One of the most important decisions you can make about your dental care is the one between dentures vs. implants. And once you've had the procedure, your decision will probably last a lifetime. So, the choice is more than merely a matter of the cost. There's so much more at stake.

What's at stake is your smile. And even more than that, either one may make subtle but significant changes to your appearance. The contours of your face may be slightly different with dentures vs. implants. Along with aesthetic changes, each could differently affect your overall dental health as well as your ability to eat.

Let's take a closer look at the critical difference between dentures vs. implants.

Dentures vs. Implants

You shouldn't decide the question of dentures vs. implants haphazardly. Both dentures and implants essentially serve the same purpose. Both can restore the function and appearance of your natural teeth. However, each option has its own requirements and technical complexities. And each option also has financial considerations.

Both options, however, require you to make a careful assessment before going forward.

You'll need to plan for either possibility with thoughtful planning and coordination with your dentist. And both require a considerable amount of technical expertise from your dental healthcare provider.

When are dentures or implants needed?

People usually need to start considering the question of dentures vs. implants when they lose many teeth or when bone loss occurs. The most common reason for replacement is due to dental extraction.

For the most part, the need for dentures or implants usually arises because of diseases like tooth decay, gum disease, or cancer. And a physical trauma can also result in losing your teeth or bone.

Others might want to consider dentures vs. implants strictly for cosmetic reasons.

For example, it may be more comfortable and convenient to improve the appearance of genetic misalignment with implants. Dentures may often be the most cost-effective way to replace missing teeth that prevent you from eating without pain.


What Are Dentures?

dentures placed on a glass surface

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Dental health providers call dentures "appliances," because they're usually removable. Specialists fabricate dentures to replace missing teeth. The surrounding gum tissue and your jawbone will support them sufficiently.

There are two primary categories of dentures: partial dentures for patients who are missing some of their teeth and complete dentures for patients who are missing all of their teeth in either or both the upper and lower arch.


What Are Implants?

ongoing dental implant surgery

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An implant is a manufactured "tooth root" that your dentist places into your jaw. After insertion, it holds an artificial tooth or bridge.

Your dentist inserts an implant surgically, so it becomes a permanent fixture. There are two main types of implants.

Your dentist will use endosteal implants (within the bone) as an alternative to bridges or removable dentures. Alternatively, your provider may use subperiosteal implants (on the bone), which suit patients who are unable to wear conventional dentures and who have minimal bone height.


How Are They Created?

graphic photo of dental implants

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Although dentures and implants serve the same general purpose, the processes for fabricating and installing them into your mouth are significantly different routes.

Making dentures

Your dental laboratory usually makes dentures with acrylic or porcelain teeth attached to a pink or gum-colored plastic base.

For conventional dentures, your dentist will first remove your remaining teeth. Then, they'll allow the gum tissues to heal. And this process may take several months.

However, the good news is that your dentist can give you removable temporary dentures on the same day that she removes your remaining teeth. However, they'll need to take careful measurements and readjust them after your jaw and gums have healed.

Using implants

The type of implant and the process your dentist uses may depend on how many teeth you're having replaced. Other factors include whether or not your gums or jawbone need augmentation or modification, such as a bone graft.

Implants consist of a screw or a cylinder, which your dentist inserts surgically into your jaw. Over a period of one to six months, the implant and the bone bond together -- called osseointegration.

Then, your dentist will have an artificial tooth or dental crown customized by the lab to fit over the screw or cylinder they implanted into your jaw. It replaces the temporary "tooth" they used while the lab fabricates your custom replacement and you've had a chance to heal.


What Is the Long-Term Difference Between Dentures vs. Implants?

hand holding dentures

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Once again, although dentures and implants serve the same general purpose, the long-term differences can prove significant.

Long term effects of dentures

Dentures conform to the shape of your mouth, and you can remove them for cleaning. Your underlying gum and bone support your denture appliance. However, because there's no relationship between the denture and the bone tissue itself, you'll lose bone tissue over time.

The result is that you'll need to have your denture appliances adjusted as the contours of your face change over time due to bone deterioration.

Dentures also rub against the gums, mainly because they have nothing to hold them in place. And most significantly chewing creates some movement of the dentures causing discomfort.

Aesthetically, dentures can change the shape of the mouth. This can happen immediately as well as over the long-term. Your cheeks can start to look as though they are sinking.

Also, your lips may curve inward as the angle of the jaw begins to shrink. The extra bulk in your mouth can also make your face look bigger, or make your lips look “pushed out.” Sometimes, no matter how skilled the dental technician is, your dentures can simply look like fake teeth.

