When the topic of conversation in a dentist’s office is dentures, many patients assume that their only option is a complete denture that rests on gums and can be removed on a whim. Fortunately, for many who need dentures, there is a more permanent solution: implant-supported dentures.
What are Implant-Supported Dentures?
Unlike a regular denture that rests on a user’s gums, implant-supported dentures are a subset of dentures that are both supported by and attached to implants using special attachments that snap onto the dentures. When there are no teeth in the jaw, but the jaw has enough bone to support implants, a patient a great candidate for an implant-supported denture.
Usually, these kinds of dentures are made for the lower jaw. This is due to the fact that regular dentures are usually unstable in the lower jaw. While implant-supported dentures can also be used in the upper jaw, it is not always necessary as normal dentures in the upper jaw are usually much more stable than regular dentures in the lower jaw. While more stable than regular dentures, dentures that are supported by implants should still be removed at night like regular dentures and should still be cleaned thoroughly.
This particular group of dentures can be separated into two types: ball-retained dentures and bar-retained dentures with both types being made with a base made out of acrylic that resembles gums and acrylic or porcelain teeth that mimic the look of a patient’s natural teeth. Ball-retained dentures are implanted into the jawbone using two implants. Each of these implants has a metal attachment that then fits into another denture attachment. The attachments are usually “ball-shaped,” hence the name, and they fit into little sockets on the denture itself. Following the curve of the jaw, bar-retained dentures, however, utilize a thin metal bar that is attached to the jawbone using anywhere from two to five implants. Various attachments like clips are then fitted to either the denture, bar, or both. The denture then fits precisely over the bar and is clipped into a secure position by the various aforementioned attachments.
The procedure ultimately depends on the location of the dentures. Usually, the implants are placed in the front of the mouth as there is typically more bone to work with. The shortest time frame one can expect is around 5 months for the lower jaw and 7 months for the upper jaw. If a patient is in need of bone grafting, however, the process can take up to one year or longer. For most, two surgeries are needed for the best chance at successful implantation. The first surgery consists of placing the implants into the jawbone under the patient’s gums. The second involves exposing the top of the implants and is usually scheduled for anywhere from 3 to 6 months after the first surgery. There is a procedure available that combines the two stages and carries with it a high success rate, but there are certain variables that an oral surgeon will take into account before opting to go that particular route. Despite the route you choose to take, your dentist will make you a temporary denture to use until the full implantation process has been completed.
Implant-Supported Denture Benefits
One of the benefits of opting for these dentures over traditional dentures is that they are more stable than their traditional counterparts. Because of their stability, users find speaking to be much easier and they do not have to worry about their dentures loosening or falling out of their mouths as they go through their days. Additionally, some foods that are off-limits with traditional dentures, are given the “green light.”. With that being said, hard and sticky foods should still be avoided in order to avoid damaging the dentures. Another benefit pertains to the upper jaw. Because implants hold the denture in place, it will not cover as much of your palate as a traditional denture. This, again, allows for easier speaking and eating.
Implant-supported dentures are certainly worth consideration. If your dentist has mentioned your or a loved one’s needs for dentures, talk to him or her about whether or not you (or your loved one) qualify for this specific subgroup of dentures.