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Implant Dentures

In general, our office tries to save teeth; however, in some cases the teeth are already gone or having a denture made is the best decision for the patient. Your denture(s) should be comfortable and natural-looking. If not, Dr. Julie Gillis and her team can help! Many patients come to our office with unaesthetic, poorly fitting dentures, and a list of other concerns. Below are some of the most common problems experienced by denture wearers:

  • The denture is loose
  • The denture does not fit well
  • Trouble talking, eating, or smiling
  • Denture sores develop
  • There is not enough bone to support and retain the denture

All of the above problems can be resolved or improved with the addition of dental implants to help stabilize the denture. All that is required is enough bone to support the implant. Now that we can do small diameter, mini dental implants, very little bone is needed to make this treatment option available to you!

What Are Implant-Retained Dentures?

Implant dentures are full-arch dentures that are retained and supported in the mouth by dental implants. The dental implants are strategically placed into the jawbone and fuse with the bone tissue via osseointegration to provide outstanding stability for denture prosthetics. Dental implants that support or stabilize dentures come in many styles and sizes. Usually, the implant will have an attachment or shape that fits into an attachment inside the denture. The denture basically snaps in over the dental implants.

Implant Denture Success Stories

Meet ‘Tom’

One of our patients, ‘Tom’, was basically so unhappy with his denture that he rarely smiled. He could not chew well and his mouth was uncomfortable. He explained it had been so long since he smiled, that he had forgotten how!

After having implants and attachments placed to hold his lower denture, Tom was all smiles!

Four small diameter implants were placed with local anesthetic. You can see how little bone remains on his lower jaw to support a standard denture. Attachments were added to the inside of the denture to fit over the implants. The new lower denture snaps over the implants and fits very securely.

Meet Implant Denture Patient #2

When appropriate, we can use a combination of implants, the healthy roots of teeth, and attachments placed into the roots to support a denture. This allows us to create a denture that feels and looks more natural—and, more importantly, we can provide our patients with a custom solution to their tooth and denture concerns. By adding implants and attachments, a denture can chew food almost as well as natural teeth!

Our patient pictured above has an upper denture supported by small diameter implants and a precision root attachment. There are precision attachments inside the upper denture that fit exactly over these implants. The remaining roots help to stabilize the denture and maintain the surrounding bone. Our patient is very pleased with the additional support he feels by adding implants below his denture!

What Does the Procedure for Implant-Retained Dentures Involve?

When you arrive at our office for an implant denture appointment, we first make sure that all of your questions are answered and that you are as comfortable as possible. To help you relax, we offer headphones with your choice of music, blankets, nitrous oxide or medications, and lip balm—just to name a few things.

To begin the process, we first complete the steps necessary to fabricate the denture that will fit over the dental implants. Sometimes, we can use your existing denture, but often it is preferable to make a new denture specifically designed to fit over dental implants. We take impressions of your gums and make custom trays that precisely fit your mouth. For an even better fit, we take new impressions in these custom trays to create what we call a “master impression”. We use special trays to communicate your bite to the dental lab. With your help, we select the appropriate color, shape, and size of teeth for you. We often add an appointment to do a ‘wax try-in’ of your new denture(s). 

The teeth for your new denture are set in wax on a special tray that’s made in a dental laboratory by a skilled laboratory technician. We can then try the actual teeth in your mouth to check for an ideal fit, color, bite, appearance, and phonetics. This step helps assure that you will be very happy and comfortable with your new denture(s), as well as the esthetics of the teeth and your smile.

The ‘wax try-in’ is returned to the dental lab and the laboratory technician turns the wax into custom colored denture acrylic that surrounds the selected teeth. The try-in base then becomes a custom-fitting denture. Space is built into the gum side of the denture to fit over the dental implants.

Dental implants are either placed in our office or in the office of a specialist we work with to give you an ideal result. The process of placing dental implants is similar to having a tooth extracted – possibly even easier! To start, the area is thoroughly numbed with local anesthetic. For your comfort, the oral surgeon may offer you the option of sleeping through this procedure with the use of general anesthetic. The dental implants are surgically placed into healthy bone and any additional procedures like bone grafting and gum surgery are often completed at the same time. Sometimes sutures are placed over the implant. Depending on the situation, healing caps or custom attachments are placed onto the dental implants. Some dental implants have the attachment that will be positioned above the gums already built into the implant. This attachment is often shaped like a ball or a ring that your denture can snap into or over. 

You will visit our office after the implants are placed (if they were done in another office). We will adjust your denture to fit over the implants and the implant attachments. If your bone is very stable, we will reline your denture with additional denture material and add the attachments into the denture that snap onto the dental implants. If the bone is not yet ready, you will be rescheduled a few weeks later to have this procedure completed. This additional time allows your bone to mature around the dental implants. Once we are able to add the denture attachments that fit over the implants, your denture will feel much more secure!

How Long Do Implant-Retained Dentures Last?

A properly done implant-retained denture should last a long time. Most dental insurance companies consider the lifespan of a denture to be five to seven years. That means that dental insurance would consider covering their portion of the cost of a replacement denture after this amount of time. We would like these types of restorations to last much longer than this! 

Dental implants cannot get decay, but they can fail due to periodontal disease and gum disease. Your implant-retained denture can also break if mistreated. You still have to clean both your denture and your dental implants. The attachments that hold your denture to your dental implants have to be maintained and sometimes replaced. We tell patients that how long an implant-retained denture lasts depends on three things: us, them, and genetics. We have control of two of these things and no control over the third: 

  1. How well the implant-retained denture was made and the quality of the entire dental implant process. This is my job as your dentist, as well as the job of the surgeon placing your dental implants and the lab technician that fabricated your implant-retained denture. Our selection of quality materials and excellent techniques plays an important role as well.
  2. How well you take care of your implant-retained denture and implants. Are you completing the daily oral hygiene recommendations of your dentist and dental hygienist to keep your implant-retained denture clean? Are you cleaning around the dental implants and massaging your gum tissues as much as recommended? How is your diet? Do you clench and grind your teeth? Do you have any destructive habits that shorten the life of dental restorations? Optimal care of your implants and dentures is critical for long-lasting results.
  3. Genetics. This factor cannot be controlled by you or your dentist. Simply put, genetics can allow dental implants to work better and last longer for some people.

How Much Do Implant-Retained Dentures Cost?

This is not an easy question! You may have an existing denture that can be used along with a minimum of two dental implants, and you may not need any special procedures, like bone grafting. This would be the least expensive scenario, and the cost would be about $4500.

It is best to have a dental consult and comprehensive exam to determine your actual cost for an implant-retained denture. A guess at the cost without an exam could be off by several thousand dollars. The cost can vary considerably depending on the quality of your existing bone and gums, and the number of dental implants needed to achieve the desired result. You may need six or more dental implants per arch, bone grafting and/or reshaping, a new denture, and custom abutments to achieve the desired result. Your treatment plan may also include different types of dental implants that vary widely in cost.

Getting an accurate cost for an implant-retained denture is not like shopping for a car and then comparing the cost between several different dealers. This is about your goals, your comfort, your very unique situation, and the quality of your oral tissues. A ballpark guess can be made, but if it is off by a few thousand dollars, is it really useful?