As per the name of my office, NOLA Dentures and General Dentistry, I enjoy doing dentures and I do quite a few of them. While I think that I make a pretty darn good denture, dentures, in reality, are not natural teeth. No matter how pretty or tight I make a conventional denture, it will still not feel as comfortable or chew as well as natural teeth. However, the best part of dentures is that there are better options for my patients and it involves using implants to help make the denture feel better. The implants allow the denture to connect to the bone allowing it to be more secure and chew better. When I talk about implants and dentures though, they fall into three categories: locators attachments, fixed dentures, and precision fit removable dentures. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, and I will detail them in this blog post.
Types of Implant Dentures
The most common type of implant denture is an implant denture held in with locator attachments. The technology and process has been around probably the longest of the three types even though the design has changed throughout the past thirty years. The concept is on top of the implant, a locator is placed which snaps into the denture itself much like on an o ring. The o ring helps hold the denture in place and doesn’t let the denture move back and forth. The o rings come in different strengths depending on what is needed. The wonderful part about this type of design is that it is by far the least expensive. As the lower denture is the less stable of the two dentures, generally two lower implants are placed and placing two lower implants with locators makes the lower denture have a similar level of suction as the top denture. If I am doing a top denture with locators, the minimum number needed is four implants as the bone on the top jaw is not as strong as the bone on the bottom jaw. At maximum for locator denture, eight implants can be placed on the top and six implants can be placed on the bottom. While locator dentures are the preferred type of denture, the biggest concern with these dentures is that the o rings do tend to wear out. They need to be replaced once every twelve to twenty four months. However, this is usually the easiest way to proceed for the majority of my patients.
The second type of denture is a fixed denture. A fixed denture is a denture that can only be removed by the dentist. While a minimum of four implants are required to make a denture fixed, for the top generally I prefer to have at least six implants on the top and five for the bottom. The reason is that if complications develop with one of the implants at any points, the prosthesis still functions well. Fixed dentures are often what people want as they feel the most natural and the teeth never need to come out. The biggest issue with fixed dentures is that they are by far the most costly type of denture. Essentially doing a fixed denture for one jaw is the cost of a nicer new car. The second problem with fixed dentures are that these are the hardest to clean. Especially if a person has struggled keeping their natural teeth clean, I find that fixed dentures are even more difficult to keep clean. The third issue is that often times to make the dentures fit well, much of the bone must be removed so that the lips cover any area where the denture and the gums meet. The final issue with fixed dentures is that when something breaks on them, they expensive and difficult to repair. Everything that a dentist does eventually will break and well made dentures are no exception. For example, I can fix a routine break on a removable denture in about 8 hours. Fixing a routine break on a fixed denture may take a week at best but possibly up to one month.
I saved my personal favorite type of denture for last. If I needed to have all my teeth removed and have dentures, I would have a precision fit removable denture. The process for making these is similar to locators but a custom fitted bar is milled and placed in the denture and custom guide abutments are milled and placed on the implants. The custom fitted parts are much more resilient to wear and tear compared to locators which means that fewer appointments are needed. The grip that these dentures give is substantial and they are not easy to remove and require quite a bit of force to dislodge. However, because they are removeable, cleaning the prosthesis and the implants is very easy. I also like them because the surgery is not as invasive as the fixed denture as we do not need to remove as much bone. This treatment is also about half the cost of fixed dentures, and if any breakage occurs with the dentures, it is fairly easy to fix.
Choosing the Right Implant Dentures for You
Implants help dentures feel more natural and allow patients to chew better. The type of implants used though depends on what you desire and what your budget is. If you think that implants would help your denture feel better or if you think you need dentures and you have questions about how implants can help you transition to a new smile, please call us at 504-392-5104, and we will help you out.