Dentures vs Implants
When it comes to replacing one, several, or even all of one’s teeth, there are an increasing number of options available today. The most common forms of tooth replacement include dentures and dental implants, both of which offer several customization options. In terms of basic function, dentures and dental implants are designed to perform the same essential tasks: they aid in normal eating and digestion by helping break down food in one’s mouth and they also help maintain one’s facial shape and general appearance. The ways they work and the degree to which they can effectively perform these tasks, however, are quite distinct.
Key Differences Between Dentures and Implants
The primary difference between dentures and dental implants is that dental implants are anchored into the oral cavity via surgical insertion while dentures are made to sit atop the surface of the gumline. For this reason, dental implants are effectively installed in one’s mouth in a two- to three-step process, whereas dentures are created in a lab with impressions that were previously taken in a dental office.
Both dentures and implants are available to a wide range of people; there is no minimum or maximum age for anyone who wishes to utilize dentures. Dental implants, on the other hand, are available only to those who have reached skeletal maturity, which usually takes place in the late teens or early twenties. This is to ensure that the implants don’t move as the jaw continues to grow and change. While the minimum age is an important consideration for dental implants, there is no age limit; seniors of all ages can enjoy the benefits of dental implants, if they wish.
Processes and Procedures in Creating Dentures
A visit to your dentist’s office is the first step in having custom dentures made. At this visit, your dentist will examine your mouth and likely take X-rays to better understand the bone structure that exists below the surface of your gums. They will take an impression of your mouth, one arch at a time, and then they will use these impressions to create dentures that fit neatly in to the existing structure of your mouth.
The dentures that your dentist will create for you are composed of an acrylic base that is designed to look like gum tissue, and prosthetic teeth that can be shaded to match the color of any existing teeth you may have. Once they are created, you will go in to have them fitted; at this time your dentist can make small adjustments to make them more comfortable if they fit isn’t exact at the time of placement.
Pros and Cons of Dentures
The ease and speed with which dentures are created are one of their main benefits; the process of getting dentures designed, created, and fitted can take weeks rather than months, though everyone’s timeline is a little different. Some complicating factors that can lengthen this process include the need to pull teeth as well as any ongoing dental concerns such as gum disease.
Dentures are also very cost-effective and have a considerably lower price-point than dental implants, neither of which are usually covered by dental insurance. On average, a full set of dentures costs around $3200; the cost for partial dentures (dentures that replace only one or a few teeth) is much lower.
While dentures are relatively fast and inexpensive to make, they can be somewhat uncomfortable to wear. Dental adhesives can help keep them in place for the most part, but many wearers of dentures report awkward moving and shifting during inopportune moments, such as enjoying a meal with friends or loved ones or even talking or laughing. This shifting in the mouth is not only socially embarrassing, but it can also be painful, causing sore spots in the mouth that can create secondary problems like infection, as well. This also leads to a reduction in biting and chewing capacity, limiting the foods that one can eat with dentures.
Finally, the combination of prosthetic teeth attached to an acrylic base can make dentures feel big and bulky in one’s mouth. Typically, part of the upper denture covers part of the soft palate, leading to some loss of taste as well as what some experience as an increased gag reflex. While some people tolerate the size and shape of dentures quite well, others find them awkward and uncomfortable; this is perhaps the most frequent complaint about conventional dentures.
Processes and Procedures in Creating Dental Implants
In contrast to dentures, dental implants are surgically inserted directly into the jawbone, which makes them strong, sturdy, and secure. Once installed, dental implants don’t move any more than one’s natural teeth do, and they also don’t have any extra parts or pieces taking up space in one’s mouth. This makes them more comfortable, functional, and attractive than dentures.
This functionality does come at some cost, though. For one, the time and money required to create and install dental implants is quite a bit higher. Dental implants are installed in a two- to three-step process that requires surgery, making it a more invasive process and one that also includes a lengthy healing process. All told, the process of creating dental implants typically takes anywhere from three to six months.
First, a thin titanium post called the dental implant fixture is embedded into the jaw beneath the surface of the gums, where it must then be allowed to fully merge with the hard tissue of the bone. This usually takes 2-3 months, after which point the connecting piece and crown can be attached (this is sometimes done in one visit, and sometimes two).
Pros and Cons of Dental Implants
While dental implants are more expensive than dentures (a single dental implant can cost about the same price as a full arch of dentures), they are also more durable and functional. Dental implants have a very high success rate (about 95%) and last a very long time; properly cared for, dental implants can last for 20 years. This is not the case with dentures, which require a good deal of regular maintenance and even replacement.
Above all, most find that dental implants provide a seamless transition and simply feel most like natural teeth; rather than a big, bulky acrylic appliance holding the prosthetic teeth in place, there are prosthetic tooth roots that operate below the surface of the gums. For those who have enough healthy available bone mass in the jaw, as well as the time and money to invest in a quality, long-term solution, dental implants are an excellent choice.