Do you have trouble eating or speaking with your denture?
Does this cause you to avoid social situations out of embarrassment?
Is the discomfort and instability of your denture getting you down?
An ‘Overdenture’ is very similar to a traditional denture with one major exception: it snaps onto underlying dental implants placed into the jaw.
In their simplest form, they are an easy and affordable option that combines the stability of implants with the economy of dentures.
The commonest form of this denture that we complete at Melbourne Dentist is a two-implant overdenture for the lower jaw.
In fact this should be considered the first choice standard of care for lower dentures.
Overdentures are less often seen in the upper jaw due to the large surface area and suction effect of the palate.
The benefits of implant supported dentures
Preservation of bone support
After teeth are lost, the bone that once retained them shrinks away.
Most of this bone is lost in the first year but it continues to occur more slowly after this. Over time, particularly with poorly designed or maintained dentures in place, the supporting bone structure can become so small that dentures resting on them are very unstable.
Strategically placed implants placed within the first year after teeth removal will act to retain much of this supportive bone – bone that also helps support the structure of your cheeks and face.
Dentures supported in this fashion will not place as much destructive pressure on these supporting tissues.
Along with having markedly improved stability, overdentures can be made to cover less surface area.
The part of a traditional denture covering the roof of the mouth is an issue for most denture wearers as it will negatively effect the ‘feel’ of food in the mouth. Most overdentures do not need to cover this area.
Reliability and improved self confidence
Overdentures are reliably stable so adhesives and pastes will be a thing of the past. They will spell the end to embarrassing moments in public trying to speak or eat.
They are substantially cheaper to produce and maintain than the fully fixed alternatives.
Overdentures can be readily removed for easy cleaning. Fully fixed alternatives can be quite difficult to clean around to ensure the health of the underlying implant supporting tissues.
With a remarkable improvement in stability and oral comfort comes a significant improvement your ability to chew all foods. Being able to chew foods tough in texture again allows for diet modification and improved nutrition. This can have a great impact on general health.
Overdentures vs. Implant supported fixed bridges
If you have lost all of your teeth in one jaw, your two broad options to replace these with the help of implant stabilisation are:
A fixed bridge (permanent fixed teeth only removable by a dentist).
An overdenture (removable teeth that fit over and snap onto dental implants)
While most people would prefer a fixed option if possible, there are instances where the removable option is a better one.
The determining factor is bone loss.
If there is a severe loss of bone, there will be a lack of support for the lips and cheeks. A fixed device cannot readily replace this support unless it is made to cover a larger surface area of the remaining ridges. When this is done, the resultant device can be impossible to clean under leading to inflammation and infection around such a bridge.
Gum aesthetics are also an issue, particularly in the upper jaw. If lip movement during a full smile moves upwards enough to show the ridge area, a fixed bridge may not be a viable option. In an ideal world, there should be a small space between the fitting surface of the bridge and the ridge so you can clean under it – this space would be visible. Again, you could cover it over, but then maintenance may be impossible.
Finally, long term maintenance should always be considered. All appliances will show wear and tear and eventual breakage. Repairs are generally easier, quicker and less costly with overdentures.
FAQ’s about implant supported dentures
Am I a candidate for overdentures?
Implants are not only appropriate for ‘younger’ people. Neither age nor osteoporosis is a barrier to successful integration of implants.
In general, if you are healthy enough to have a tooth removed, you are a candidate for implant overdenture treatment.
Most importantly, if you are having issues with a loose denture now, the problem can only worsen with time as more supporting bone is lost. In old age, pain and poor nutrition from an inability to eat can make life truly miserable.
How long will it take?
After careful assessment and pre-planning, the implants are most often completed in one visit. Once healed, overdenture production is similar to that of traditional dentures. No local anaesthetic will be required during overdenture production.
In general, the overall process will take around four months – most of this time is spent allowing the bone around the implants to heal so they can take load.
How many implants will be needed?
The number is different in the upper jaw than the lower
The strategic placement of two dental implants is often sufficient to retain a lower overdenture.
Additional implants towards the back of the mouth could be helpful to prevent the denture lifting in this area.
Current evidence suggests that at least four implants are needed to retain an implant overdenture.
Additionally, it may be better for the longevity of the implants if there was a framework used to splint all implants together.
Is it expensive?
The overall expense depends on how many implants are needed.
Currently the cost per implant is around $3500. This includes the implant placement and all componentry attached to it to allow it to retain the denture.
The cost of the denture is additional to this and depends on the quality of appliance you want.
It may even be possible to convert your current denture into an overdenture to further reduce costs.
These costs are considerably less than the costs of the alternative treatment of fixed implant bridges.
Another consideration is the money saved via the preservation of the underlying supporting ridge – far fewer relines should be needed over time.
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