Over the years the most commonly opted treatment for replacement of all or most of the missing teeth were either complete dentures or partial dentures. These were made of acrylic resin and had its own set of drawbacks. However for decades it was used as it was a cheap, fast and a valuable treatment option for patients.
A complete denture replaces all the teeth. The upper denture covers all of the palate and relies on suction to hold it in place. As a result about 70% of the ability to taste is reduced and speech is impaired.
In the lower jaw, the denture relies on tight fit and muscle control for stability but invariably floats in the mouth hindering speech and mastication.
A partial denture replaces few missing teeth. The partial denture may be reinforced with metal and may have clasps or hooks to hold on to natural teeth for support. But as these teeth become weak, the partial denture becomes loose and uncomfortable to use.
Both complete dentures and partial dentures are removable and need maintenance to avoid breakage and prolong life of the prosthesis.
As our population continues to age and our senior citizens live longer and healthier, the satisfaction with those removable false teeth has decreased. Moreover, when teeth are lost and there are subsequent bone changes in the facial skeleton making the dentures unstable, less retentive and affects social life.
Added to this problem are medications and medical conditions, which alter quantity and quality of saliva making it difficult for the patient to hold the dentures in place. They also need to make frequent visits to the dentist for adjustment. Decreased muscle control with age adds to the misery.
Also elderly who lose teeth late in life after decades of using natural teeth find it difficult to adapt to dentures as it has a learning curve during the initial wearing phase.
The good news is that modern dentistry has now more predictable options to offer and the ability to eat and enjoy food has become a reality.
Implant supported dentures are more stable, preserve bone, don’t cover as much of gums, decreases irritation and increases taste.
Dental implants are titanium fixtures, biocompatible and are surgically placed in the jawbone to anchor some or all of the missing teeth. This is most of the time possible under local anesthesia.
They become part of the jaw by a process understood as osseo-integration and invariably function as life-long anchors for restorations like partial / complete dentures, crowns and bridges.
The retention of the denture is usually determined by the number of implants placed and the type of attachment it has to the denture. A minimum of two implants is needed to support a previously loose denture in a semi fixed manner. A maximum of 4 to 6 implants is needed to support the denture in a fully fixed manner.
The latest concept is the use of technology in a procedure called ‘All on 4’ which provides fixed teeth with predictable esthetics on just 4 implants with almost immediate functionality.
So if you are soldiering on with loose dentures for years, dental implants could be the answer to make you eat well, smile with confidence and enjoy life once again.
-Dr. Samuel Shadrack