Long term effects of implant

Implanted devices develop a relationship with the surrounding bone. Osseointegration is a process wherein the implant and the bone bond together. New bone begins to grow directly on the implant, which creates mechanical stability.

This stability makes them resistant to the forces involved in the normal movement in your mouth. The implant replaces the tooth root, which diminishes the reabsorption of bone tissue around the area.

Aesthetically, dental implants don't affect the natural shape of your mouth. That leaves you with your near-original smile. And because bone loss is minimized, it also reduces any adverse changes to the shape of your face and mouth.

You can have the crown or final tooth placed over the implant customized, one at a time. And they can be made to match your surrounding teeth.

Pros and Cons for Dentures vs. Implants

As with any other decision, you can divide the choice between dentures vs. implants into pros and cons.

Dentures: PROS

• Low cost
• Conservative treatment
• Removable
• Replaces teeth
• Restores function
• Returns your ability to smile
• Easy to clean
• Less time to create dentures
• Fewer restrictions during treatment
• No surgery

Dentures: Cons

Dentures: Cons

• Requires adjustment period
• Requires appliance adjustment and replacement
• Bone loss
• Decreased ability to taste food
• Infection as a result of mouth sores
• Alters speech
• Dentures move during chewing
• May click or rattle
• May require adhesives


Implants: PROS

• Neighboring teeth not required for support
• Bone loss is diminished or avoided
• Permanent, non-removable
• Replaces teeth
• Restores function
• Keeps original contours
• Restores smile
• No movement
• No alteration in speech

Implants: CONS

• Higher cost
• Not covered by insurance
• Requires surgery
• Requires sedation
• Surgical complications
• Lengthy process
• Risk of infection
• Treatment restrictions


Comparison: Dentures vs. Implants

person holding dentures

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The decision between dentures vs. implants is one that requires more consideration than cost. Dentures are a conservative treatment. And the thought of having to endure sedation and surgical procedures, along with any of the associated risks, can be daunting.

In fact, other than cost, it's probably the second most common reason many people rule out dental implants as an option. Many feel dentures are a quick and easy fix for lost teeth, no matter the reason. In contrast, dental implants require months of healing time and multiple visits to the dental practitioner's office.

Maintenance and care

One thing is for certain -- dentures are not a one-off procedure. Because there's no relationship between your dentures and the bone tissue itself, you can expect to lose bone tissue over time.

That means that you'll have to have the appliance adjusted as the contours of your face change over time due to aging and bone deterioration. Dentures are also notorious for rubbing up against the gums, causing mouth sores, which are painful and can become infected.

Aesthetics

Dentures vs. implants is also an aesthetic decision. Dentures conform to the shape of the mouth and contour of the face and are supported by the underlying gum and bone.

Dental implants also restore the shape of the mouth and contour of the face, but that restoration and reshaping stay that way, regardless of any changes due to aging. So, the end result is that your facial appearance and smile last longer with implants rather than dentures.

Future considerations

Dental implants have a secondary benefit over dentures. The crown that goes over the screw or cylinder root implant can be removed and replaced one at a time, for whatever reason.

Depending on the type of implanted hardware, dental implants can be modified and added to in the future, as well.

Your dentist can also perform any required bone augmentation or grafting at the same time as the surgery. So you won't need any future surgery as you age.

Concerns with fit

Dentures have one convincing secondary benefit, which is that you can easily remove or replace them. That makes cleaning a pretty straightforward affair.

That mobility, however, creates some inherent inconveniences. Dentures that are removable, easily move. Even subtle movement can cause your dentures to rub against your gums, and this can create painful mouth sores that can become infected.

And finally, if your dentures are easy to replace, that also means they're easily lost or broken.


Dentures vs. Implants: Which Will You Choose?

toy plastic dentures on blue surface

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The decision between dentures vs. implants is indeed an important choice. Most people, however, don't choose to have dentures or implants. The fact is, they've lost teeth, gum, or bone tissue and are seeking restoration so they can return to the same function and appearance they enjoyed before the loss of teeth.

As for cost, the bottom line is that if all they can afford are dentures, then they must settle for dentures. But in reality, dentures won't be just a one-off cost.

Implants have a bigger payoff long-term. After the pain of the higher cost, the discomfort of surgery, the annoying surgical restrictions, and the length of healing time, dental implants, for the most part, are a done deal.

Dentures, on the other hand, will change as the mouth and face change due to bone deterioration.

Like all surgical procedures, complications can cause implants to fail, but for most patients, the success rate is 95 percent for implant longevity of up to 10 years.

Do you have any questions or experience with dentures or implants? The staff at Your Caring Dentist Group is here to help you with your decision. Talk to us in the comments below or make an appointment to discuss your options!

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