If you’re missing a tooth or teeth, it may be reassuring to know you have a lot of company. More than 36 million Americans have no teeth, and 120 million are missing at least one tooth. The clinical term for missing teeth is edentulism. Missing teeth can lead to significant nutritional changes, while tooth loss has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and some types of cancer. If you’re considering remedying this situation, it’s important to learn about replacement options so you can make the best choice to fit your needs.
When many people hear the word dentures, an image of false teeth sitting in a tall clear glass on grandma’s nightstand comes to mind. Another popular association is George Washington’s mythic wooden dentures. Indeed, the “Father of our Country” lost most of his teeth before the ripe old age of 30 and only had one natural premolar by the time he was inaugurated president of the United States on April 30, 1789. At least four sets of dentures were custom made for Washington during his lifetime, but none of them were wood. Considered state-of-the-art dentures for the mid-18th century, they were created from hippopotamus ivory, brass, gold, and human teeth. They were fitted with metal fasteners, springs to force them open, and bolts to hold them together. You’ll never see Washington smiling in any of his portraits due to his lack of teeth, painful ill-fitting dentures, and self-consciousness about such.
Thank goodness huge advances have been made in tooth replacement options for people with missing teeth – most notably dental implants. Unlike the image of granny’s dentures sitting in a glass or Washington’s frowning face, dental implants conjure up images of glamorous smiling celebrities with beautiful pearly whites! Today, an increasing number of people are choosing dental implants to restore their smiles.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a device approved and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provides support for a single missing tooth, multiple missing teeth, or all the teeth in your mouth. Traditional dental implants require an outpatient procedure in which a small hole is drilled in your jawbone and a titanium screw is carefully placed into the bone. The strong and durable titanium metal “fuses” with your jawbone in a process called osseointegration. The gum is placed over the implant so it can heal, which takes about 3 to 6 months. After sufficient healing, a second surgery is performed to fit the connector into the top of the implant. The natural-looking porcelain crown is then fixed to the connector.
All-On-4 dental implants are a highly effective solution for people in need of full upper and/or lower restorations, with a success rate of nearly 98%. Instead of using bone grafting and six to eight implants for each full arch of teeth, the All-On-4 approach requires the placement of only four implants and rarely necessitates grafting. After the initial consultation and prosthodontic exam, you’ll receive a full-set of non-removable teeth in just one appointment.
Dental Implant Facts & Stats
- In 600 A.D., the first rudimentary dental implants were made by Mayans who carved seashells into the shape of teeth. An archaeologic dig unearthed a specimen with three pieces of shells carved into tooth shapes placed into the sockets of three missing lower incisor teeth. Compact bone formation was noted around two of the implants.
- When Dr. Norman Goldberg was serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he noticed many soldiers couldn’t tolerate conventional dentures and thought about alternate solutions. After forming a partnership with Dr. Aaron Gershkoff, the pair produced the first successful sub-periosteal implant in 1948, published an article the following year, and pioneered teaching of their techniques in dental schools worldwide thereafter.
- An important advance in dental implant technology occurred in 1957, when Swedish orthopedic surgeon Per-Ingvar Branemark discovered that bone could grow in proximity with titanium and effectively adhere to the metal without rejection. In 1965, he placed titanium implants in a patient for the first time and the four implants lasted until the end of the patient’s life, more than 40 years later.
- In 1982, the FDA approved the use of titanium dental implants.
- According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, about 500,000 people undergo dental implant procedures each year.
What Are Dentures?
Dentures are replacements for missing teeth, available as complete dentures or removable partial dentures, as well as some hybrid varieties combining dentures with implants. Partial dentures can be taken out and placed back in your mouth. They are made of a metal framework with pink plastic to replace the gum tissue and plastic or resin denture teeth. The base of the upper denture covers the roof of your mouth, while the base of the lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate your tongue.
Complete dentures, available in conventional or immediate options are made after your teeth have been extracted and your gum tissue has started to heal. Conventional dentures are ready for placement about 8-12 weeks after extraction. Immediate dentures are made before your teeth are extracted and you wear them immediately after removal. This can cause an issue because bones and gums shrink over time, especially when you’re healing. Immediate dentures should only be considered as a temporary solution until conventional dentures are made.
Denture Facts & Stats
- In the 18th century, there was a high demand for human teeth for dentures made for the wealthy, but the teeth eventually rotted, so animal ivory was used instead.
- Alexis Duchâteau crafted the first porcelain dentures around 1770, but they were prone to chipping and were too white to look convincing.
- Nicholas Dubois De Chemant, previous assistant to Duchateau, was issued the first British patent for dentures in 1791. The porcelain paste was supplied by the Wedgewood Company and by 1804, Duchateau claimed to have made 12,000 false teeth.
- Wealthy Victorians wore such poorly fitting, barely functional dentures that ladies developed a custom of eating in their bedrooms before dining with others to avoid losing their teeth at the table.
- Today, about 90% of individuals with missing teeth have dentures and an estimated 15% have dentures made each year.
A Side by Side Comparison: Pros and Cons
|Jawbone||Remaining jawbone enables you to maintain your facial structure.||Bone loss over time can lead to a compromised facial structure.|
|Support||Fixed to jawbone for a strong, stable, and secure fit.||Sit on your gums, therefore many issues can prevent good suction, especially on lowers (e.g. dry mouth and a poor lower ridge).|
|Durability||With proper oral care and regular dentist visits, dental implants can last 25 years or longer.||High-quality dentures should last 5–8 years, but they are fragile and can break. Their lifespan is very short if you have health issues that cause early bone loss.|
|Comfort||After a short period of adjustment, dental implants feel and function like normal healthy teeth.||Can feel bulky, frequently slip, move around, may cause discomfort, and oral sores if ill-fitting.|
|Appearance||Look and feel like natural teeth, thereby helping to improve self-esteem and confidence. A 2018 patient survey found high satisfaction rates for appearance.||A 2014 survey found 63% of respondents would pay more for dentures that looked like natural teeth, while 11% were unhappy with their poor, unnatural look.|
|Care||You can brush dental implants like you would regular teeth. Of course, you need to follow good oral hygiene.||Dentures need to be removed and gently cleaned daily. A soft-bristled brush and nonabrasive denture cleanser are used to remove food, plaque, and other deposits.|
|Speech||You shouldn’t experience any issues with speech.||It’s common for new denture wearers to slur words or have problems pronouncing them. Saying difficult words repeatedly is helpful for some people.|
|Eating||Normal chewing is restored, as well as the ability to eat any foods you wish.||A 2015 survey showed 54% of denture wearers avoided eating certain foods (e.g. corn on the cob, apples, nuts, and steak).|
|Surgery||One or two surgeries are required and a recovery period in between.||Extraction of remaining teeth may be necessary; no surgery needed for dentures.|
|Cost||Higher upfront cost, but better long-term value, backed up by several studies.||Less expensive, but often less effective.|
For either option, it’s important to go to a high-rated treatment center with a proven track record. At EON Clinics, an expert team of oral surgeons and prosthodontists, in-house lab, and sophisticated technology, all located in a one-stop facility, ensure success rates that exceed national statistics. If you’re considering state-of-the-art dental implants, book online or call EON Clinics at 855-922-1640 for a free, no-obligation consultation.