You may know me as a proponent of zinc-free denture adhesives, but what if I told you you could do away with denture adhesives altogether? This may sound like fantasy, but I assure you there is a way, and it is rapidly growing in popularity: implant supported dentures.
What are implant supported dentures?
If you are not familiar with the growing field of implant dentistry, you may not have heard of this new technology. Put simply, the dentist places metal implants into the bone structure of the mouth. Then dentures are either created or retrofitted so that they have holes or indentations corresponding to where these implants protrude from the jawbone or upper palate. The implants then fit, hand-in-glove, into the indentations in the dentures, and voila! Sneeze-proof denture fit! Implants can also greatly improve the security of ill-fitting partial dentures as well.
This sounds painful…
While virtually all surgery does have some pain associated with it, this is a relatively minor surgery, and can be done under local anesthetic in your dentist’s office. Moreover, be honest with yourself; do your ill-fitting dentures not cause you pain? The resounding response from folks who have chosen implant supported dentures is that they would gladly accept the short-term pain of recovering from the implant surgery over the constant, on-going pain of dentures which slip, slide, and abrade the interior of their mouths day in and day out. Add in the pain you are likely to suffer from the long-term effects of ingesting denture adhesive, and the choice quickly becomes clear.
Am I a candidate for implant supported dentures?
Only a dentist trained in implants can tell you for certain. As you may expect, you will need to be beyond adolescence, so that your bone growth is complete (otherwise you would risk having your implants shift). Older adults must have a sufficient amount of bone structure in which to anchor the implants. However, even if you lack the needed bone structure, there are several options for replacing it so that implants can be used. Among these techniques are bone graft surgery, synthetic bone implants, or even bovine (cow) bone implants. This is why it is so important to consult a dentist who is trained in implants; as only he or she is qualified to guide you in selecting among these further options to support implants. The upside of this is, if you do have implants, they can help anchor your bone and gum tissue, and prevent any further loss.
Are there any other considerations?
Recovery time is the other major consideration in choosing implant supported dentures, and will be another area where your implant-trained dentist can help you make decisions. Some patients are able to have the implant surgery and begin wearing their new dentures just a few days later, once the swelling has gone down. Other patients will need between two and four months of recovery time between their implant surgery and the time they begin to wear their dentures. This will depend on many factors, including how much bone and gum tissue you have, how long ago your natural teeth were removed, and whether or not your immune system is compromised, which can slow healing.
What does it cost?
As you might expect of any surgery, the cost can be considerable. If you have good dental insurance, they may cover at least part of the cost for you; this is another item to be discussed with your dentist. Many dentists who offer implant supported dentures also offer financing options, in order to help their patients have the best possible quality of life.