Individuals who are missing all the teeth in one arch can restore their chewing function with either traditional dentures or implant-retained dentures. Both options are available to everyone, but there are a few considerations based on personal factors, as well as pros and cons to each treatment.

How to compare dentures vs implants

Fixed implants denture lower arch

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Any person who is missing at least one tooth is a candidate for either implants or dentures. A single implant can replace one tooth, or multiple implants can stabilize an implant-retained denture. Complete dentures are needed when an arch is edentulous (without teeth) and partial dentures are used when a few natural teeth are still present.

Let’s compare dentures and implants by discussing which patients are a good fit for each option, as well as the differences in the results of each one.

Candidate profile

While anyone can be a candidate for implants or dentures, there are some personal considerations.

Your dentist will consider your age and bone density. Younger individuals with better bone density are generally a better fit for implants. Older adults with severe bone loss may not be ideal candidates, at least when restoring just one or a few teeth. Any patient who needs complete dentures will benefit from implant-retained dentures.

You’ll also need to consider if you want something fixed or removable. Traditional partials and dentures are removable, which makes them harder to eat and speak with. You will also need to take them in and out to clean and maintain.

Implants are fixed in place, so you will care for them as you would any of your other teeth. This feature also makes them feel and look like your natural teeth.

Procedure and recovery

You’ll have several visits to complete the denture process. The first few appointments will allow your dentist or prosthodontist to take impressions and measurements, as well as try preliminary models before making the final denture.

Once your dentures are finished, you’ll need a couple of weeks to get their fit just right. You may need to have your dentures adjusted several times, as you may find they begin to cause soreness in some areas. Once you’ve gotten used to the way they feel, it will also take some time to learn how to speak and chew with your new dentures.

The procedure to place implants is more complex. As with dentures, you’ll have several appointments leading up to the actual implant placement. Getting an implant is considered “surgery,” so you should expect some soreness after the procedure. However, any discomfort you have should not last more than a few days and can usually be controlled with over-the-counter medications.

Assuming you have already had your teeth extracted, the procedure and recovery time for a traditional implant are simple.

If you are getting a denture to snap onto your implants, you will need to allow the implants to heal for several months before fitting your denture to the implants. You may need adjustments as you would with traditional dentures, but because implant-retained dentures are fixed in place, learning how to chew and speak is much easier. Your denture may be much smaller since it does not require suction to keep it in place, so it will be much less bulky and more comfortable to wear.

Care and maintenance

Both dentures and implants require proper care and maintenance, but both are relatively simple.

A denture - whether traditional or implant-retained - will need to be brushed each night. You should do this over a sink of water in case you drop your denture - they can break easily. You can store your denture in a glass or case of water while you sleep. This allows the gum tissue some time to breathe.

If you have implants, you’ll need to brush the area around the implants. You can brush with warm water, or even with toothpaste if you have other teeth that you need to brush. Make sure the area is free of any food particles at least twice each day.

Even if you are completely edentulous (which means you have no teeth), you should still see your dentist at least once a year. They will check the fit of your dentures and make sure your implants are still healthy. Dentists also check for oral cancer, so yearly exams are important.

Durability

Implants have a 98% success rate and are very durable. After they have healed, they are fully integrated into the jawbone, which makes them very stable. If you have an implant-retained denture, they will provide a solid, retentive support system.

Traditional dentures are made of the same material as implant-retained dentures but do not have the advantage of more solid support. A traditional denture sits directly on top of the gum tissue and only has suction (for the upper denture) or gravity (for the lower denture) to keep them in place.

Appearance

Traditional and implant-retained dentures will look nearly the same. However, as we mentioned earlier, an implant denture will be smaller overall.

Dentures vs. implants cost

Dentures are a cheaper option in the short term. One denture or partial denture can range in price from $1100 - $2500. A single implant averages between $3000 - $5000, but implant-retained dentures can cost more than $30,000.

We say dentures are cheaper in the short term because once you have a denture, it’s likely that you’ll need replacements over time. Plus, if you have a partial denture, you might need more teeth added to it in the future. Implants, however, will last your entire life.

Dentures vs. implant: pros and cons summary

It’s easy to see that implants are the superior choice. Implants can act just like your natural teeth and will stabilize ill-fitting, loose dentures. However, their complex nature does mean that they come with a higher price tag.

Dentures are an alternative option for those with a smaller budget. They are much better than going without a tooth and will provide value for those who wear them.

FAQ

Which are cheaper: dentures or implants?

Dentures are cheaper than implants. A traditional denture is about the same price as one single implant.

Which option: implants or dentures, give better results on dental health?

Implants will give a better result when it comes to oral health as well as your overall health. They are easier to care for and maintain, and patients are better able to eat the nutrition they need. Dentures are difficult to eat with, so many times, individuals will stick to soft foods. Foods high in protein and other nutritional value often require more chewing.

Which procedure: dentures or implants, is more complicated?

Placing implants is a more complicated procedure than dentures. It requires undergoing oral surgery, and there is a risk of complications.

References

  1. The effect of complete dentures on edentulous patients' oral health-related quality of life in long-term: A systematic review and meta-analysis - NIH
  2. Dental Implant Procedures - AAP
  3. Denture Care and Maintenance: Key Points - ADA
  4. Longevity of teeth and implants - a systematic review - PubMed
  5. Longevity of complete dentures: A systematic review and meta-analysis - PubMed