If you lose one or more teeth today, there are many fantastic options available to you, to fill that gap where once a natural tooth existed.
Whether you lose all your teeth in one jaw or both, there are a number of choices, but the most common is the full denture.
A denture is a set of false teeth that rests on the gums, and they have been the go to option for many decades.
However loose dentures is something many wearers are very concerned about and, no matter how good the fit, there can be an underlying concern.
In more recent years the introduction of denture implants has transformed the lives of those wearing full dentures, doing away with the most common denture complaints.
In this article, I take a detailed look at implant supported and implant retained dentures, from what exactly they are, through to how much they can cost.
What are dentures/false teeth?
So we are all on the same page and are clear about the topic being discussed let’s take a moment to clarify what a denture is.
A denture is an artificial replacement for missing teeth and tissues in the mouth.
It is the equivalent to what a prosthetic leg is to someone who has lost a leg.
Because a denture offers a ‘false’ tooth, they are often referred to as false teeth.
You get 2 main types of denture, full and partial.
Full dentures replace all the teeth in an arch, whilst a partial replaces 1 or a few.
Our guide to the different types of dentures and their costs looks at both of these in more detail.
What are denture implants?
Denture implants are man made components, usually of a metal construction, that are surgically inserted into the jawbone of your mouth.
An implant acts like an artificial tooth root and provides an anchoring point to which a denture is attached.
A jaw needs between 2 and 6 strategically placed implants to hold in place the false teeth (denture) that will be attached.
The difference between regular dental implants and denture implants?
The word ‘implant’ is often misused to describe the complete replacement tooth. However, an implant is in fact just the part that is inserted into the jaw bone, to which attachments are made.
A replacement tooth retained by an implant is made up of 3 parts: the implant, an abutment and a crown.
Some consider implants to be the ‘best’ alternative to your natural teeth.
Theoretically, you could have an implant for each tooth in the jaw, but this would be expensive and unnecessary.
A somewhat more practical and very popular option is, a denture that is held in place by implants.
Where implants are being used to hold a denture in place, only 2-6 strategically placed implants per jaw are required. If individual crowns were used, many more implants would need to be placed.
Implants themselves come in different sizes, depending on how thick the bone of the jaw is.
Where new teeth are being placed with an implant, abutment and crown, a standard sized implant is generally (but not always) used.
Because the pressures and forces on the jaw bone are different when wearing a denture, it is possible for the smaller mini or midi implants to be used.
These mini and midi implants are better suited to those with less bone density.
With regular implants, an abutment is fitted to an implant, several months after the implant has successfully fused to the jaw bone. When fitting dentures it can be that the abutment is fitted at the same time or that the abutment and implant are all 1 piece.
Denture implants & dentures are two different things
To be clear, there are essentially 2 parts to those dentures held in place by implants.
You have the implant itself and the dentures.
Confusion can creep in when discussing this topic as the approaches taken for implants for dentures and implants for crowns differ.
The slight exception to the rule is the fixed dentures like ‘All-on-4’ which is essentially a kit which includes all the dentist needs. With “All-on-4” the process of placing the implants is one stage, then fitting the dentures is another.
Who makes an ideal candidate for denture implants?
Denture implants are a great option for anyone who is missing many teeth, and who wants a more secure option than regular dentures. So long as you don’t have any medical conditions that mean you can’t have minor surgery, anyone could be an ideal candidate!
Dr Gemma Wheeler -- In-house dentist -- GDC Number: 259369
Benefits of denture implants
There are a number of key benefits to opting for denture implants. The main advantages are as follows.
Security and retention
A good set of full dentures should hold to the natural gums really well, without the need for adhesive and without the wearer being concerned of possible slippage.
However, when natural teeth no longer exist in the gums, the shape and strength of the gums can alter. Often there is a lot less bone in the jaw, so the fit of dentures are often worse and with a higher likelihood of the denture slipping.
Normally, when dentures are used without implants, the bone changes shape and the dentures become loose over about 5-10 years. When this happens the denture should be altered or replaced. This can get expensive.
Denture implants will not move because implants are physically attached to the jaw and the dentures are not held in by suction. This gives the wearer more confidence and happiness as a result because they can go about life without this fear.
Preserve jaw bone and improve appearance
When the natural teeth have gone from the jaw, the bone essentially shrinks in a process called resorption.
