Full mouth dental implant replacement options:
So long as you have a few teeth left, your dentist can make you a partial denture. Partial dentures anchor onto your remaining teeth to stabilize and hold them in place. While not your best option, they seem to work okay in most cases and hold up quite well. However, once you have no more teeth left in your mouth a full denture (complete denture) is your only option. Many people are unhappy with their full dentures and have problems with them. If you’re one of those unhappy denture wearers then you probably have been researching dental implants. There are two basic dental implant options available to you when it comes to replacing all your teeth: Implant-supported dentures or implant retained bridge. One involves a denture anchoring onto implants and the other is a bridge secured onto several implants:
Implant-supported dentures (overdentures)
One option to replace all of your teeth is known as implant-supported dentures or overdentures. This treatment involves placing several dental implants, 2 to 4 per arch, to anchor your false teeth. A denture is then fabricated which locks onto these implants and is secured by the implant in place. The denture will have a few lock and keys to attach to the implants. It will also be much smaller than your current set of dentures since it doesn’t rely on attaching to your gums any longer.
Implant-retained bridge (all-on-fours)
A second option to replace all your teeth is known as implant-retained bridge or an all-on-fours. This involves placing about 4 to 8 implants per arch to anchor your bridge. A bridge is then fabricated and screwed or glued permanently on top of these implants. The term all-on-fours refers to the minimum need for four implants to secure the bridge. Although occasionally more than four implant is needed to perform this treatment.
So what benefits does each treatment option offer you? And which one works better for you?
Advantages of implant-supported dentures (overdentures)
Implant-supported dentures is basically a set of dentures anchored onto dental implants. These are the benefits that they offer you:
Implant-supported dentures (overdentures) are much more affordable than other implant treatment options
Implant treatment options are generally quite expensive as you would imagine. Implant-supported dentures typically cost several thousands dollars, ranging in between $3,500 to $5,000+ per arch. So you could get a full set of upper and lower implant-supported dentures for well under $10,000. The majority of people only receive this treatment for their lower arch which is typically the more problematic one.
On the other hand, implant-retained bridges cost several tens-of-thousands of dollars. Treatment for upper and lower arch can approach six-digits for the entire procedure. There are several reasons why implant-retained bridges are so much more expensive:
- They require more implants as well as more expensive types of implants than implant-supported dentures do.
- Placement of dental implants has to be very accurate and precise. The implants must be spread out and relatively parallel to one another to provide a good support for your permanent bridge.
- Teeth fabrication process is much more difficult and costly for a bridge as compared to a denture.
Implant supported dentures (overdentures) are a much easier all around treatment option
Implant-supported dentures is a much easier all around treatment than implant-retained bridges are. Typically only very experienced and skilled dentists or prosthodontists perform this treatment as it is both complex and time consuming. On the other hand, many more dentists offer overdenture treatment due to its relative ease:
Easier to qualify for overdentures
You can qualify for overdentures even if you have very weak jawbone. This is because your dentist only needs to place a few small, skinny implants to anchor your dentures. On the other hand, all-on-fours treatment requires much greater bone presence for larger and sturdier implants.
Easier to place implants
Your dentist or oral surgeon only needs to place two to four small implants for overdenture treatment. Additionally the implants can be placed anywhere you have good enough jawbone. Usually dentists place the implants in the front region of your jaws which has better bone. On the other hand, implant-retained bridges requires larger dental implants. The implants must also be spread out evenly throughout your entire jaw. This makes it much more challenging and not everyone qualifies for this treatment.
Easier to place teeth on top of implants
Making a denture that sits on top of your implants is not that much more difficult than making a regular set of dentures. It only requires a few visits to make and is relatively straight forward. On the other hand making a bridge for implant-retained bridge treatment is very challenging. Getting the bridge to fit and look perfect is difficult work. Everything has to be performed very precisely and accurately for you to be happy with the final results. These treatments typically require numerous visits and take much longer to complete.
Repairing or replacing false teeth is much easier with implant-supported dentures (overdentures)
This is a fact that is commonly overlooked. Once dental implants are placed and healed properly they rarely cause a problem. However your false teeth, whether in the form of a denture or bridge, are susceptible to problems. They can break, lose a tooth or crack in half just like any other dental prosthesis would.
If overdentures get damaged, repairs are usually easy and straightforward. The acrylic can be glued back together or a tooth can be added to it with relative ease. Your dentist can send them to the lab to have them repaired within a few days. In fact occasionally you might even be able to go directly to the denture lab and have them fixed in one day.
On other hand, implant-retained bridges are very difficult to repair should they get damaged. Repairs are hard to do and typically take a long time. Often times a repair is not even an option and you will require a whole new bridge. This means that you may have to spend another few months redoing your entire bridge. This can be a major nuisance but unfortunately there’s not much you can do about it.