Whether because of an accident, tooth decay, gum disease, or simply getting older, there are numerous reasons why a person may need dentures in their life. Designed to replace missing teeth, dentures help patients restore confidence in their smiles. Because they rest on the wearer’s gums rather than being permanently attached, dentures are prone to shifting, can make it difficult to chew or speak properly, and can be uncomfortable. As such, patients are increasingly turning towards denture stabilization as a way of obtaining solid dentures.
Denture Stabilization Overview
Denture stabilization involves placing dental implants into the patient’s jaw to hold dentures securely in place. Often, dental implants are used to replace a single lost tooth, but should the patient need a full set of entire upper or lower teeth replaced, dentures are an ideal solution.
As previously noted, dentures can shift out of place and be uncomfortable to wear. In addition, the adhesives used to hold dentures in place can taste bad and leave an odd taste in the mouth, making drinking or eating less enjoyable. And because they must be removed nightly for soaking and cleaning, some patients may find the process tiresome.
Using implants to support dentures avoids many of these pitfalls. Because they are inserted into the jawbone, implant-supported dentures are permanent and can only be removed by a dentist. As such, the device does not have to be removed nightly for cleaning and patient’s do not have to modify their flossing and brushing routines. Furthermore, the direct interaction between the implant and the jawbone provides a more sturdy foundation and prevents the loss of bone tissue.
Denture Stabilization Benefits
Patients can benefit from denture stabilization in several ways, including:
- Better able to chew food – in turn, helps promote better digestion.
- More comfortable than traditional dentures.
- Easy to clean – can floss and brush just like natural teeth.
- Do not have to be removed.
- Reduces risk of irritation, mouth sores, and periodontal infection.
- Improves confidence – no risk of dentures falling out when speaking or eating.
- Provides a permanent restoration for lost teeth.
How Does Denture Stabilization Work?
Denture stabilization utilizes implants embedded into the jawbone upon which dentures are attached. Implants may be placed anywhere but are usually placed towards the front of the mouth where there is more bone and fewer nerves that could affect placement of the implants. Because the process involves surgery, healing time, and multiple visits with the doctor, it can take over a year to complete. And the time involved will be impacted by any additional procedures, like a bone graft, that may be needed in conjunction with implant surgery.
Utilizing dental implants stabilizes the dentures in the patient’s mouth unlike traditional dentures that have no rooted support. Despite the fact the patient may be missing their teeth, they will have adequate jawbone to support the device. By implanting into the jawbone, bone tissue loss is prevented and because the dentures are securely held in place, they will not move around.
Some stabilization systems utilize attachments on the dentures that clip onto the implants. And some patients may opt to have a fixed crown or dental bridge procedure to obtain more permanent results. Fixed crown or dental bridge stabilized dentures are not removable whereas those with attachments are.
Types of Denture Stabilization
Denture stabilization comes in two different types: bar-retained and ball-retained dentures. Also called stud-attachment dentures, ball-retained dentures utilize jawbone implants with metal attachments that fit onto attachments on the denture. Generally, the denture attachments on these systems look like sockets while the implant attachments are ball shaped. The opposite can be the case, but the end result is the same: the ball fits in the socket.
Bar-retained dentures need a minimum of two to five implants in the jawbone to support the device. These systems use a metal bar which curves around the patient’s jawbone and attaches to all of the dental implants. The dentures fit over the bar and the dentures and/or implants may have attachments on them to clip everything together.
Possible Drawbacks or Risks
While very rare, it is possible for dental implants to fail. Failure is often due to poor oral hygiene but behavior like clenching and grinding the teeth, can also raise the risk of the denture breaking or implant becoming loose. And because the procedure is surgical in nature, it naturally comes with the risk of infection or other complications developing.
The type of retention system used also carries its own risk. Differing from ball-retained dentures, bar-retained dentures require space on the dentures for the attachments which leaves less space on the framework for the teeth. As such, the teeth can come loose in some cases.
Denture Stabilization Costs
Compared to traditional dentures or bridges, implant stabilized dentures are more costly and may not be covered by dental insurance. After an evaluation of the patient’s situation, the dentist should be able to give a specific quote on treatment but in general, patients can expect to pay around $6,000 for the dentures and two implants.
Cost of treatment will vary based on several factors including:
- The number of implants needed – typically, two to four implants are needed per jaw but in some cases, up to 10 may be needed; the more implants required leads to higher cost.
- The type of stabilization system used (bar- vs. ball-retained).
- Choice of material used for the implant and denture – implants are typically titanium because of its superior biocompatibility with the jawbone.
- If additional procedures are needed (tooth extraction, bone or gum graft, treat disease and/or decay, etc.)
- The experience and geographic location of the doctor performing the procedure – in general, a more experienced doctor in large geographic area will charge more than less experienced counterparts.
Why Missing Teeth Should Not Be Ignored
Whether due to time or financial constraints, some patients choose to forgo treatment of their missing teeth. This is ill-advised as ignoring missing teeth can lead to a host of other oral issues including:
- Damage to facial structures
- Difficulties with eating and speaking
- Affects appearance making the patient look older
- Can negatively affect self-esteem