Are Implant Dentures Permanent?
Well, that depends on what you mean by “implant dentures”. Implants can support dentures that are removable and full mouth restorations that you cannot remove. We’ll discuss both and explain the differences here.
Implant-Supported Removable Dentures
When someone is missing all of the teeth in an arch (or needs to have all remaining teeth removed . . .), we can replace those missing teeth with a traditional denture. A denture is a prosthesis made of acrylic that fits over the gums and contains plastic teeth. Traditional dentures do not attach to anything. The patient uses suction effect and muscle control (after much practice) to hold the denture in place.
Looseness of traditional dentures is a very common problem, and implants are a great solution. In order to give the denture something to connect to inside the mouth, your dentist places dental implants into the jawbone. These anchors allow the dentist to attach a connector called an abutment to the implant body. The simplest form of this connection is a ball-shaped abutment with a corresponding O-ring inside the denture. The denture can snap firmly into place over the abutments, providing a secure connection.
This treatment requires a minimum of two dental implants, and the stability is obviously increasing with more implants to which the denture can connect. This option is very secure and eliminates the embarrassment of dentures moving around or falling out during speech, laughter or eating. The patient does continue to remove the denture nightly for cleaning, so this option is not “permanent”.
Who is a Good Candidate for Implant-Supported Removable Dentures?
There are several factors to consider when looking at the various treatment options for replacing missing teeth. The ideal candidate for implant-supported removable dentures is someone who has worn traditional dentures for many years and struggles with looseness. This person is already accustomed to the shape and size of traditional dentures and can probably eat and speak quite well. The transition to dentures that “snap in” is a relatively easy one. In some cases, we can even retrofit the existing denture onto the new implant attachments.
Another great candidate is a patient who has been missing teeth for quite some time and has suffered from facial features (namely lips and cheeks) that appear sunken in. Because a denture includes extensions of acrylic into the space underneath the lips and cheeks, it can fill out those sunken in areas, making the face appear younger.
Because the cost of implant-supported removable dentures is less than other implant-based options, this also may be the right treatment option for someone with financial restrictions. As we stated earlier, we can support removable dentures on as few as two dental implants, which helps keep the cost down.
All-on-Four Implant Retained Dentures
Technically, we officially call this treatment a fixed hybrid prosthesis. Fixed simply means “attached” or “not removable”. It prosthetically replaces all of the missing teeth in a dental arch in a way that falls somewhere in between a denture and a bridge. This may be what you were referring to when you asked if implant dentures are permanent.
Some commonly call this treatment “all-on-four” because it is a prosthetic replacing “all” of the teeth “on four” dental implants. An important distinction that we make at Designer Smiles is that we do not limit ourselves to only four implants. If the bone in the jaws permits and if it will better support your prosthesis, Dr. Ann will place more implants to add stability for the best long-term prognosis. The minimum of four implants are placed at specific angles and locations in the jaw to support a U-shaped prosthesis.
The only thing this “denture” has in common with traditional dentures is that it replaces all the missing teeth. All-on-four prosthetics are typically made from a combination of zirconia and ceramic, giving them greater strength (and a more natural appearance) than their acrylic and plastic counterparts. All-on-four prostheses do not have extensions into the areas under the lips and cheeks like traditional dentures do.
After removing any remaining teeth and placing the dental implants into the prescribed position, you dentist attaches the prosthesis onto the implants with tiny screws. The patient is not able to remove the prosthesis and returns to the dentist on a yearly basis to have it removed and cleaned.
Who is a Good Candidate for All-on-Four Implant Retained Dentures?
Because the shape of the prosthesis is quite smaller and less bulky than a traditional denture, an all-on-four treatment is more appropriate for someone who is happy with the appearance of the face. For patients with a relatively full mouth of teeth, all-on-four is an easier transition than a bulky, acrylic denture that is removable. Being smaller, it maintains the current appearance of the face and requires less adjustment by the soft tissues of the mouth.
A good candidate for all-on-four treatment must have healthy jawbone to support the dental implants.
Not Sure Which Option is Best for You?
Call Designer Smiles to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann. She will assess your situation, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each potential treatment and help you make an informed decision. We love creating beautiful smiles for our patients through a wide variety of dental treatments. Ask Dr. Ann to show you before and after photos of cases similar to your own situation.