People have been using dentures and other dental restorations for thousands of years, but they looked quite different in ancient times. For example, ancient Egyptians substituted missing teeth with a string of donated human teeth or ones carved from ivory. These teeth would be attached to a gold wire which would then be affixed to the person’s remaining teeth. How well these worked we can’t say, but it must have been somewhat effective! Other populations throughout the centuries used animal teeth, bones, stones, and wood to create dental restorations.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long, long way since then. Today’s dentures are made from several materials, including acrylic, porcelain, resin, metal, and nylon. Each denture is made specifically for the patient, so it looks natural and fits comfortably.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about dentures and set you on a path to discover your best tooth replacement option.
There are several types of dentures to meet the needs of all types of patients. For example, people with an entire arch of missing teeth will need a type of complete denture, but a person who still has some natural teeth left needs a type of partial denture.
Complete, or full, dentures are the most common type of denture—they replace a full arch of missing teeth and can be permanent or removable. There are three types of complete dentures:
1. Removable Traditional Dentures
Removable dentures are typically made from acrylic and can be removed at any time. For patients who need to have several teeth removed before receiving their denture, a removable traditional denture is a great temporary option, although many people use them long-term as well.
2. Implant-Supported Dentures
This set of complete dentures is permanently anchored to the top or bottom arch by dental implants. Most dentists use the All-on-4® implant placement method which requires only four carefully placed implants to secure the denture.
3. Removable Snap-On Full Implant Dentures
For patients who want the ability to remove their dentures and the stability of permanent dentures, removable snap-on full implant dentures are an incredible option.
Patients who still have natural teeth to preserve may consider a partial denture to replace one or several missing teeth. Partials are made from a combination of acrylic and metal and are designed to look and feel as realistic as possible. The two types of partial dentures include:
1. Removable partial dentures
Removable partial dentures consist of a metal framework, clasps, or other natural-looking connectors that attach to the natural teeth and one or more false teeth to fill in the gaps in a person’s smile.
2. Implant-supported partial dentures
Dental implants can be used to support partial dentures as well. This makes the attachment permanent and improves oral health and functionality.
The Benefits of Dentures
For patients with missing teeth, dentures of any kind provide several benefits, including:
- Improved appearance and smile
- Increased confidence
- Improved speech
- Improved chewing function
When considering the different types of dentures, there are significant advantages to choosing implant-supported dentures over removable ones.
Implant-Supported Dentures vs Removable Dentures
Fixed, implant-supported dentures are a state-of-the-art tooth-replacement option that provides stability, comfort, and better function. They also prevent bone loss and facial atrophy.
Dental implants join with the jawbone through a natural process called osseointegration which strengthens the jawbone and ensures the denture’s strength and stability. Because of this, the patient will likely never experience jawbone resorption that can lead to a sagging face.
Implant-supported dentures also remove the need for denture creams and adhesives and reduce the number of times the dentures need to be replaced or relined.
The one downside to fixed dentures is the cost and length of treatment time. While traditional removable dentures are extremely cost-effective, permanent dentures have a much higher price tag because of the surgery which also lengthens treatment time by 6-18 months.
Removable dentures are simply an older technology. The process doesn’t require as much expertise or attention from dentists. Of course, they still offer the benefits mentioned above, but they are less stable, comfortable, and functional than permanent dentures. Additionally, patients with removable dentures often experience jawbone deterioration and facial atrophy over time.
However, removable dentures are one of the best options for patients who are on a budget, need an immediate tooth-replacement option, or who don’t have enough jawbone density to support dental implants.
Cost of Permanent and Removable Dentures
The factors that affect the cost of dentures (implant-supported or removable) include:
- The location of the dentist
- The complexity of the procedure
- Whether or not the patient needs dental extractions or other procedures
- The materials used to make the denture
- The type of implants
The cost of dentures varies from patient to patient. According to the Dental Implant Cost Guide, a removable full set (for the top and bottom arches) of dentures ranges from $600 to $8,000 depending on the materials used to create the denture. Cut these numbers in half if you only need one arch of teeth replaced.
For permanent dentures, patients may pay up to $50,000. Don’t let these numbers scare you away. In many cases, dental insurance covers the cost of the denture which can significantly decrease the overall cost of the implant procedure.