures but because the materials used in the crown are not as strong as natural teeth, the prosthetic tooth may need replacement if it becomes cracked or breaks.
Complications from Implants vs. Dentures
Dental implants are generally a safe and effective solution for replacing lost teeth, but they are susceptible to complications including infections and mechanical issues (loose posts or cracked crowns). Although their long-term success rates can be up to 97%, in rare instances, dental implants can fail.
Dentures are also susceptible to complications including:
- Not staying in place – can shift in the mouth when talking or chewing
- Can lead to sores (ulcerations) developing on the gums
- Can cause changes to facial structures and the jawbone due to no root structure
Choosing Between Implants vs. Dentures
When evaluating which treatment to employ to restore missing teeth, patients should consider the following:
- Age: Because there is no age restriction for obtaining dental implants, patients may opt for the treatment so that they can enjoy decades of use out of the devices. However, older adults, particularly those that do not want to undergo the time-consuming and invasive procedure, may find dentures preferable.
- Bone Density: Sufficient jawbone density is necessary to support implant posts. Should a patient lack enough jawbone material, they may not be good candidates for implants and opt for dentures instead.
- Feel and Function: Because they are permanently secured and fused with the jawbone, implants provide better chewing function compared to dentures. Implants are not prone to shifting the way dentures can making them more comfortable as well.
- Hygiene: Because dentures require greater care with maintenance and cleaning, patients that prefer an option with lower requirements, may find implants preferable.