What is it?
An implant-supported denture is a type of overdenture that is supported by and attached to implants. An implant-supported overdenture is attached to dental implants, while a regular denture rests on the gums, is not supported by dental implants, and tends to fit less firmly in the mouth.
An implant-supported denture is used when a person doesn’t have any teeth in the jaw but has enough bone in the jaw to support implants. An implant-supported denture has special attachments that snap onto attachments on the dental implants.
Implant-supported dentures usually are made for the lower jaw because regular dentures tend to be less stable there. Usually, a regular denture made to fit an upper jaw is quite stable on its own and doesn’t need the extra support offered by dental implants. However, you can receive an implant-supported denture in either the upper or lower jaw.
You can remove an implant-supported denture easily. Some people prefer to have fixed (permanent) crown and bridgework in their mouths that can’t be removed. Your dentist will consider your particular needs and preferences when suggesting fixed or removable options.
How does it work?
There are two types of implant-supported dentures: bar-retained and ball-retained. In both cases, the denture will be made of an acrylic base that will look like gums, with porcelain or acrylic teeth that look like natural teeth attached. Bar-retained dentures require at least three implants. Ball-retained dentures need at least two.
- Bar-retained dentures A thin metal bar that follows the curve of your jaw is attached to two to five dental implants that have been placed in your jawbone. Clips or other types of attachments are fitted to the bar the denture, or to both. The denture fits over the bar and is securely clipped into place by the attachments.
- Ball-retained dentures (stud-attachment dentures) Each dental implant that has been placed in the jawbone holds a metal attachment that fits into another attachment on the denture. In most cases, the attachments on the implants are ball-shaped (male attachments), and they fit into sockets (female attachments) on the denture. In some cases, these attachments are reversed, with the denture holding the male attachments and the dental implants holding the female ones.
Caring For Your Implant-Supported Denture
You will need to remove the denture at least twice a day for cleaning. You also should carefully clean around the implants and attachments.
For the first year, you should visit your dentist every three months for a cleaning and checkup. Your dentist will test all the parts of your new denture to see if they are secure. Even though your denture is stable, it still can move slightly when you chew. This slight movement can cause the denture to rub against your gums, which can cause sore spots. Your dentist will check your gums and also will check the way your top and bottom teeth come together (your bite).
The clip or other attachments on the bar-retained denture usually will need to be replaced every 6 to 12 months. They are made of a plastic material (nylon) and will wear after continued use.
What will x-rays show?
An X-ray will show the dental implants in the jaw and any attachments to them. Your dentist will take X-rays a few times during the procedure. They help him or her see that the implants, abutments, and attachments are in the right places.
In addition to the risks of surgery and of the dental implants failing, a bar-retained denture carries certain risks of its own.
A bar-retained denture needs space on the denture framework for the special attachments that are fitted to the bar. This means that there is less space available on the denture framework for the teeth to be fitted. Because of this the teeth sometimes can come loose from the base. This problem is easily fixed.
Also, when attaching the bar to the dental implants, it is important that the bar is evenly balanced on each dental implant. Dentists call this a passive fit. If the fit is not passive, the extra strain on the bar can cause the screws to loosen. If you grind or clench your teeth, its more likely that parts of the denture will break or that your implants will come loose.
What can you expect from your implant-supported denture?
Your implant-supported denture will be more stable than a regular denture. You will find it easier to speak, and you won’t have to worry about the denture becoming loose or falling out of your mouth. You generally will be able to eat foods you could not eat before. However, you will not be able to chew hard or sticky foods because they can damage the denture.
If you have an implant-supported denture in your upper jaw, it will feel more natural than a regular denture because the denture will no longer cover the roof of your mouth.