Recent advances in dentistry have made possible full dentures that are more stable, more comfortable, and chew better. The problem with conventional dentures of the past is that the loss of teeth meant the loss of jawbone over time. Eventually, dentures lose support, stability, and the facial shape looks aged. Complete denture wearers are usually able to wear an upper denture without problems, but many struggle to eat with the complete lower denture because it is too mobile. This is evidenced by the widespread use of denture adhesives. Further, many patients report that they can no longer eat hard or tough foods forcing them to change the foods they eat, resulting in a less healthy diet. What’s new in dentistry to overcome these issues? Implant stabilization.
The McGill Consensus Statement on Overdentures by J. M. Thomason et. Al. (held at McGill University in Montreal and is accessible online) found agreement between a panel of experts from more than a dozen countries, clinical trials, and surveys of denture wearers that implant retained full dentures produced higher satisfaction in the areas of ability to chew various foods, increased comfort, and ease of speech. This improvement was so significant that the panel concluded that there is “overwhelming evidence that implant supported dentures should be the treatment of choice, especially for lower full dentures.”
What are implants and how do they work? An implant is typically a cylinder made of surgical grade titanium that is implanted into the remaining jawbone. In a few months the bone will “knit” around the implant in the same manner in which a stabilized bone fracture will “knit”. At this point, attachments can be connected to the implant body that will be used to anchor the denture. The McGill study confirmed the survival rate of implants is high and the incidence of surgical complications is very low. Patients found the implant-retained dentures significantly more stable, and they rate their ability to chew various foods as significantly easier. They felt they were more comfortable and could speak more easily with the implant retained dentures. An added benefit of implants is that they prevent further bone loss in the areas where they were placed.
Who is a candidate for implants? Anyone who is healthy enough to have a tooth extracted is probably healthy enough to have an implant placed. Placement is done under local anesthetic such as used for extractions and fillings. While this will add cost to the cost of the denture, the McGill group concluded that it was not as much as many think. Dentistry now has the means to bring dramatic improvements to all denture wearers, with low downside liabilities, by using implants.