If you’re trying to decide whether to go with dentures or implants, there are many factors to consider. In the long term, implants usually provide better function and durability, but there are situations where dentures might be preferable instead. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
How strong is your jawbone?
Sufficient bone density is necessary to place an implant. Most people lose some bone density as they age, and this process is sped up if you have lost a tooth. The bone from the socket where the tooth root used to sit no longer feels the pressure of the missing tooth, which causes the bone to weaken and break down. If bone density is low, implants aren’t usually possible and dentures are necessary. On the other hand, if you do have good bone density, implants will help prevent deterioration in a way that dentures cannot.
Have you had untreated missing teeth for a while?
Tooth sockets need teeth to maintain bone density, as described above. If you’ve been missing a tooth for a long time, that socket may no longer be able to support an implant. In some cases, bone grafts can make up for the lost bone, but your case will need to be evaluated by a dentist. This video from the International Congress of Oral Implantologists explains the bone density issue in more detail:
Do you have other teeth to protect?
If you still have natural teeth, dentures can damage them over time, due to the heightened cleaning and care requirements they impose. Implants, on the other hand, are cared for and cleaned just like natural teeth, so they don’t cause the same complications. If you’re only missing one or two teeth, implants might be the better choice.
How quickly do you need results?
Getting dentures takes much less time than getting implants. Once your teeth are removed and the tissues in your mouth have healed, your dentist will take an impression and have the dentures fabricated. This process usually takes a month or two. Implants take longer, because we first have to put in the titanium post, then give the jawbone enough time to fuse with it before we can add the permanent crown. This takes at least 6-10 months.
How meticulous are you about brushing and flossing?
Many dentures are kept in place using wires or adhesives, and it takes a little more time and care to keep those clean. In order to prevent other oral infections, you’ll need to be very diligent about cleaning your dentures. With implants, the cleaning process is essentially the same as it is for natural teeth. As long as you brush and floss properly, you should be fine.
How much are you willing to spend?
There’s no way around it: implants cost more than dentures, especially if you’re replacing a lot of teeth. We do provide financing options, but if cost is prohibitive, dentures are probably the better choice.
How often do you come to the dentist?
The titanium posts used for implants are designed to last a lifetime, and it is unlikely you’ll need to have them replaced or repaired. Dentures do wear and crack, and the shape of your mouth also shifts over time, so you will need to have your dentures fixed or replaced periodically. That said, implants are not totally maintenance-free either. You may eventually need to repair the crowns that sit on your implant posts, just as you would any other crown. Apples to apples, however, implants require less frequent maintenance.
For a quick summary of the pros and cons, check out this great infographic by Chicago-based University Associates in Dentistry! (Click the image for the full version.)