Losing teeth can be a very distressing experience – after all, you use them every day to help you eat and speak properly.
If you have a missing tooth at the front of your mouth, or multiple missing teeth, this can cause low self-esteem and affect your ability to bite and talk.
There is also a greater risk of developing gum disease in the exposed gaps; not to mention that uneven pressures and gradual loss of bone density can cause the surrounding teeth to shift out of alignment in your jaw.
Replacing lost teeth can help to restore your bite, speech, and confidence – and two of the most common ways to do this are dentures and dental implants.
The best option for you depends on factors like the condition of your remaining teeth and jaw, and your preferences for appearance, comfort, and cost.
To help you decide which would be most suitable for you, here is a guide to dental implants vs dentures, comparing their benefits and disadvantages.
A denture is a removable prosthetic that replaces missing teeth and soft tissues. It stays in place during the day using a dental adhesive to create a seal between your gums and the denture. Some dentures have steel clasps to secure them to remaining teeth.
Partial dentures can replace a few missing teeth, while full dentures can replace the complete set of teeth on the upper or lower jaw (or both jaws).
Dentures are designed to look like natural teeth and gums and restore the ability to bite and chew. They can be fitted to your gums regardless of your jawbone density, and the procedure is typically faster than getting dental implants.
First, the dentist takes an impression of your mouth to create a mould of the area that requires a denture. They will then study how your jaws align by testing your bite on wax blocks. These moulds are sent to the lab to create preliminary dentures.
When it’s ready, you will try out the model denture to check that it’s comfortable and make sure you’re happy with how it looks. The lab can then make any requested adjustments and create your final denture, which you will take home with you.
Even if you need an extraction or crown before you can have dentures fitted, the recovery time and denture creation process is relatively quick.
A dental implant is a replacement tooth made up of an artificial root, a connecting abutment, and a crown. This replicates the entire tooth rather than just the crown visible above the gum line, as the root is embedded in the jaw.
A single dental implant can replace an individual missing tooth, or multiple implants can replace several missing teeth. If a few consecutive teeth are missing, four or six implants can be used to support a bridge of eight to ten teeth.
The process usually involves two primary appointments, with one being the implant insertion surgery, which takes place under local anaesthetic.
To insert the implant, the dentist will create a hole in your gum and drill the titanium screw into your jawbone below. This is then left to heal for up to six months, giving the biocompatible metal post time to integrate with your jaw.
In some cases, you can have temporary crowns fitted right after the surgery, so you don’t have to go around without teeth for several months. However, you must wait for dental implant roots to be fully healed and secured before returning to have the final crowns attached.
If you don’t have enough bone to anchor the implant root, you may need to undergo a sinus lift or bone graft at the recommendation of your dentist to rectify this, but it will extend the overall healing and completion time.
Getting dental implants is certainly more invasive and extensive than getting a denture, but the results are also more permanent.
Dentures are made of a base plate that is moulded over your gums, with false teeth attached. They are crafted to look as natural as possible, but the acrylic material won’t necessarily pass for natural gum tissue, even with colour matching.
When you first start wearing a denture, it can take some time to get used to it. The appliance can feel bulky in your mouth, and you’ll have to practice speaking and chewing with the denture in to develop the appropriate muscle control.
Dentures are held in place with adhesive and suction, but this may wear off throughout the day, leaving them prone to slipping. This can not only rub against your gums and the roof of your mouth, causing soreness, but it can also be embarrassing if your dentures shift or pop out while you’re trying to eat or talk with other people.
To avoid damaging dentures or dislodging them, you’ll have to adjust your diet – your dentist will give you a list of foods and drinks that you won’t be able to consume if you want your dentures to perform well and look good.
As the design of upper dentures typically covers the palate, this can also affect your ability to taste properly and detect textures and temperatures, which can then dull your enjoyment of eating and drinking at mealtimes.
Additionally, food debris can easily become trapped between dentures and gums, increasing the risk of infections if they aren’t cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
The jawbone beneath the denture can also deteriorate without stimulation from tooth roots. While dentures can stop your face from looking hollow when you’re wearing them, they don’t prevent the progressive bone loss that causes your facial structure to sink in over time.
As dental implants are directly anchored into the jaw through the gum, they are completely stable, and the individual crowns will sit seamlessly on your natural gum line.
This means a dental implant, for all intents and purposes, will look and feel just like a real tooth. They aren’t bulky and they’re securely attached, so you can chew comfortably without putting pressure on your gums and speak confidently without fear of embarrassment.
Since you can treat dental implants more or less exactly like your natural teeth, you’ll be able to eat completely normally again, without adjusting your diet.
Not only can you eat and drink whatever you like, you can also fully enjoy your favourite foods, as implants don’t block your palate the way upper dentures do – and you don’t have to worry about an aftertaste of dental adhesive.
The most important aspect of comfortable and functional dental implants is that they help to maintain your facial structure by supporting jawbone regeneration. The artificial roots implanted in your jaw stimulate the bone when you chew, encouraging growth that helps to retain your face shape and a more youthful appearance.
Your dentist should give you tips on how to get used to dentures to minimise the initial discomfort that typically occurs. They will also instruct you on how to look after your dentures, as they require significant daily maintenance.
It’s crucial to keep your dentures clean, as trapped food can lead to inflammation, gum disease, and tooth decay. Luckily, being removable, it’s fairly easy to take your dentures out whenever you need to clean them – though you also need to remember to clean your mouth and gums before putting dentures back in.
You have to be careful not to use hot water, whitening toothpastes, or hard-bristled brushes to clean dentures, as these can damage the materials and warp the appliance.
You’ll also need to remember to take your dentures out when you go to bed so your gums can recover while you sleep – leaving the dentures to soak in plain water or a denture cleaning solution overnight so they don’t dry out.
