(03) 9857 3988     |     333 Doncaster Road, Balwyn North VIC 3104
18 November 2021

Dental implants & alternatives to dentures

For many seniors, regular trips to the dentist weren’t common when they were growing up. Dental disease was widespread, and in a time before water fluoridation, floss and dental implants, many people had dentures at a relatively young age to replace lost teeth. Some of you will be surprised to find out that in days gone by, parents use to have all their children’s teeth removed and given dentures as a milestone birthday present when they reached 21.

Due to advances in dentistry, a focus on preventative maintenance and widespread use of fluoride, the number of people with ‘false teeth’ has declined. But even today, nearly one out of four people aged 65 and older have experienced complete tooth loss, according to a survey conducted by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

My philosophy is that wherever possible and practical, it’s important to hang on to a tooth rather than remove it. However, sometimes you just can’t, and that’s where space replacement options need to be looked at.

While dentures were the only option in the past, today, we are spoilt for choice with many treatment options to choose from to replace missing tooth/teeth ranging from dentures, implant supported dentures, dental bridges and dental implants. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Why does a space need to be closed?

When you’ve got one or two teeth missing, it’s important to cover the space rather than leave it. Often, clients will say, ‘Oh it’s only a back tooth, let’s just rip it out and leave a space’. However, it is important to understand the possible consequences of having a space:

  • Adjacent and opposing teeth to the space will gradually tilt into these spaces, changing the bite and creating food pockets which eventually lead to loss of more teeth;
  • You lose bone due to absence of tooth, which can create that ‘sunken in’ look due to loss of bone support;
  • You develop an aged smile; and
  • You have an increased loading on adjacent teeth, which leads to increased wear and eventual loss of these teeth.

Dentures vs dental implants

Dentures are one of the options for replacing spaces. There are different types of dentures to suit different problems. There are partial dentures or full dentures, and you can have them in acrylic or metal. The important thing to know is these are not your grandparents’ dentures. Technology has changed a lot, and these days at The Dental Room we use CAD-CAM scanning and laser milling technology to create dentures that are amazingly stable and retentive in the mouth. And best of all, our dental technicians are all in-house and involved first hand in the process.

But even with all that, there are several disadvantages to dentures. The reality of dentures is that in 5 to 10 years, you would see that the fit is not as good as it used to be.

The reason this happens is because dentures don’t load the bone optimally. Over time you will get a recession of the bone. Therefore, there is a gap that occurs between the fitting surface and your new bone levels. The result of that is the denture loses its retention. This doesn’t happen with an implant because you are optimally loading the bone. Therefore, you have less bone reduction and that less saggy look in the future.

Implants and options to dentures

Another space replacement option in these situations are bridges. Using bridges involves preparing the two teeth on either side of the gap. If they are virgin teeth or they’ve got very minor fillings, you are altering their prognosis by adjusting against a bridge.

The gold standard in tooth replacement options is a dental implant. The advantage of dental implants vs dentures is that you can replace the space without doing anything else to the teeth on either side. When you sometimes have to remove more teeth due to advanced dental disease, options include All-on-4 implants to replace the teeth.

There are times when an implant isn’t a possibility. If a client has osteoporosis, their bone quality may not be as good. That needs to be checked prior to any implant surgery. Also, they might be on certain medication like bisphosphonates, which can cause an increased risk of complications.

Clients with osteoporosis who still need good functioning teeth can be a candidate but proper investigation is required.

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