If you’re looking at options to replace missing teeth, you may be feeling unsure about which treatment path to take: dentures or implants?
Dental implants as we know them have only been around since the 1960s. But in that time, they’ve gone from a specialist treatment to a growth industry. Long-lasting, natural-looking and secure, they’re generally recognised as the superior stand-in for missing teeth.
Dentures, on the other hand, have been around for eons, but advantages in technology mean that modern-day dentures are much more natural-looking and comfortable than their predecessors. And as the more affordable treatment, they’re still a popular option for many people.
So, how do you know which treatment is right for you? Here we weigh up how dentures and dental implants perform in various key categories to help you make an informed decision.
Eating and drinking
Although no food is off-limits for denture wearers, learning how to eat with them will take a little practice. A two-year study found a decline in key nutrition markers in denture-wearers compared to non-denture wearers, which researchers attributed to reduced chewing efficiency. Therefore, it's crucial you carefully follow the advice of your dentist so that you can continue to enjoy a healthy diet.
Aside from this, you may also find that food can get stuck on or underneath dentures, so you’ll need to take extra care during and after eating.
With dental implants however, there’s no such learning curve. You can bite with the same force as your natural teeth and chewing efficiency won’t be reduced. There are certain foods that you’ll need to avoid during your recovery period such as hard, acidic and sticky foods, but after that, there are no limits!
However, it’s important to care for your implants just like your normal teeth. Plaque can develop on the crown and cause gum infections or threaten the structure of the implant.
When it comes to dentures vs implants, this is a category where dentures clearly come out on top. You can expect to pay between £900 and £2000 for dentures, depending on the number of teeth being replaced, the complexity of your case, the materials used and the amount of time it takes to make them.
In comparison, a single dental implant and crown can cost upwards of £2,000. Some people will find the cost of dental implants too prohibitive and opt for dentures purely for this reason.
Dental implants are custom-made to match the colour, size and shape of the surrounding teeth, resulting in a natural-looking smile that’s difficult to achieve with dentures.
However, progressions in technology mean that dentures now look much more natural than their former incarnations. Prosthodontic specialists such as Dr Gahan work with modern labs who use CADCam and 3D printing by laser sintering to produce the frameworks for partial dentures. This results in individually crafted dentures that look as realistic as possible and blend in with the rest of your natural teeth and gums.
Whether you opt for dentures or implants, it’s important to have a good cleaning regime to help maintain them and stay on top of your oral health. Just as dental implants look and feel just like your natural teeth, you care for them like your natural teeth too. That means cleaning in between the crown with floss or an interdental brush and brushing with toothpaste twice a day. Your dentist will advise you if there’s anything else specific to your care that you need to do.
Dentures, on the other hand, require a bit more maintenance. You’ll need to remove them daily to brush them and then soak in a denture cleanser. It’s also important to brush your gums and tongue each day alongside your remaining natural teeth.
Dentures have come a long way from the archetypical comedy teeth that fall out at inopportune moments, but they can sometimes slip out of position when you’re laughing, eating or talking. However, as you become more used to your dentures you’ll find keeping them in place much easier.
It may be that there's not enough gum for dentures. If this is the case you can use adhesive to make them more stable. Alternatively, you could opt for implant-retained dentures which securely lock the implant in place, giving you the confidence to go about your daily routine without worry.
Dentures can unfortunately break, chip or crack, meaning that you will have to pay for repairs or replacements.
Another consideration is that if you’re missing a good few teeth, you lose the supportive structure of the roots as well. The jaw is stimulated and strengthened both by the roots and the actions of chewing and biting. If you don’t have enough teeth to provide this stimulation, the jawbone will gradually deteriorate. This means your dentures will no longer fit you properly, so you will have to pay for them to be adjusted or replaced. It’s important to get ill-fitting dentures replaced so that you don’t develop sores or infections.
Dental implants, however, are a long-lasting solution, with over 90% still functioning after 10 years - and even up to 20 years in some studies. Implants also mimic the function of tooth roots, helping to stimulate bone and maintain your facial structure.
Most people will need to remove their dentures and leave them out overnight to relieve soreness and prevent infection. You may feel uncomfortable about this, in which case, you might want to consider implants instead. As they are secured in your mouth, dental implants are just like your natural teeth. So you can go to bed without removing them, which may help you to feel more confident.
Getting used to wearing dentures can be a learning curve. You may find them uncomfortable or unnatural at first. And you may get sore gums. It’s important to talk to your dentist about any problems you’re having as your dentures may need to be adjusted to ensure a better and more comfortable fit.
Dental implants, on the other hand, feel just like your natural teeth and so will feel totally comfortable. However, placing dental implants requires minor surgery and recovery time. You may feel that you'd rather not go under any invasive procedures, in which case, well-fitting dentures provided by a specialist may be the right option for you.
If you’re still on the fence about dentures vs dental implants, it’s important to note that not everyone is a suitable candidate for implants. These include people who smoke, people with poorly controlled diabetes and those with unstable gum disease. Your dentist will also need to take a scan to see if you have enough bone for the implants to be placed. If the bone isn’t of sufficient quality, you will need to have a bone graft first.
Generally, most people can wear dentures, but the quality of your gums will dictate how well your dentures fit and behave. Those with not enough gums for dentures (highly resorbed ridges) will have a better experience with implant-retained dentures, as they’re more stable, comfortable and able to be worn for longer periods.
We hope this article has helped you decide whether dentures or implants are the right decision for you. Need any further advice? Why not book in a consultation with Dr Gahan? He has been providing restorative dentistry for over 20 years, 14 of which as a specialist, so is ideally placed to help you decide on the right treatment for you, whether that’s dentures, implants or implant-retained dentures. Simply get in touch with the friendly team at Finkle Hill Dental Care on 01977 682 200 or by emailing email@example.com