If you want to get dentures, you must be committed to maintaining the rigorous daily care routines that they require.
While dentures require regular meticulous cleaning, you don’t have to do anything special to care for dental implants. You can simply brush twice a day and floss frequently, as you would with all of your natural teeth.
You should try to be a little more gentle when cleaning around the implanted tooth, especially in the first few months after the surgery, but most people won’t need to buy specific products or adapt to a new routine for dental implants.
As dental implants aren’t removable, you don’t need to worry about the hassle of taking them out and putting them back in to clean them.
Of course, if you fail to keep up with a normal daily routine to maintain your oral hygiene, you could develop gum disease around the implant just as easily as in the tissue around your normal teeth. While the crown won’t decay the same way, gum damage and potential bone loss could cause the implant root to shift or even come loose.
This is why it’s important to keep up with routine dental check-ups, as well – scheduling visits to your dentist at least once every six months.
Dentures are often the more appealing option at first glance because they come with a lower upfront cost, but you have to consider long-term value, too.
While you can extend the longevity of dentures by taking proper care of them and your oral health, dentures are not a permanent solution, and will therefore need to be replaced at regular intervals – often every 5–7 years or so. Dentures generally won’t last as long as dental implants for many reasons. For example, they can be fragile and easily damaged if dropped, and the appliance can deteriorate and become discoloured from the constant pressures of daily wear.
There is also the factor of deteriorating jawbone mass, as shrinking jaws will change the shape of your face and gums, affecting the fit of your dentures. They will then need refitting to prevent discomfort and restore functionality again. If you have an extraction at the time of fitting your new denture, you will likely need a replacement after 3-4 months. This is because the bone and gum will remodel and resorb after the healing process is completed and your denture will then possibly start to feel loose or slip.
While dental implants require a larger financial outlay then dentures, this procedure is truly an investment, which will eventually pay for itself many times over.
Assuming that you maintain excellent oral hygiene and regular check-ups, dental implants should stay firmly in place without needing any adjustment.
The titanium posts implanted in your jaw can last for decades – as long as natural tooth roots, or even longer. The crowns on top of the implant are likely to need replacing eventually due to gradual wear and tear, but this may only be necessary around every 15 years.
As a more permanent restoration, dental implants offer lower long-term costs. High success rates with fewer dental problems and high-quality materials that rarely need replacing give dental implants a better lifetime value.
As dentures offer a simpler, faster, and sometimes lower-quality solution, they are the cheaper option. They are also available on the NHS, which is better for patients seeking teeth replacement treatment on a limited budget.
Rather than paying for multiple individual dental implants, a denture is definitely more affordable if you need to replace several teeth, a full arch, or a complete set of teeth.
The cost of dentures can depend on the location, the type, and the materials. Stronger and higher-quality models may be available if you are willing to pay a bit more.
While they are less expensive upfront, dentures are generally less effective, and you may spend more money over time on replacing them at least once a decade.
If you need to have teeth removed to prepare for dentures, this can also add extra costs.
The complex surgical procedure automatically means that dental implants are going to cost more than dentures, and they are rarely offered on the NHS.
However, you have to remember that you’re paying for a high standard of care, with robust materials. Compared to typically acrylic dentures, implants usually have a titanium root and abutment and a ceramic or porcelain crown.
As discussed above, the higher upfront expense translates to better value in the long run, as dental implants require far less maintenance than dentures.
That said, there can also be other upfront expenses involved if you require other surgeries in preparation for implants (e.g. a sinus lift or a bone graft).
Implants can also seem less than cost-effective if you have many missing teeth to replace, but there are other options that can combine implants with bridges or dentures, allowing you to get the best of both worlds at a more affordable price.
While the cost of dental implants may seem unattainable, dental finance can make this treatment accessible to everyone. The treatment you really want could be within reach if you simply set up a monthly repayment plan.
Most people with significant tooth loss will be eligible for dentures, as long as their oral health is in otherwise good condition, with no active gum disease.
A partial denture may be recommended for a few missing teeth, while full dentures may be necessary if you don’t have many teeth left (if any).
Older adults who don’t want to go through the more invasive and time-consuming dental implant procedure may prefer the simpler option of dentures.
Some people prefer not to have removable teeth and empty gums due to a psychological aversion, in which case, it may be better to meet somewhere in the middle with an implant-supported bridge or implant-retained denture.
However, if you do not have sufficient jawbone density to support implants, a traditional bridge or denture may be the only suitable solution.
Those who have lost teeth at a younger age, anywhere from late teens to early sixties, may want to invest in implants that will give them several decades of use.
Individual implants can be recommended to replace single missing teeth, while all-on-four dental implants or an implant-retained bridge may be more efficient for replacing more.
An all-on-four system uses four strategically placed implants to secure a full row of replacement teeth, while a bridge anchors fewer false teeth with an implant at each end, rather than attaching crowns to existing teeth.
In any case, to be eligible for dental implants, you must have enough healthy gum tissue and bone density to support them – or be able to create sufficient bone through a graft.
If you have active gum disease or an underlying medical condition, you may not be eligible, as this can increase the risk of infection and implant failure. Dentists will take your medical history into consideration when advising you on the safest procedure.
After this rundown of everything you should know about dental implants vs dentures, you should be able to carefully weigh up your options and confidently make an informed decision based on your personal circumstances and priorities.
It’s a good idea to speak to a dentist before choosing a teeth replacement method, as they can explain all the available procedures and your suitability in greater detail.
The dental health and overall happiness of our patients is our priority here at Dental Solutions, where we offer both dentures in Warrington and dental implants in Warrington. Book a consultation and we will be glad to provide professional advice.