Dentures have long been the traditional option for the replacement of missing teeth, but are they the best one? While every dental patient is different, in general, conventional dentures are only considered the best solution to tooth loss in the relatively small percentage of people for whom dental implants are not an option. Dental implants have become the standard of care in tooth loss cases for a number of very good reasons, including better support of oral health, structure and function, greater longevity, increased comfort and better aesthetic outcomes as compared to conventional dentures.
Missing Teeth Options, Conventional Dentures: Adequate, Not Optimal
Conventional removable dentures were once the only missing teeth option available to restore oral function and appearance after a lost tooth and they have served many dental patients well over the years. However, denture use has always had some drawbacks.
Among the most important of those is bone loss, which occurs anywhere that a tooth root has been removed from the jawbone. Tooth roots stimulate the jawbone as a person bites and chews, which prompts the body to produce new bone cells to strengthen and maintain bone tissue in the jaw. Without that daily stimulation, bone cell production slows and the jawbone gradually shrinks away.
Since dentures depend upon the support of the gums and the bone beneath them for support, bone loss will lead to denture instability over time, making adjustments or replacement necessary every few years to restore comfort and efficient oral function. Bone loss also erodes support for facial features, an issue that often leads to wrinkles and hollows in the face, giving denture wearer's an aged appearance.
Other drawbacks of conventional dentures include reduced bite force and chewing efficiency and decreased ability to experience the taste and texture of foods. Many denture wearers also find that dentures feel bulky and uncomfortable in the mouth, making eating and speech awkward.
Dental Implant Restorations: Addressing the Shortcomings of Conventional Dentures
Among the best missing teeth options, dental implants are a good alternative to dentures. Dental restorations built upon a foundation of dental implants offer solutions to many of the problems inherent in the use of removable dentures. Most of their advantages lie in their structure, which is much more similar to that of natural teeth than any other option available today.
Unlike conventional dentures, which only replace the crowns, or visible portions, of missing teeth, dental implant-based restorations surgically place tiny titanium implants in the jaw to serve as artificial tooth roots. Since they fuse to the jawbone much like natural tooth roots, dental implants provide the stimulation it needs to maintain bone strength and density.
Less bone loss mean better preservation of oral structure, so implant-based restoration do not need refitting or replacement every few years to maintain proper fit, as is the case with conventional dentures. Additionally, less bone loss means ample facial support, preventing the premature aging common to denture wearers.
Since implant-based restorations are firmly anchored in the jaw like natural teeth, they function much more like them, offering better biting and chewing efficiency than traditional dentures. They are generally less bulky than removable dentures, offering a much more natural look and feel, and since most don't cover the roof of the mouth like a conventional upper denture, patients are able to enjoy the taste and texture of foods.
Dental implants versus dentures, the bottom line is this: Dental implant-based restoration is the best option available today for missing teeth. However, a small percentage of people aren't good candidates for these procedures. For these patients, being fitted with quality dentures is the next-best option. Make an appointment with Dr. Chan to discuss your missing teeth options.