This shrinking can cause changes to the facial appearance, with ageing far beyond one’s actual years. Deep wrinkles can form around the mouth and can even cause the smile to turn downwards. It can often pose issues with eating.
For regular denture wearers, this can cause real discomfort and more chances of dentures slipping. Also, the pressure that is transferred to the gums through the denture, can actually speed up the bone loss.
As odd as it sounds having implants halts this bone loss as the implants themselves mimic the natural tooth root you once had, so that the body does not break down the bone around the implant.
The body detects the need for bone or not to support teeth, in turn giving strength to the jaw. The body interprets the implants as teeth, stopping the possible issues that would occur if the implants were not placed.
Smaller in the mouth and more natural looking
When retained by an implant, the denture can be made smaller as less material is required to keep it in place.
A traditional denture will have strategically placed material to give the denture the best chance of holding in place in the mouth.
When implants hold the denture, this excess material can often be removed and allow for a more natural look and fit, making you more confident and less conscious.
The implants hold the denture in place rather than natural suction.
The physical presence of the implants help with stopping bone loss. As a result, dentures fit better and there is less chance of slippage.
There is less chance of the denture rubbing on the gums and aggregating soft tissues. Therefore everything fits with more comfort in the mouth for longer.
Normal chewing and more taste
A traditional denture will obstruct some of your natural palate, meaning the taste and texture of food and drink can be obscured, so you do not enjoy the full flavours.
When retained by implants, a denture does not need to obstruct so much of the palate, meaning taste is barely impeded in the way it can be with a regular denture.
The more secure fit and distribution of forces helps with eating and chewing too, to give more balance and strength in the bite.
Confidence & quality of life
Dentures may cause you to fear that every time you open your mouth your teeth will jump out, so that you look awkward, aged or generally unwell. This is going to have a significant knock on effect to you and the quality of life that you have.
When the implants hold a denture in place you can be assured that the bone is stronger for longer, that your smile will remain, and that the wrinkles will not appear so quickly, as well as eating being more enjoyable.
This peace of mind has a significant knock on effect to your confidence and approach to life.
With extra confidence comes the desire to live life and enjoy.
Implant retained dentures are very stable and have greatly reduced movement in the mouth. This can give a person extra confidence when eating and socialising that their denture wont have unwanted movements.
Dr Chhaya Chauhan -- In-house dentist -- GDC Number: 83940
Drawbacks of denture implants
There are some drawbacks to denture implants, but in most cases these are outweighed by the benefits.
The implants require surgery, which can be daunting for some.
The jawbone has to be drilled and the implants placed into the bone.
Subject to the type of implants used there can be a long period of healing.
Such surgery is quite common for dental professionals, especially implant specialists. The jaw is made numb with anaesthetic so you cannot feel pain and the implants are placed with precision.
In some cases for the procedure to be successful, bone grafts may be required this means more invasive surgery and longer treatment times to achieve the desired results.
The surgery and dentures do not come for free and will incur a much higher cost compared to regular removable dentures held in place by nothing more than suction.
The following video highlights some of these but also shows how an implant based denture compares to that of a traditional one.
Types of dentures for implants
When choosing the type of treatment suitable for you, you will need to consider:
- The type of implant
- Implant supported dentures
- Implant retained dentures
- Is the denture fixed?
- Fixed denture.
- Removable denture.
- The size of the denture
- Full denture
- Partial denture
In most circumstances, the implant is completely separate to the denture to which it is attached. This means there can be choice in materials look, quality and price of the denture itself.
When you have decided that dentures held in place by implants, is your preference over the traditional implant free option, you then have a choice as to which type of denture you opt for.
There a two main types of dentures that attach to the implants -- there are those that are fixed, and those that are removable.
The types might well be self explanatory, but you should know that even the fixed dentures can technically be removed, this just has to be done by the dentist instead of you at home.
With both types of implant-retained denture you can have full or partial dentures that attach to the implant. However, in most cases, the implants are used to hold in place full row of teeth for the one or both jaws.
Implant supported dentures
Implant supported dentures are dentures that sit on implants in the jaws. The implants take the full force placed through the denture, and no pressure is placed on the gums.
Implant supported dentures are designed to take the full force of eating and chewing, and the pressure is absorbed by the implant and the jaw bone rather than the gum.
