Updated: Jan 19
As the proportion of senior citizens in the population grows, the number of American adults dealing with cases of edentulism (lack of teeth) is expected to grow to 30 million by the year 2020. Traditionally, the debate around these cases has centered on a choice between two forms of treatment: implants and dentures.
Dentures Vs Implants
Dentures are non-permanent oral applications that are used to replace missing teeth and in some cases gum tissue. Partial dentures are generally used to fill in gaps between natural teeth, while a complete set of dentures will replace a full row of teeth in one or both jaws. These applications are fixed to the mouth with a colored plastic base that forms a seamless natural seal with the existing gums. Certain orthodontists will employ an additional metal framework to provide extra strength and support to the dentures. Patients generally opt for dentures when they are looking for a more affordable, non-invasive option for replacing missing or damaged teeth. However, dentures do come with some clear disadvantages. Unless these applications are secured with adhesive they can easily slip or fall out, this is especially likely to occur as the patient ages and the shape of their jaw changes. Ill-fitted dentures can also trap food, if left unchecked this will lead to infections and decay in surrounding areas. Experts generally recommend that patients replace their dentures every 3-6 years for this reason.
Dental implants are permanent surgical attachments that are generally used to replace individual missing teeth, although they can also replace full rows of missing teeth. Implants are considered to be a healthier option because they mimic naturally rooted teeth, thus they are able to preserve the shape and structure of the jawbone and surrounding gum tissue. As you might expect from a higher quality procedure, implants are usually more expensive and time-consuming to attach. Patients who have experience a substantial loss of bone mass due to their edentulism may have to forego this option, as a stable bone structure is required for the stability and placement of the implants.
Overdentures are Becoming a Popular Alternative
Overdentures are normal dentures that are supported by permanent implants, and they combine many of the benefits offered by both treatment options.
Overdentures are more affordable than permanent implants because they require a far less comprehensive supporting structure. Dentures are usually fixed into place using either CAD-manufactured bar elements or telescopic attachments. A full row of lower dentures can by supported by as few as two strategically positioned implants, while an upper denture can usually be attached with anywhere from 4-6 implants.
Compared to normal dentures, overdentures can reduce resorptive bone loss processes by up to 75%, because the implants will still stimulate your jaw bones as you bite and chew. Prevention of bone loss is one the main concerns for any dental treatment so this benefit alone can make overdentures an attractive option.
Overdentures are far more stable than loose dentures, and they can significantly improve a patient’s ability to bite and chew. This allows you to retain harder, chewier foods as part your regular diet, as you’re able to break down food far more effectively before digestion. This also helps your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
When your bones are under-stimulated they will naturally begin to lose mass, as this process begins to occur in the jaw the surrounding regions of the face begin to collapse inwards producing a sunken appearance. Overdentures can help to minimize this process through regular stimulation of the jawbone.
Even when adhesives are applied, standard dentures can easily shift in place while you are eating or speaking. Not only does this affect the way you eat and taste foods, it also makes eating a much messier process. Stable, well-positioned overdentures help you to avoid the embarrassment of dislodged dentures and the possible infections that arise from trapped food.
Existing dentures can be supported by permanent implants.
They are fast and easy to repair, and they can be easily adjusted to account for long-term movements in the jawbone.