If you’re missing all of your teeth, you have two choices for replacing them: full mouth dental implants and dentures. Many patients come to our office and want to know which is the best solution. While everyone is different and has their own unique needs and circumstances, generally speaking we recommend full mouth dental implants over traditional dentures. It’s true that dental implants cost more than dentures, but the advantages of full mouth dental implants are significant.
Here’s what you should consider when making your decision.
Full Mouth Dental Implants vs. Dentures: What’s the Difference?
When all teeth on the upper or lower arch are missing, they can be replaced with a traditional (or conventional) complete denture. These dentures can be fabricated with a few different materials, including acrylic, nylon, and metal. Unlike most other restorative dentistry solutions, traditional dentures are removable. Dentures are made to fit snugly against the gums based on impressions taken of your jaw, but over time, they may begin to rock or otherwise feel loose, in which case relining is likely needed.
Dental implants are more secure than dentures because they’re held in place by the jawbone. The first step in the process is to ensure that you have sufficient bone density to support dental implants. If not, you may need bone grafting prior to implant placement. The bone grafting procedure is performed by a periodontist or oral surgeon; it involves placing grafting material in the jaw where the roots of teeth are missing. After a few months, this material and your jawbone fuse together and the implant procedure can proceed.
The dental implants themselves are small rods or screws made from biocompatible titanium; they are surgically placed into the jawbone, where they fuse with your own bone. With traditional single tooth dental implants, abutments are then attached to the implants and a crown is attached to the abutment; the implants replace the root of the missing tooth, while the crowns replace the tooth above the gumline.
There are a few different options for using implants to replace an entire arch of upper or lower missing teeth. Instead of replacing each missing tooth with its own implant, these solutions involve placing a smaller number of implants in the jawbone to support a single restoration that replaces all missing teeth on the arch, similar to a denture. This implant-supported denture can be fixed, meaning it can only be removed by a dentist, or removable, which can be snapped on and off for cleaning and sleep.
The cost of conventional dentures is typically covered by most dental insurance plans, either fully or partially. This isn’t always the case with dental implants. Still, more and more insurance companies are beginning to see the benefits of implants and changing their policies accordingly. Sometimes, you may have to pay for the implants, while your insurance will pay for the restorations attached to them. Other times, dental insurance plans will pay for the cost of implants if your teeth were lost due to an accident or if bone loss has already begun. Our financial coordinator can help you understand your dental insurance benefits and go over payment options with you.
The Advantages of Full Mouth Dental Implants
Now that you know the difference between full mouth dental implants and traditional dentures, it’s time to discuss why so many dental professionals recommend dental implants over dentures.
Dental Implants Preserve Jawbone
Our teeth are anchored in place by our jawbones. When one or more teeth falls out or is extracted, it sends a signal to the body that the jawbone support is no longer needed. This triggers a process called resorption, in which the bone is broken down in order to release calcium and other minerals into the bloodstream so they can be transported to other parts of the body. It’s an amazing process when you think about it, but the effects of bone resorption in the jaw are a changed appearance and worsening oral health.
If you have teeth remaining in your mouth, bone resorption can put adjacent teeth at risk, as their support too is weakened. Teeth can shift in the mouth, become loose, or even fall out. A weakened jawbone can make it harder to bite and chew. You may choose to replace your teeth with dentures, but the roots of the teeth are still missing, which means the body will continue to break down the bone. Because the jaw is changing shape as the bone is reabsorbed, your dentures will need frequent relining and adjustment.
The loss of jawbone also dramatically impacts your appearance, causing premature aging of the facial structures. The sunken appearance around the mouth and jaw can cause wrinkles, sagging skin, and make it apparent to others that your teeth are missing. When bone loss progresses to this point, it can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming to fix. This is why it’s critical to prevent bone collapse before it starts. Dental implants can help us do that.
With dental implants, the roots of your teeth are replaced, so the jawbone receives the same stimulation as it did with your natural teeth. In fact, the placement of dental implants can even help regrow bone that has been lost. Facial structures are preserved and your bite will be strong. There’s no other solution for missing teeth that accomplishes this, which is why we strongly recommend dental implants as opposed to dentures.
Dental Implants Are Less Work
Whether you choose fixed or removable dentures for your dental implants, you’ll never have to worry about using messy denture creams and adhesives ever again. It might seem like a little thing, but patients who had dentures and then switch to dental implants are thrilled to toss away their adhesives after years of inconvenience and hassle.
Full mouth dental implants with a fixed denture can be brushed just like you would with your natural teeth, making dental hygiene easy. If you choose snap-on dentures, you’ll remove them for cleaning and leave them out overnight just like you would with traditional dentures.
Dental Implants Feel Better
Dental implants are the most natural solution for missing teeth because they’re the only solution that functions the same way. Like teeth, dental implants are anchored in the jawbone for support and stability. Many patients find themselves forgetting that they even have dental implants since they work just like natural teeth.
In contrast, you never forget when you’re wearing dentures. They slip and move throughout the day. They rub against delicate soft tissue in the mouth, creating painful sores. Dentures may come loose while you’re at work or with others, causing embarrassment. When dentures slip, they can alter your speech. Because dentures often don’t look as natural as dental implants, patients are afraid to smile proudly and go through life taking extra care not to show their teeth. To these patients, dental implants don’t just feel better, they also lift a huge burden from their shoulders.
Dental Implants Let You Eat Your Favorite Foods
Dental implants allow you to bite and chew normally. None of your favorite foods are off-limits and you’ll never have to worry about going to a restaurant and making careful choices about what you eat to make sure your dentures don’t become loose or attending a party and looking rude by turning down the food that’s offered to you.
With full mouth dental implants you can safely consume nuts, apples, and even chew gum just as you did prior to losing your teeth. If you’re going to a work lunch at a steak restaurant, you can enjoy the steak instead of making do with a salad and baked potato. The ability to eat whatever you want is one of the countless small ways in which dental implants help patients live freer lives.
Dental Implants Can Last a Lifetime
With proper care, the dental implants themselves should last a lifetime, never needing to be replaced. The restorations attached to the dental implants may need replacement eventually, but generally last for at least 20 years depending on the type you choose.
Dentures last anywhere from seven to 15 years, but they also need to be relined periodically to accommodate changes to the shape of the jaw and gums. While the upfront cost of dentures is significantly less than the cost of full mouth dental implants, when you factor in the costs of relining and replacements, along with cleaning solutions and adhesive pastes and creams, the total cost increases.