Most of us take our teeth for granted until they begin to fail. Once removed, we start to realize the important role they play in helping us to smile and talk, not to mention the effect of tooth loss on self-esteem and self-confidence. However, the main reason we have teeth is to chew food properly. Without teeth, it’s difficult to eat, and originally traditional dentures helped to restore this functionality. It wasn’t so long ago that traditional dentures that rest directly on the gums were the only solution for restoring entire arches of teeth. Treatment is cost-effective and minimally invasive, and traditional dentures have been in use for a very long time.
Drawbacks of Traditional Dentures
Traditional dentures are far from perfect as they are designed to rest on the bony ridge that originally supported your natural teeth. Although initially, dentures may seem to fit quite well, this can soon change. After natural teeth are removed, the jawbone begins to resorb because it lacks the stimulus provided by tooth roots. It’s estimated that approximately 25% of jawbone volume is lost in just the first year after tooth loss. After this, the bone loss slows down, but it continues.
The bony ridge that was initially quite supportive and retentive gradually flattens and narrows, so even the best fitting dentures will begin to slip and move uncomfortably out of place, often while you try to eat or speak with others. Of course, it is possible to retain dentures with a dental adhesive, but these adhesives tend to be messy and expensive, and certainly aren’t a long-term solution. You could also go back to your dentist to see if they can help, and they can reline the fitting surface of the denture, so it is a little more retentive, but this doesn’t address the underlying problem which is jawbone loss.
Dentures can cause other problems too as they lack the strength and stability of natural teeth and can have as little as 10% of their chewing power. This huge reduction in chewing power means that many foods are off the menu and especially crunchy foods or foods that are very hard to chew like a juicy steak. It also difficult to chew other foods such as lettuce! As you eat or talk with other people your dentures may click which can be embarrassing, or even worse will move out of place.
As the bony ridge that used to support your teeth diminishes, it changes the overall dimensions of your face, reducing the height between your upper and lower jaws. This loss of height can greatly affect appearance, and especially if you have ill-fitting dentures that don’t support your cheeks and lips correctly. These unwanted changes can cause premature wrinkles and lines, making someone look a lot older than their true age.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Unlike dentures that must rest on the gums, dental implants are entirely self-supporting. They have a unique design where a tiny implant screw is inserted directly into the jawbone. Once in the bone, something very special begins to happen because the post fuses with the bone around it. It’s a process called Osseointegration, and it takes several months for healing to finish, but once it has, the implant post should be held securely in place. The implant post is designed to replicate a natural tooth root, performing a very similar function, so it provides the stimulus needed to ensure bone loss is halted.
Once the dental implants are in place, they can be used to restore entire arches of teeth. You can choose to have dental implants that will support a fixed bridge of teeth that is nonremovable. The bridge will most likely be made from a strong ceramic material called zirconia and is screwed or cemented onto the dental implants. These types of dental bridges can look amazingly natural and are designed very carefully to replicate the feel and function of real teeth closely. The implant teeth will ensure the correct dimensions of your face are restored, providing excellent support for your cheeks and lips and eliminating premature aging and excess wrinkles and lines.
A fixed bridge of teeth makes it very easy to forget that you ever lost any teeth, but another alternative is to have an implant-supported denture. Although most people who wear full dentures will want to get rid of them entirely, an implant-supported denture is worth considering. Usually, with an implant-supported bridge of teeth, quite a few dental implants are needed to provide adequate support and strength. Although this is an excellent solution, the more implants required, the higher the overall cost. Also, for people who lost teeth quite some time ago, it’s often necessary to build up the bone that has resorbed significantly with an additional procedure called a bone graft. A bone graft can increase the overall cost of treatment and the time required.
With an implant-supported denture, usually, very few dental implants are needed because of the advanced technique used to place them. For example, a lower denture can be supported with as few as four dental implants using a technique called All-on-Four. It’s a sophisticated procedure where two dental implants are inserted vertically right at the front of the mouth, with another two implants inserted either side. Instead of these two implants being it’s inserted vertically, they are tilted backward. Tilting the implants allows an implant dentist to use longer posts or screws, increasing the contact with the bone surrounding them and therefore increasing stability and strength.
The dental implants are then strong enough to support the denture, and it may even be possible to adapt an existing denture to fit, making treatment even more cost-effective. Sometimes it can even be an advantage to have a removable prosthesis because it’s important to keep all dental implants meticulously clean. Having a removable denture can make it easier for some people to clean around the implants, ensuring they remain healthy and strong for many years to come.
There are so many dental implant treatments available today that you need to talk to a dental implant specialist, for example, a periodontist who has advanced training in this technology. A periodontist will have the experience needed to advise you on which procedure could be most beneficial, and that will provide the treatment outcome you desire.