Deciding between dentures vs implants seems like it would be simple, but it’s really not. Each type of teeth replacement option has its own pros and cons, which means you have to carefully weigh dentures vs implants to ensure you choose the right solution for your lifestyle and needs. Once you decide between implants and dentures and begin the process, you can’t go back and choose the other option if you suddenly change your mind. So, take your time, consider the pros and cons of dentures and implants, and be confident in your decision.
Dentures vs Implants Pros & Cons
As with most major choices in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to both dentures and implants. You give up some of the benefits of one by choosing the other no matter which option you pick, but by completing a cost benefit analysis of dentures vs implants, you’ll ensure that you select the option that offers the most benefits for you. Keep in mind that the option that’s right for you may not be the same one that’s right for another person. Only you can determine the best course of action for your condition.
Pros to Getting Dentures
Before we discuss the pros to getting dentures vs implants, you need to understand exactly what dentures are. When you lose one or more teeth to gum disease, tooth decay, or injury, you can replace them with partial or complete dentures, which are removable false teeth that are designed to look like real teeth. Typically, full dentures, which replace all of your upper or lower teeth, are made of acrylic resin (plastic) or porcelain, but they can sometimes be made from other materials.
Partial dentures, which replace just some of your upper or lower teeth, are made from various materials including acrylic resin, chrome cobalt, base metal alloys, or flexible polymer. Partial denture frameworks can also be constructed of nickel chrome, stainless steel, or gold, but these materials are much less common. Partial dentures must have a metal component because they are attached to natural teeth to make sure they stay in place.
The main pros to getting dentures vs implants are:
- Temporary dentures can immediately fill a gap left by a missing tooth. There is no need to wait until an implant heals below the gumline before replacing your tooth. Therefore, you don’t have an incomplete smile for too long.
- Permanent dentures are easy to fit and only require one appointment for impressions and jaw measurements.
- You can remove your dentures for cleaning, which means they can be cleaned more thoroughly. You’re able to get into all the nooks and crannies with a brush and they can be soaked in a denture cleaning solution overnight.
- Dentures are less expensive than implants
- Dentures are made more quickly and can be fitted more quickly than implants.
- There is no invasive procedure required to get dentures.
- Dentures are easier to repair than implants.
Cons to Getting Dentures
Despite all the benefits of dentures vs implants, there are some drawbacks that you’ll need to consider too. These include the following cons:
- Dentures don’t fit as well as implants because they are sitting on top of the gums instead of being affixed to an anchor that is a part of the gums.
- Dentures don’t always stay in place because they aren’t anchored to teeth or implant screws. Partial dentures do not usually have this problem because they are anchored to the adjacent natural teeth.
- Dentures have to be replaced every five-to-ten years, which means while they’re initially more inexpensive than implants, they may not be cheaper in the long run if you have to buy several pairs of dentures.
- Despite innovations in technology, dentures may not look as natural as implants.
- You will probably have to invest in denture adhesives to make sure your dentures stay in place, which means you’ll have additional costs and hassles associated with dentures.
- Dentures will break if they are dropped while cleaning or when putting them in your mouth.
- There is an increased risk of gum disease if food gets trapped between your dentures and your gum and it isn’t cleaned away quickly.
- You have to be careful about what foods you eat because sticky, hard, or crunchy foods can damage dentures. Corn on the cob and apples can make dentures come loose or fall out.
- Dentures can affect your speech because they can move around.
- If you get a partial denture, your natural teeth on each side of the partial have to be damaged to become anchors for the partial.
- There is a risk of developing sores on your gums from the pressure of dentures.
Pros to Getting Implants
Implants are a more permanent option for replacing missing teeth, regardless of the reason you lost them. A surgical procedure is required to replace the roots of your natural teeth with titanium, screw-like posts. These posts are placed in your jawbone and given time to heal. During the healing process, your jawbone grows around the implant, making it a part of your body. Once your gum line has entirely healed, false teeth made from porcelain that have been created to replicate your natural teeth are screwed onto the implant.
The process for getting implants can take several months and possibly over a year. This is because it requires a surgical procedure to insert the titanium implants into your jawbone. Additionally, if you don’t have enough jawbone available to support the implants, you’ll have to have a bone graft first to build up the base where the implant will go. You might even have to have several bone grafts to get the right amount of bone before the actual surgery to insert the implant is scheduled.
Even so, there are plenty of benefits to getting implants over dentures:
- Implants are permanent, which is a huge plus in the dentures vs implants argument.
- You do not have to remove implants to clean them. You brush and floss them like you do your natural teeth.
- Implants stay in place because they are a part of your jaw.
- Implants are designed to last forever, as they become part of your body (the teeth attached to the implant may have to be replaced every 10-to-15 years).
- You can’t drop your implants, so they are less susceptible to damage.
- Implants look and feel more natural than dentures.
- You can eat any food you wish without restrictions.
- You will not experience any issues with your speech if you choose implants because they are made to exactly mimic your natural teeth.
- Natural teeth that remain are preserved because they are not needed to anchor the false teeth.
Cons to Getting Implants
Implants seem to have many advantages in the dentures vs implants battle, but they also have some drawbacks:
- Implants are significantly more expensive than dentures and they may not be covered by insurance. If you have to have bone grafts, this adds to the cost.
- The surgical and healing processes add a lot of time between when you lose your teeth to when they can be replaced.
- There are risks of infection related to the surgical procedure to insert the implants.
- Implants cannot be removed for cleaning or any other purpose.
- There is a risk of losing bone around the implants, which is a natural consequence of aging. This means you could have to replace your implants if too much adjacent bone is lost.
- There is a risk that the implants may fail. Your body could reject the implants or for some reason, your jawbone does not grow around the titanium screws. If this happens, you’ll have to have surgery to remove them. You may or may not be able to repeat the procedure to try implants again.
- Upper implants carry a risk of damaging your sinus cavities.
- Both upper and lower implants carry a risk of nerve damage, which can cause numbness or tingling in your natural teeth, jaw, lips, or chin.
- No adhesives are required to keep implants in place.
Dentures vs Implants: Considerations for Seniors
If you just look at the number of pros and cons for dentures vs implants, you may come to the conclusion that implants win hands down, even if they are the more expensive option. But, that’s not entirely the full picture, especially if you’re a senior citizen. Dental implants offer a more permanent solution than dentures, but the surgical process is arduous and may not be for everyone. If you’re an older senior citizen, it might be better to choose dentures over implants because the risk of surgery may be too great.
Moreover, the expense of implants and the surgical risks may not be worth it if you don’t anticipate outliving their usefulness, especially if your insurance won’t cover it. Seniors in their 60s still have several decades in front of them to enjoy the permanence of implants, but if you’re in your 80s or 90s, you may find that dentures are the more economical and logical option. Certainly, if you’re willing to accept the risks of surgery and don’t mind spending more money on implants, there’s no reason why you can’t get them instead of dentures, even if you’re approaching the century mark.
Only You Can Decide
In the end, only you can decide between dentures vs implants and what’s right for you. Get opinions from people your age who have opted for dentures and from those who have chosen implants to hear real stories from people who faced the same decision you do. Discuss your concerns with your dentist to help you understand the specific risks you face with either option and seek a second opinion if you are still undecided.
This is not a decision you should rush because you really can’t change your mind midstream. Take your time and weigh the pros and cons of dentures vs implants to discover the tooth loss solution that will give you back your smile.
- Dental Implant Surgery, Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org