Dental implants are becoming a more and more popular—and highly recommended—choice for patients who lose a tooth to injury or decay and want to have it permanently replaced with an option that looks, feels, and functions just like a natural tooth. But what about people who have lost all their teeth? Dental implants are an option for people who have no teeth left as well—even if they've been wearing dentures for some time. Take a look at some of the most important things that dental patients should know about full-mouth dental implants.
What Full-Mouth Dental Implants Aren't
A common misconception is that getting a full set of implants involves implanting 28 separate replacement teeth—one for each missing tooth. Patients may assume that full-mouth implants would be too expensive or that multiple implant surgeries would be too painful and time-consuming, so they fail to consider them a viable option.
Implanting 28 individual teeth would indeed be expensive and time-consuming. Luckily, that's not how full-mouth dental implants work. Another name for full-mouth implants is implant-supported dentures, and that name can give you a better picture of how a full set of dental implants would work for you. Your dentist only needs to install a few implants in strategic places in your mouth, and those implants will be used to install and hold a device similar to a denture. This way, a few implants can be used to replace multiple teeth while keeping costs and recovery time to a minimum.
How Long-Term Denture Wearers Can Switch to Implants
A dental implant is made up of a titanium post that is implanted into the jaw and then topped with a crown that resembles a natural tooth. For implants to work, the jaw bone has to be able to support the implant. Unfortunately, jaw bone density decreases the longer a tooth is missing. This can lead to the belief that patients who have been missing teeth for a long time, including those that have worn dentures for years, cannot be candidates for dental implants.
However, there's good news for denture-wearers who would like to switch to dental implants. Even if you've experienced bone loss, a process called bone augmentation can give you the bone density that you need in order to support dental implants. This is a process that involves the dentist implanting a bone graft to your existing jaw bone. The graft can come from another part of your body, or your dentist can use donated bone material from a cadaver or a cow. There's also a synthetic bone option. The graft encourages new bone growth, enabling your dentist to install dental implants.
Why Full-Mouth Dental Implants Are the Best Choice
Dental implants have a number of advantages over dentures. For patients, the most obvious and immediate impact can be observed while eating. Although dentures can allow you to chew food, they don't give you the bite power that you had with your natural teeth. That's because there are no tooth roots anchoring dentures into your gums, so you don't have the leverage that you had with your natural teeth. Dentures can also slip and slide while you're chewing. You may have trouble chewing foods that are tough, stringy, or sticky.
Dental implants, however, give you a tooth root and prevent denture devices from moving around in your mouth. This can restore your bite power to the same or close to the same level that you had with your natural teeth, allowing you to eat your favorite foods without difficulty.
Dental implants can also improve the aesthetics of your smile and the mechanics of your speech—the same movements that can cause difficulty while eating with dentures can cause embarrassing slips while smiling or speaking with dentures. Implants also help you maintain jaw bone density over time. The titanium root stimulates bone growth. This prevents changes to your face shape that can occur when you wear dentures or have missing teeth for long periods of time.
Dental patients should consider dental implants as an option whether they need one tooth, several teeth, or all of their teeth replaced. If you're in need of a full-mouth tooth replacement option, ask your dentist whether you're a good candidate for full-mouth dental implants.