One of the frequent points of contrast in the search for tooth replacement are conventional dentures and dental implants. While many people are attracted to the features of dental implants, which include tremendous strength, durability, and comfort, the price tag can be prohibitive, especially as Medicare doesn’t cover the costs of dental implants and some dental insurance policies don’t either. On the other hand, conventional dentures are affordable, quickly made, and easy to care for; the problem is that they can move around at the most inopportune moments. This can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and downright embarrassing, leading some to be reticent about opting for conventional dentures despite the ease and affordability with which they can be created.
Denture stabilization, however, offers the best of both worlds; the lower price point of conventional dentures with the increased function that dental implants provide. If you’re stuck wavering between dental implants and conventional dentures because neither one quite fits the bill, denture stabilization might just be the perfect tooth replacement solution for you.
How Does Denture Stabilization Work?
Denture stabilization utilizes a combination of dentures and dental implants to hold them in place. In contrast to a full set of dental implants, denture stabilization only requires a few implants to retain a full arch of dentures. This increases the cost of what one would pay for conventional dentures alone, but also increases the functionality and comfort of those dentures without being nearly as expensive as a full set of dental implants. A functional middle ground between these two options, denture stabilization is a quality compromise for many patients.
During the first step of denture stabilization, the dental implant fixtures are surgically placed into the jawbone. This is the only surgical component of denture stabilization, but it is a key part of the process. Once the implant fixtures have been allowed sufficient time to fuse with the jawbone, the dental implants are able to function much like the organic roots of natural teeth, holding one’s dentures firmly in place while talking, laughing, and even eating. While the number of dental implants will vary somewhat by individual circumstances, generally at least two to four implants are recommended to hold an arch of dentures solidly in place.
The healing time for this part of the process takes anywhere from two to six months, depending on one’s baseline health and the bone density of the jaw. Once this process of healing and osseointegration is complete, the fixtures are ready to accept and support the dentures that they will support.
Types of Denture Stabilization
Denture stabilization can be done in either a permanent or removable fashion. Some prefer the “set it and forget it” ease of permanently stabilized dentures, which do not need to be removed at night for cleaning. In these cases, the dentures are permanently cemented onto the implant fixtures; only a dentist or oral surgeon can remove them.
Others prefer the flexibility of removable stabilized dentures. While these need to be removed nightly and soaked in a cleaning solution to keep them fresh and clean, removable dentures can also provide easier access if the dentures need to be repaired. The ability to simply snap the dentures in and out of place means that these kinds of repairs can be done on the dentures in a lab, while the patient can go about their day without the repairs being done inside of their mouth.
The two types of removable stabilized dentures include ball-retained dentures and bar-retained dentures. Ball-retained dentures feature a ball and socket connection in which the male and female ends are located on the implant fixtures and corresponding location on the dentures. This makes it easy to simply snap the dentures in and out of place.
Bar-retained dentures feature a curved metal bar that is supported by two to five implant fixtures; the dentures that these implants support simply fits onto the bar. Like the ball-retained dentures, this type of removable stabilized denture is designed to snap firmly in and out of place.
Benefits of Denture Stabilization
There are many benefits to denture stabilization. Most importantly for many patients, denture stabilization simply keeps one’s dentures in their place. This is a complex benefit, as it not only increases functionality and comfort but also reduces pain, irritation, and inflammation. When dentures slip and slide around in one’s mouth, it makes it harder to enjoy a wide range of foods. This can greatly limit one’s nutrition out of fear of not being able to bite or chew properly, which can have a real impact on one’s health.
The movement of dentures is also uncomfortable and can lead to sores on and around the gumline. This can further limit one’s ability to eat comfortably and can also open the door to an increased risk for oral infections as well as chronic inflammation.
Finally, shifting dentures can have a social cost, both real and perceived. Having teeth that move around while talking or enjoying a meal with loved ones can be embarrassing and distressing. This can lead to a downturn in mental health and quality of life over time.
Denture stabilization can solve the vast majority of these problems, leading to more thorough enjoyment of food, time with family and friends, and even improved overall mental health and quality of life. While they do take a little more time and money to create and install, most find that these benefits are worth every penny.
Importance of Replacing Missing Teeth
Whether you decide to opt for stabilized dentures or not, it is important to replace teeth when they go missing. Not only can dentures, dental implants, or stabilized dentures rejuvenate one’s facial features, remedying the sunken in look that occurs when numerous teeth are missing, they can also greatly improve one’s ability to eat, talk, and otherwise communicate. This has the potential to positively impact a patient’s physical and mental health on a number of different levels, vastly improving quality of life and increasing one’s enjoyment of everyday activities.