The intended result is to give the most natural bite as is possible.
Due to the added pressure and the denture requires more implants compared to an implant retained denture, and all parts need to be made of more durable materials.
As a patient, you need to have suitable bone and tissue for the implants to be successful. It can sometimes incur additional surgery for bone grafting and tissue regeneration which can affect the cost too, but also make implant retained dentures more desirable.
Implant supported dentures rarely have a removable denture on top. The denture is normally fixed in place. Implant supported dentures can have a full denture, or a partial denture placed on top.
Implant retained dentures
Implant retained dentures use a small number of implants to hold the denture in place and spread any pressure placed on the denture between the implants and the gums.
Implant retained dentures are dentures that are held in place by the implants so most of the force that is applied when biting or chewing is transferred to your gums, more similar to the case with a regular denture.
With an implant retained denture, fewer implants are required and often mini implants can be used.
Because they are physically attached to the implant in the jaw the denture is less likely to pop out when eating or talking and give a bit more power and improvement in your bite.
Less bone density is required in most cases and is this is certainly a popular option for the older generation who want many of the benefits of implants, but perhaps are not as suitable for the implant supported option because of lack of bone.
This options tends to be the most cost effective of all the implant denture options.
Implant retained dentures normally have removable dentures on top. These may be called overdentures. Normally the removable denture on top is a full denture, and it is rarely a partial denture.
You can have a removable denture whether you choose to have implants for an implant supported or an implant retained denture. The main point is that the denture can be removed by you at home, for example to be cleaned.
It is possible that an existing denture be adapted to fit to implants, should you decide you would prefer to make use of implants having tried regular dentures.
Such dentures tend to be more cost effective than fixed, but can require extra attention to care for the denture itself as it needs to be removed for cleaning.
These can too be called as overdentures, as they fit over the implants and rest on your gums.
Whilst nothing can replace the natural teeth, a fixed denture gives the most natural look and sensation of teeth. The denture cannot be removed by you at home, and can only be removed by a dentist.
Fixed dentures can only be placed on implants that have been designed for an implant supported dentures.
In most cases, you can essentially live life like you would have with a set of regular teeth.
The downside is the cost can be much higher, and you also need to meet certain criteria to get fixed dentures.
Implant supported fixed denture
Unlike the implant supported overdenture, with implant supported fixed dentures, you cannot remove the denture yourself at home.
Implant supported dentures require 4 or more implants are to be used to hold the denture in place with screws securing the denture to the implant.
An example of implant supported fixed dentures is the ‘All-on-4’ technique we discussed earlier. These have been made popular by dental firm Nobel Biocare, who own the trademark to ‘All-on-4’, which has become the most recognised name for this type of implant retained denture.
The advantage of this particular technique is the small size of the implants used, which rely less on lots of natural bone being present.
Implant supported bridges
Where 1-3 teeth in a row are missing, it is quite common for a dental bridge to be used.
A bridge is a false tooth attached to teeth either side. This relies on teeth either side of the gap supporting the false teeth.
However, with an implant supported bridge rather than the natural teeth being used as support, implants are used.
It is a strong and reliable solution that can look really good too because more premium materials such as porcelain can be used for the teeth. Sometimes this option may be called a implant supported fixed partial denture.
Denture implant procedure
The process of getting an implant is explained in detail within our article dedicated to dental implants.
The majority of the stages are the same, but where a crown is usually fitted with a regular dental implant, in this instance a denture is attached.
The amount of time required for treatment will depend on the type of implants and the type of denture being fitted.
It can be just a matter of days or weeks between initial consultation and denture fitting, or it can be several months if more healing time is required.
The treatment journey is made up of 4 key phases. Within this time period you have 4 main phases.
- Consultation and preparation
- Placing the implants
- Fitting the abutment
- Fitting the denture
Consultation and preparation
The consultation and preparation is the first stage of the process, and this can be made up of 1 or 2 appointments, depending on your dental practice and how certain you are you want implants.
An initial appointment might be with a dentist or with a trained member of the dental team. This is where a general discussion will be had about getting implants and dentures that fit to those implants.
Different types of implants and dentures may be explained, it is an opportunity for you to ask questions and potentially an initial assessment of your suitability and the costs involved.
The next appointment may take place when you have agreed in principle to moving forward.
