Dentures vs Implants

Dental implants and dentures are two options patients have to choose from when evaluating the many ways to replace one or more missing teeth. Variables such as preference, price, and overall oral health, will factor into which restoration option is ultimately selected.

Because both dental implants and dentures have their pros and cons, it is helpful to fully discuss the two restoration options with a dentist before undergoing treatment. Other restoration types, like dental bridges, should also be evaluated to identify the treatment that is most suitable for the patient’s specific needs.

Designed with the same purposed in mind, dental implants and dentures both:
* Allow the patient to chew foods that they otherwise could not
* Support the muscles of the face
* Improve speech
* Create a more cosmetically pleasing smile
* Self-esteem is improved and self-consciousness reduced regarding appearance

While the two restorations share these similarities, implants and dentures have some significant differences. Continue reading to learn more about the various pros and cons associated with both options.

Comparing the Procedures

A denture is a removable device that is fitted in the wearer’s mouth. The devices do not require a specific amount of jawbone for support and can be partial, to replace a few teeth, or full, and used to replace an entire set of lower or upper teeth.
The process for obtaining dentures begins with an initial consultation with a dentist. During the consultation, the dentist will take molds or impressions of the patient’s teeth. These impressions act as the model from which the denture is custom made. The initial consultation will also include an evaluation of the patient’s bite and jaw alignment to ensure that the denture will not inhibit chewing or speaking.

From the dental impressions taken, a preliminary set of dentures are made in a laboratory and then shipped to the dentist. The dentures are placed in the wearer’s mouth and adjusted to make sure they are properly aligned before the final, permanent denture is crafted. Designed to look like natural teeth and gums, dentures are typically held in place via special adhesives which bind them to the gums.

Dental Implants

Whereas dentures merely lay atop the patient’s gums for support, a dental implant is screwed directly into the jawbone. Typically made of titanium, the small implant rods or posts act as replacement tooth roots upon which a prosthetic false tooth can be mounted. Roughly 500,000 Americans undergo dental implant procedures every year and the treatment is growing in popularity as the industry standard tooth replacement option.

To place dental implants, surgery is required. The procedure starts with the removal of any tooth root that remains from the lost tooth or teeth. Once the roots have been cleared away, holes are drilled in the jawbone and the metal implant posts are embedded in the bone. A connecting piece, called the abutment, is attached to the implant posts and ultimately, a restorative crown is mounted onto the abutment.

Once the implant posts have been placed in the jaw, several months will be required to allow the area to adequately heal. During this time, a fusion process, called osseointegration, occurs where the implant post and jawbone fuse together. This fusion is critical to ensuring a strong, stable foundation is present before a second surgery for mounting the abutment and crown takes place. Some implant systems allow the abutment and implant posts to be placed simultaneously but the entire process is completed once the replacement crown is mounted. Since they are secured in place and made to match the surrounding natural teeth, dental implants offer superior function, feel, and aesthetics.

Comparing the Costs

Compared with other restoration options like dental bridges and dentures, dental implants tend to be more expensive upfront. While overall cost will be affected by the type of implant used, location of the dentist performing surgery, and other factors, dental implants range in cost between $1,600 to $2,200 per tooth based on figures from the American Dental Association (ADA). Should several, or an entire set of upper or lower teeth, require replacement, overall cost can exceed $20,000. In comparison, the ADA states that an entire set of lower or upper dentures will cost about $1,600.

Comparing the Maintenance

Because dental implants are permanently secured in the jawbone the same way natural teeth are, patients do not need to modify their oral hygiene practices much. As such, they should continue to floss between the teeth daily, brush two times a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush, and visit their dentist every six months for routine cleanings and checkups. If they are taken care of properly, dental implants can last for life.

On the other hand, dentures require a more involved daily maintenance routine to maximize the longevity of the device. For example, dentures must be taken out at night before going to bed and soaked in a cleaning solution overnight. Dentures also have to be cleaned daily by removing them after meals for brushing. Should any dental adhesive remain, it will also need to be brushed away from the gums.

Due to a person’s bite inevitably changing over time, dentures will need to be periodically refitted to maintain proper fit and alignment. While a dental implant post is permanent and can last for life, replacement crowns and abutments can break and require replacement.

Comparison of Complications from the Devices

Although a generally safe and effective way to replace lost teeth, like any procedure, complications can arise from dental implants. The most common issues are mechanical (loose posts, cracked crowns), infections, and implant failures (roughly 5-10% of cases).

Common complications associated with dentures include:
* Shifting or moving out of place in the mouth
* Causes irritation or sores to develop on the gums
* Changes to facial muscle structures and symmetry

Other Considerations

* Age: Dental implants do not have age restrictions but because the restorations are permanent, they may be more appealing to a younger patient. Those that are elderly or prefer to not undergo surgery, may find dentures preferable.

* Bone Density: Given that a sufficient amount of jawbone is required to support dental implants, the restoration may not be suitable for people that have lost bone due to age, periodontal disease, tooth loss, or trauma.

Lifespan of a Dental Implant