Losing teeth due to cavities, trauma, or gum disease is never an easy situation to handle. The emotional and mental difficulties can be just as bad as the physical as you have to learn to eat, chew and speak with less teeth or false teeth. If it comes to the point where a tooth/teeth have to be removed there are options we suggest. Some are better than others, but many factors are considered when replacing missing teeth. It can be overwhelming understanding your options so we will try to explain the options.
Here we will concentrate on removable dentures vs implants. We recommend these solutions when multiple (more than 1-2) teeth are missing. However, every patient and every condition may warrant different treatment.
Dentures are plastic sets of teeth that you take out when you sleep. Dentures are the lowest cost solution, but are not permanent as you remove them for cleaning and sleeping. Dentures feel very bulky in the mouth and it takes time (weeks-months) to adjust to having bulky plastic in your mouth. Dentures may be unstable and you may need to wear adhesive to hold them into your mouth. They can often come dislodged during eating and sometimes while talking even as your muscles of the face and mouth tend to push them out. Chewing food can be difficult because the dentures move around. Dentures deliver 30-40% of normal chewing function. Food will also taste more bland because much of the mouth and taste buds are covered by plastic. Dentures eventually need to be relined and made over again as bone and gum tissue become worn by the constant wearing of the dentures.
Dental implants are titanium screws/fixtures that are placed surgically in the bone. After proper healing a dental crown is placed on the implant and functions like a natural tooth. It is essential there is adequate bone in order to support and retain an implant. If bone loss is too far gone, implants are less likely an option. Implants are the most costly solution for replacing missing teeth, but implants normally last a lifetime. Implants are permanent and stay in the mouth. Dental Implants feel and function like natural teeth. Patients will be able to chew with 90-100% of normal chewing function. Implants are not bulky and feel a lot more natural and similar to natural teeth. Implants preserve bone and prevent jaw bones and facial structures from collapsing and sinking inward. Implants will keep a patient’s smile and face looking natural as if no tooth/teeth were ever lost. While cavities cannot affect dental implants, they can and are prone to gum disease. It is essential to brush and floss implants like natural teeth and have regular dental cleanings to prevent gingivitis and periodontitis around implants.
If dental implants are not affordable, there are options involving combinations of implants and dentures, called overdentures. Overdentures connect to a few implants increasing stability and retention of the denture. Implant retained overdentures are usually half the cost of full mouth dental implant cases. The dentures are still made of plastic, but they are less bulky because the denture has more stability from the implants.
Dentures are lower cost, but difficult to wear and function with. Dentures have to be taken out of the mouth at night. They tend to dislodge during normal eating and speaking. Food will taste more bland and not enjoyable. Denture pastes which are messy gooey sometimes needs to be used to help keep them in.
Dental Implants are most expensive option, but they are a permanently placed in the mouth. They require adequate bone for optimal success. They do not need to be removed to clean them, but you have to brush/floss and have regular 6 month checkups with your dentist to maintain the gum health. Implants feel and look like natural teeth.
It is important to have a thorough discussion with your dentist about all your options. Every person will require different needs and some options may be better for you than others. Losing teeth is not an easy challenge to handle, but there are plenty of options to overcome the challenge and keep your smile healthy and beautiful.