This consultation will be with the dentist and will involve a thorough assessment of your suitability.
An oral examination will be carried out with X-rays and CT scans of your jaw taken so that the dentist knows exactly what they are working with.
Making use of these tools allows for the treatment to be carefully planned and as best as possible and any potential issues discovered and prepared for.
Consideration will be made for any existing teeth you have, the way you bite and chew and any grinding of the teeth that may exist, as well as your medical history.
The intention here is to get the most detailed and accurate picture of your mouth. Considering every element that influences the teeth and smile you want. This includes bone density and the location of nerves.
You will likely learn here of any additional risks, required procedures and whether you are suitable. The final costs will be confirmed too.
Placing the implant
Central to holding your denture in place, this is the phase that the artificial tooth root is placed into the jaw bone.
In most cases, this treatment is carried out in the dentist’s office and no hospital trip is required.
The dentist will use a local anaesthetic to numb the area where the implants will be placed. You will not feel the treatment, but you will be conscious and aware that the dentist is working within your mouth.
Although a little more technical than described here, the dentist cuts through the gum to expose the jaw bone. A hole will be drilled for the implant and then the implant screwed into place.
Fusing of the implant with the bone is essential to ensure a strong and reliable implant. It can take 6 months for complete fusion to happen, but the process begins almost immediately.
In some cases, the gum will be stitched closed for healing and to allow the implant to fuse with the bone or more commonly with dentures, the next phase of treatment is completed right now.
Installing the abutment
Depending on what brand and type implants are being used an abutment may be pre-fitted to the implant itself. This is certainly more common with mini implants.
Where the standard sized dental implant is used, an abutment is then attached. It is the abutment that is the link between the implant and the denture.
The abutments are different shapes to accommodate the different fittings of dentures. Those used for a removable denture will not be the same as those used for a fixed denture.
For an removable denture, whether this is implant retained or implant supported denture, it is likely that either a ball or rail/bar style abutment will be fitted. This type of abutment allows for the denture to snap on or off of the implant and ultimately gives it the removable design.
Some refer to such a setup as ‘snap-on/in’ dentures (not to be confused with snap-on veneers).
Bar-retained dentures rely on a thin metal bar being attached to the implants. When placed over the bar, the denture is secured by the clips or fasteners.
Ball-retained dentures, also known as stud-attachment dentures, are held in place by ball-shaped metal parts. When the balls are aligned with corresponding sockets on the denture, they connect to keep it secure. It is a little like a popper you may have on a piece of clothing.
Had healing time been needed between implant and abutment fitting, the dentist would need to be used local anaesthetic before cutting into the gum to reveal the previously placed implant.
Fitting the denture
The last major stage is getting your denture fitted.
Subject to your proposed treatment and the stages necessary for you, initially you may have a temporary denture, before being replaced with your own permanent denture.
With the likes of the ‘All-on-4’ system, a denture is fitted there and then, the same day the implants are placed.
If you already have a denture it is possible the dentist will adapt it as you wait after implant or abutment fitting.
Fixed dentures will be securely fastened in place using specialist tools.
The fit of all dentures, removable or fixed, will be checked and what alterations that can be made, will be made, to ensure the denture works well for you.
The following video gives a summary of the majority of information already presented.
Choosing a dentist/implantologist
The general dentists that operate in thousands of dental surgery’s across the country are highly skilled individuals.
Whilst some focus on general dentistry, others choose to undertake additional education to become specialists within certain fields of dental health.
The General Dental Council (GDC) has 13 different classifications for specialisation. Implants and the fitting of such is one area of speciality that falls under the category of prosthodontics.
The GDC states that dentists must have the right training for any procedure they carry out. For implants, a variety of professional courses are available to train general dentists.
Your normal dentist might well be trained in prosthodontics, but you should consider seriously whether they are the best person for the job of fitting your implants.
Shop around for your prosthodontist or implantologist (another name for a dental professional who is trained in fitting implants).
Your dentist may even have a list of specialists they recommend.
Speak to others and read reviews on the professionals that are available within your area. You may even wish to consider those slightly further afield.
Getting implants is quite a serious consideration and it is vitally important that you are happy with who you chose.
You want to have a professional that not only knows their stuff, but makes you feel informed and comfortable about the whole process.
If you ask the dentist a question and they evade it or seem unsure or confuse you further, is this who you want drilling into your jaw?
