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Shelley Shearer: The denture dilemma — what’s the best choice? least expensive? right for you?

Modern dentistry has provided consumers with more choices than ever before when it comes to dentures. Here’s some help as you or a loved one ventures into the world of dentures. What’s right for you? How do you get the best fit? Which procedure is the least expensive?

Traditional Dentures

Everyone has heard of dentures, also known as false teeth, and perhaps grew up with commercials for products to better grip them in place. Dentures are an important part of restoring a person’s smile. But they are not without complications. They still slide, causing challenges for eating and talking. The sliding can also cause soreness on the gums. Plus, dentures require care. It’s imperative they don’t dry out. When not worn they should be placed in a cleanser soaking solution, brushed daily, and examined for any cracks or chips. The American Dental Association estimates that dentures will last five-10 years before needing relining, rebasing, or replacement.

Dr. Shelley Shearer

Implant Retained Dentures

For a firmer denture fit, consider implant-retained dentures. Using dental implants to retain or support ill-fitting dentures has gained in popularity. With implant-retained dentures, the gums absorb more of the force of the bite. Fewer dental implants are required, making treatment less expensive. Known as “snap-on dentures,” they are firm and provide the confidence that they won’t slip while eating or talking. They are taken out and cleaned at night. Best of all, they can be anchored with just two-four implant screws for a secure all-day fit, then easily “snapped out” for cleaning, sleeping, and resting.

Implant retained dentures can be conveniently made for just a portion of the mouth and blend in with the remaining permanent teeth.

Implant Supported Dentures

There’s a third alternative to the denture dilemma that provides a permanent, solid fit. While conventional dentures are supported by the gums and the underlying bone structure, implant-supported dentures draw strength from the bone. The dental implants that support these dentures are surgically embedded into the bone to prevent slipping. They also stimulate the bone; it is less likely to shrink the bone area like traditional dentures do. In fact, the titanium implant fixture eventually fuses to the living bone cells of the jaw.

While these implant-supported dentures seem to last longer and have a more comfortable fit, they are more expensive. However, in the long-run, some believe that implant-supported dentures may be more cost-effective. Dentures don’t last long because they often need to be adjusted or remade because the mouth changes shape with age and pressure on the bone. There is also a greater risk for damaging removable dentures since they are taken out of the mouth daily. Often the acrylic wears down. Conversely, since implant-supported dentures preserve the bone, there is far less maintenance, making them a good long-term investment.

Other benefits of implant-supported dentures include a more natural tooth feel, greater confidence that the new pearly whites won’t embarrassingly slip, and improved nutrition since it’s much easier to bite into an apple and other solid fruits and vegetables.

Care is similar to regular, permanent teeth maintenance: daily brushing and flossing, and regular visits to the dentist for tooth care.

For those suffering from TMJ dysfunction or sleep apnea, this alternative helps them feel more comfortable at night since the teeth do not come out. From a psychological standpoint, waking up with teeth permanently fixed in place is a huge morale booster.

Four anchor implants are used to achieve a firm, confident, natural feel without the thought of having to take out the dentures.

While there may be a few side effects from the surgery such as gum swelling, face pain and minor bleeding, they don’t last long. What’s enduring is no more looks of premature aging, better nutrition, the halting of bone loss and of course the addition of an improved smile.

Dr. Shelley Shearer is a graduate of the University of Louisville Dental School and Founder of Shearer Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Florence, the largest all-female dental practice in Northern Kentucky.

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