Know anybody who is missing all their teeth? Know anybody who hates their dentures? I am certain that everyone knows at least one person who is wearing, or attempting to wear, dentures. Every day I have patients who are surprised that we fully expect them to keep their teeth for the rest of their lives. We have been so conditioned to believe that we are eventually going to lose all our teeth that many older adults just assume that is a natural progression in life. In many of these cases, the patient will tell us their mother or father lost their teeth at an early age and their mom’s mom lost her teeth at an early age, on down the family line. They will also usually tell us how miserable their parent was with their dentures, and that is why their parents always made sure the kids got the dental care the parent never did. In this article, we will revisit a service that I have seen change so many lives.
Any body with a lower or bottom denture will tell you they just don’t fit, no matter how well they are made or how much they cost. The anatomy of the lower jaw and the tongue are just not conducive to getting something to fit and stay still. The denture just rides along the ridge and becomes a very annoying moving target. The problem gets worse over time as the patient loses more and more bone. I am sure that many denture wearers who are reading this article are nodding their heads while they are reading!
The Solution: Dental Implants
With dental implants, we now have a very reliable, relatively inexpensive and very effective way to hold the lower denture in place and, in the process, change a person’s life dramatically. By placing 4-6 implants in the Jaw we can snap the denture into those implants and go from a denture that was an uncomfortable moving target at best to one that is stable, well supported and gives you back a great deal of bite force that you forgot you lost when you lost your teeth. Food just chews better with dental implant supported dentures.
In many cases, we have taken patients who either don’t wear their tissue supported dentures at all or only wear them on Sunday, to patients who can comfortably wear their implant supported dentures all day long. They do not want to go without them. They can eat just about anything they want, speak with confidence without a lisp and do not have to worry about the embarrassment of their teeth coming loose at a dinner party. In more than one situation we have provided this service to a patient’s spouse, usually the husband, who refuses to wear his current denture even at social functions, often to the embarrassment of his family.
Dental Implant Process
Assuming the patient is healthy, and enough bone remains, the process is straight forward and very predictable. The first step is placing the implants, preferably 4-6 for the upper jaw and 2-4 for the lower jaw. The implants are surgically placed in the anterior or front portion of the jaw. The implants are typically left to heal for about 4 months. During this time the patient wears their current set of dentures. After 4 months, small caps are placed on top of the healed implants. The caps correspond to small receivers that are placed in the underside of the denture. These receivers can then be snapped down onto the implant caps, firmly holding the denture in place. The implants will not only keep the dentures from moving but also give support underneath to improve the patient’s biting force and ability to chew. In most case we make the patient new upper and lower dentures as part of the final process. This allows for the best results as far as strength and esthetics.
Implants can also be placed under upper dentures, although most patients get along relatively well with upper dentures without implants. For upper dentures we place 4-6 implants, because the bone in the upper jaw is not as strong as the bone in the lower jaw- it is more porous. With 6 implants we can usually get enough strength to remove the part of the denture that covers the palate or roof of the mouth. For many patients, especially those prone to gagging, this can be a huge benefit. It will also often improve the patient’s ability to taste food and speak.
If there is one part of my practice where we see the most “tears of joy” shed, this is it. It is always fun to change someone’s smile with veneers, but as far as dramatically change the quality of a patient’s life, now this is life changing. To be able to give a patient who has struggled with a denture—sometimes for 10, 20, 30 years – something that stays put and allows them to eat things they haven’t eaten for many year puts a huge smile, and often a tear, on the face of the patient and dentist alike.
I would encourage anyone who is currently struggling with dentures or who is potentially going to lose their teeth to talk to their dentist about the implant option. It is never too late to change your or someone else’s life. We are here to help! Give us a call at 813 365-3552!