What if they are pushy about getting you booked in and saying we have a special deal today only…?
Choosing a professional is not a decision you should take lightly.
A welcoming, confident, and helpful professional that clearly explains what is involved and answers your questions appropriately might be a better choice.
Do not be afraid to ask questions and ask about their experience. You may prefer to have someone who has completed the procedure hundreds of times, rather than just a few times.
Get the dentist’s GDC number -- every dental professional has one and check it against the publicly accessible database at https://www.gdc-uk.org/.
Cost of denture implants in the UK
The cost of denture implants (and associated denture) can range from about £4000 through to £14,000.
The price very much depends on your personal needs and what is involved or necessary to achieve those results.
As a general rule, the less implants you need, the cheaper it will be.
But, it should not be a case of skipping an implant or 2 to save on cost.
The dentist will suggest the number of implants that are necessary to ensure a secure fit for you.
2 major parts make up the cost, the implants and the denture.
If you already have a denture that can be modified to the implants then this can keep the cost down.
If you do not, you are looking at approximately £1000 for a new denture.
The previously mentioned ‘All-on-4’ system has its advantages and disadvantages but at approximately £7,000 per arch it can be a relatively cost effective option if it is to last you many years.
Whilst a regular dental implant with crown might be a nice idea, with prices around £25,000 for a full set of teeth, implants retained or implant supported dentures can be a much more financially attractive option.
The NHS does not offer implants for dentures so the only option in the UK is to opt for private dental treatment.
Shopping around can help with ensuring the price you are being quoted is correct and fair, but it should not generally be a case of just going for the cheapest.
Think wisely about what you spend.
Some practices will offer payment plans whilst others will require full payments.
Treatment can be expensive, so be sure you can afford it and wait if you can do so, if it will be better for you financially.
Denture implants -- before & after
Denture implants may all sound great, but what are the results really like to look at.
The following are a series of images of patients before and after having denture implants.
You can see how the transformations are really quite significant for some.
Please note: The results vary from patient to patient, so these images should be used as a guide only as to what is potentially possible.
What patients say
To understand the benefits of these implant based dentures there is nothing better than hearing first hand accounts of those that have been through it.
Below are a few videos from different people that have either removable or fixed dentures and each of them give their feedback on their experience and how they have found them.
Traditional dentures might be very affordable, particularly when provided by the NHS, but when you have lost all teeth, the shrinking gums can lead to uncomfortable false teeth that can slip out at the most inconvenient of times.
The placement of a few implants can offer a level of additional security and confidence to the wearer that goes far beyond any financial cost associated with the treatment.
Compared to traditional dental implants, dentures retained by implants are considerably more cost effective and require much less surgical treatment whilst being more suitable for a wider proportion of people.
If you are keen to know more, reach out to your dentist today.
Do the NHS offer denture implants?
The NHS does not offer denture implants. Your only option would be to seek private dental treatment.
Denture implants near me?
To find an implantologist or prosthodontist near you, the General Dental Council’s register search available here is a great tool to use.
It can be useful to do a web search for ‘prosthodontist XXX (X= name of your location)’ to help find options too.
Denture implants in one day?
It is perfectly possible to get denture implants in just one day thanks to solutions such as ‘All-on-4’ from Nobel Biocare. Not all are suitable for the same day solution that this offers and there are pros and cons, speak to your prosthodontist to find out if they are an option for yourself or what alternatives they can offer for fast denture implants.
Can I get palateless denture without implants?
It is not really possible or practical to achieve this.
A traditional denture, fitted to the upper jaw has an expanse of material that covers the palate/roof of the mouth to help it stay in place.
Some people find that such dentures can make it hard to swallow or they can gag with an upper denture in place. The palate surface of the denture can make it difficult to chew and even taste food.
The reality is that the palate part of the denture is present to give strength to the denture but to also offers the opportunity for a ‘vacuum’ to be created so that the denture sticks/suctions in place and does not fall out.
With a palateless denture, unless held in place by implants, it would feel like it was falling out all the time, because it has nothing to actually grip or hook onto.
So it is often not possible to have a palateless denture without implants. By getting implants the existing denture can be modified or a new one made that removes the need for this, giving back taste, improved ability to chew and comfort in everyday wear.
Pros and cons of denture implants?
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