If you have lost most of your teeth and find it hard to smile or eat with confidence, you may wish to get dental implants or dentures. But what are they exactly, and which one is more suitable? If you’re grappling with the decision between the two, this article is for you.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are artificial prostheses used to replace teeth. They are used to fill dental gaps, prevent bone loss, and help protect the rest of your teeth.
There is a variety of types of dental implants, but they all have 3 main components: (from top to bottom) the crown, the implant abutment and the implant post.
In your dental implant surgery, the implant post will be inserted into your jaw and act as a replacement for the root of the tooth that has been lost. This means that the fixture is permanent and can act like a normal tooth.
What are dentures?
Dentures are a replacement for missing teeth that is removable. They consist of false teeth attached to a pink or gum-coloured acrylic base that is fitted into your mouth.
We commonly identify dentures by two main types — complete or partial dentures. Complete dentures or full dentures are for those who have lost all their teeth, while partial dentures are for those who have lost some teeth but also have some good teeth remaining. There are two types of complete dentures: conventional dentures and immediate dentures.
Conventional dentures are complete sets of dentures that are fitted after removal or damaged teeth and the gum tissues have healed. However, because your mouth may not be ready for permanent dentures immediately, you might need to recover for several months before using these dentures. In this case, temporary dentures may be fitted to help tide through the recovery period.
Immediate dentures are for those who want dentures immediately after the extraction of teeth. In this case, immediate dentures are made right before extraction and inserted right after.
Meanwhile, partial dentures have gaps for your natural teeth and artificial teeth for missing teeth.
What is the difference between dental implants and dentures?
The main difference between dental implants and dentures is their removability. Dental implants have titanium screws that are permanently fixed into your jawbone, substituting the root of the missing tooth. Meanwhile, dentures may be taken out as and when you wish to. However, recent developments have also come up with non-removable dentures, so do ask your dentist what options are available for you.
|Longevity||Can last about 10 years with proper care and dental checkups.||Last only about 2 – 3 years before needing replacement due to wear and tear.|
|Convenience||No need to remove dentures or use adhesives.||You have to avoid hard and sticky foods. It may be uncomfortable, difficult to eat or speak at first, but you will get used to it soon.|
|Ease of use||Dental implants are as good as your own natural teeth.||Dentures may slip and slide around, especially when laughing, coughing, eating or smiling. If the dentures feel too loose or often go out of place, seek help from the dentist.|
|Cleaning and Maintenance||Dental implants can be cleaned just like regular teeth – by brushing and flossing.||Dentures need to be cleaned daily using soft bristles and water. Do not use toothpaste as it can be too abrasive for them.|
|Permanent||Dental implants are permanent, which means you can’t back out unless you remove them surgically.||Dentures are removable, so you don’t have to commit to anything permanent. There are some dentures which can be implanted too, so explore your options with the dentist.|
|Surgery||Dental implants require surgery, so there may be pain, swelling and bleeding or other surgical complications. There may be side effects from anaesthesia, or even post-op infection.||No surgery is required for dentures so there are no risks of surgical complications.|
Who is suitable for dental implants?
Dental implants are suitable for those with good oral hygiene and strong gums. You will also need enough jawbone for the implants to be secure. Therefore, the dentist will carry out an examination of your dental health and check for a good foundation for the implants to ensure you can be given the go-ahead for dental implant surgery.
Who are not suitable for dental implants?
If you fall into any of the below categories, you may want to consider alternatives other than dental implants:
- You have uncontrolled diabetes
- You have cancer or are undergoing cancer treatment
- You have preexisting gum disease
- You are a habitual smoker
- You are a habitual drinker
Who is suitable for dentures?
Good candidates for dentures are those who have significant tooth loss but have enough healthy gum tissues and jawbone.
Who are not suitable for dentures?
The following are people who are not suitable for dentures, and may want to consider other alternatives:
- You have only lost one tooth or a couple of teeth.
- You are sensitive to gagging
- You have a little jawbone
- You have oral cancers
It may be hard to decide on whether you want something more permanent and convenient like dental implants, or whether you want something less risky and cheaper like dentures. Let your dentist do an evaluation of your condition, and inform them about your needs and budget. They will discuss with you the various options that are available and suitable for your condition. Given the myriad of dental prostheses out there, we’re sure you’ll find a solution that works out for you.
- Stanford, C. M. (2007). Dental implants: a role in geriatric dentistry for the general practice?. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 138, S34-S40.
- Gaviria, L., Salcido, J. P., Guda, T., & Ong, J. L. (2014). Current trends in dental implants. Journal of the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 40(2), 50-60.
- Friel, T., & Waia, S. (2020). Removable Partial Dentures for Older Adults. Primary Dental Journal, 9(3), 34-39.
- McCord, J. F., & Grant, A. A. (2000). Complete dentures: an introduction. British dental journal, 188(7), 373-374.