There’s no doubt about it – there have been some remarkable advancements in dental technology over the past few years. One area in which that is especially true is with dentures. People who are missing some or all of their teeth can now choose from a variety of some of the newest dentures available. While there’s no doubt that conventional dentures get the job done, some of the more recent advancements in tooth replacement technology offer many advantages over the more traditional restorative devices. Many of these next-generation dentures have one thing in common: implants.
What You Should Know About Implant-Supported Dentures
Dental implants have become more and more popular over the past few years, and with good reason: they offer a permanent replacement for missing teeth. The implant procedure involves the dentist or oral surgeon inserting a metal rod into the jawbone of the patient, at the exact location of the missing tooth. Over a period of a few months, the metal fuses to the bone tissue, creating an artificial tooth root. Once that is completed, the dentist affixes an artificial tooth to the top of the implant. The end result is a permanent replacement for a missing tooth. Implants look and feel just like normal teeth, and they typically last for decades – sometimes even for the lifetime of the patient!
Implants are an excellent way to replace one or two missing teeth, or even more if the patient chooses to do so. But implant technology has other uses as well, particularly when it comes to dentures. A growing number of dental patients are choosing implant-supported dentures.
Implants provide a stable and durable base that hold dental prosthetic devices firmly in place, so there’s no need for messy denture adhesives. But that’s just one of many benefits of this new denture technology. Implants also stimulate healthy bone growth, eliminate the dietary restrictions that often come with traditional dentures, and can even support non-removable prosthetic devices. Although the basic implant procedure for dentures is the same, the types of implants used with dentures may be somewhat different than those used when replacing a single tooth. Often, dentists and oral surgeons use what are called “mini implants,” which are smaller appliances that are easier to insert into the patient’s mouth and don’t require the months-long process needed with standard implants.
Types of Implant-Supported Dentures
Now that we have a better understanding of dental implants, it’s time to explore the different types of dentures available that utilize implant technology.
- Implant-retained, gum-supported: These removable dentures attach to dental implants that are located in both the upper and lower jaw. Special attachments secure the prosthetic device to the implants, and the patient can remove the dentures and clean them just as they would with traditional dentures.
- Implant-supported, bar-retained: This type of over-denture connects to a metal bar that is attached to implants. Similar to gum-supported over-dentures, this type of prosthetic is also removable. The main difference is that this denture connects to a metal bar rather than directly to implants.
- Implant-supported, fixed: This over-denture is attached directly to implants that are strategically located in the patient’s upper and lower jaw. But these dentures are fixed, meaning that they cannot be removed by the patient. Many people consider implant-supported fixed over-dentures to be as close to having a complete set of natural teeth as modern dental technology will allow.
- Implant-supported, full-arch metal ceramic bridge: The more common name for this prosthetic device is “All-on-4” (or 6, or 8). The device consists of a full-arch metal ceramic bridge that typically contains 12 or 14 teeth and is attached to 4, 6, or 8 dental implants that have been inserted into strategic locations in the patient’s mouth. This teeth-replacement option is especially useful for patients who have lost all of their teeth in the upper and lower jaw, and have also experienced bone loss as well. The All-on-4 system is often an excellent choice for either patients who have already lost their teeth, or those who need their teeth extracted. For people who have suffered more extensive bone loss, 6 or 8 implants may be used instead of 4 to provide further support for the prosthetic. In many cases, the All-on-4 treatment can be completed in a single day – meaning that a patient can have all teeth extracted and the All-on-4 appliance inserted on the same day!
In addition to the implant-supported types of dentures described above, there is another option for people who need to have their teeth extracted: immediate dentures. With traditional dentures and some (but not all) of the implant-supported types, a patient’s gum tissue needs to be fully healed before the dentures can be fitted. That is not the case with immediate dentures. This prosthetic device is provided for patients immediately after having their teeth extracted. Immediate dentures are not implant-supported, but are instead more similar to traditional dentures. The only important difference is that this prosthetic is intended as a stop-gap measure for people who have to have their teeth extracted but don’t want to live without teeth while their gums heal. Immediate dentures are designed to be a temporary solution until the patient’s permanent dentures are ready. But some people are happy with this device for longer periods of time. One word of caution about immediate dentures: if you choose this option, you’ll need to see your dentist for follow-up visits often, since the gum tissue changes shape as it heals and the device will need to be relined frequently.
Some of the newest dentures available are truly remarkable devices. Today’s dental prosthetics offer something for everyone. From fixed dentures to removable implant-supported dentures to immediate dentures, modern dentistry has it all. Even patients with compromised jawbone density are able to enjoy all the benefits of a full set of dentures thanks to All-on-4 technology. To find out more about each of these different types of dentures, contact your dentist or oral surgeon and schedule an appointment today.