These are your grandmother's dentures.

These are your grandmother’s dentures, without implants to stabilize them.

Dentures have a big job. They not only replace teeth, they also replace the lower one third of the face. They replace chins, smiles, lips and even make noses look smaller when properly done. People with dentures want to smile and eat like everyone else.

Patients ask me if implants will help with their dentures. The answer is a resounding yes. Wearing a denture without implants is like wearing flip-flops. One has to grab the flip-flops with their toes in order to keep them from clacking and flopping. Regular denture wearers have to use their tongue and cheeks to hold their dentures in. This makes the facial muscles sore and tired.

Wearing a denture with implants is like wearing well-made tennis shoes. Good shoes allow you to run on a track, sand or mud. Implants keep the denture stable so almost all foods can be eaten. The days of worrying about them clacking or falling out during social events is over with these modern miracles.

How they work

All-On-Four dental implants is a great treatment for patients missing all of the teeth in one or both jaws

All-On-Four dental implants is a great treatment for patients missing all of the teeth in one or both jaws

Implants are a titanium piece of metal that is implanted in the jaw bone with the head sticking out of the gum a few millimeters. The denture has a special attachment imbedded deep into the denture itself. It has an “O” ring type of attachment that locks into the head of the implant that is sticking out of the jaw. It is a very precision-made male and female type of attachment and literally snaps into place making the denture very stable. Another kind of denture can be “permanently” attached to the implants for the highest level of security.  This type of denture can be removed by the dentist if necessary.

Types of denture implants

There are two main types of implants used with dentures. The most stable is called a root-formed implant. It is called that because the implant itself is about the same diameter as the original tooth that used to be in that position of the jaw before it was lost. These are absolutely the most stable and most predictable and the most expensive. The surgery is very sophisticated and is usually done by a specialist. Root-formed implants are usually necessary in the upper jaw because that bone is softer and more support is needed because of the bone.

Mini implants are just that, mini titanium posts that are literally screwed into the jaw. Mini implants are usually restricted to the lower jaw where the bone is dense. Yes, I know all of this sounds painful, but no matter where an implant is used – knee, shoulder, etc. – surgery is required. My experience tells me the benefit of having a stable lower denture far outweighs the surgical procedure that can be done while sedated. Mini implants are a lot less expensive and have proven to be very successful when done correctly, and there are specific cases in which they work really well.

Denture realities

Upper dentures less commonly give patients problems than lower dentures. The reason for this is simple, the upper jaw is not a jaw, it is part of the skull and it does not move. On the other hand, the lower jaw not only moves, it has a tongue plus all the muscles that move the jaw. Since the jaw is constantly moving in talking, eating, swallowing, yawning, etc., the lower denture is constantly fighting to stay in place.

With properly made implants and a properly made denture to go along with it, dentures snap into place and stay there. It is an incredible service and benefit. In some cases, a lower denture held in the mouth with implants can be so stable that the best “match” for a patient missing all of the upper teeth as well as lower teeth is the same treatment in the top jaw. This gives unmatched stability, just like when the teeth were all present and healthy

Another denture reality is only a small percentage of dentists like to do dentures. This is simply because they are too difficult to do predictably, and dentists as a whole love predictability. The only way for dentures to be predictable, with or without implants, is for them to be done correctly. This takes time, skill and judgment on the part of the dentist which means well-fitting dentures are expensive to do.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!