An implant-supported denture is a type of overdenture that is supported by and attached to implants. This differs from a regular denture, which rests on the gums and is not supported by implants.
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 implants.
Implant-supported dentures are usually 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 implants. However, you can receive an implant-supported denture in either the upper or lower jaw.
You should remove an implant-supported denture daily to clean the denture and gum area. Just as with regular dentures, you should not sleep with the implant-supported dentures at night. Some people prefer to have fixed (permanent) crown and bridgework in their mouths that can’t be removed. Dr. Farahmand will consider your particular needs and preferences when suggesting fixed or removable options.
There are two main 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. Porcelain or acrylic teeth that look like natural teeth are attached to the base. Both types of dentures need at least two implants for support.
- Bar-retained dentures – A thin metal bar that follows the curve of your jaw is attached to two to five implants that have been placed in your jawbone. Clips or other types of attachments are fitted to the bar, the denture or both. The denture fits over the bar and is securely clipped into place by the attachments.
- Ball-retained dentures (stud-attachment dentures) – Each implant 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, the denture holds the male attachments and the implants hold the female ones.
The implant process
The implants usually are placed in the jawbone at the front of the mouth because there tends to be more bone in the front of the jaw than in the back. This usually is true even if teeth have been missing for some time. Once you lose teeth, you begin to lose bone in the area. Also, the front jaw doesn’t have many nerves or other structures that could interfere with the placement of implants.
The time frame to complete the implant depends on many factors. The shortest time frame is about three to four months. This includes surgeries and the placement of the denture. However, the process can take longer, especially if you need bone grafting or other preliminary procedures.
Two surgeries usually are needed. The first one places the implants in the jawbone under your gums. The second surgery exposes the tops of the implants. The second procedure comes three to six months after the first.
Getting used to your implant-supported denture
An implant-supported denture is more stable than a regular denture. Patients find it easier to speak and don’t have to worry about the denture becoming loose or falling out of the mouth. They also find that they can eat foods they couldn’t before. (However, they should avoid chewing hard or sticky foods because those can damage the denture.)
If you have an implant-supported denture in your upper jaw, it can be made to cover less of your palate (roof of your mouth) than a regular denture. That’s because the implants are holding it in place instead of the suction created between the full denture and your palate.
You’ll need to remove the denture at night and when you clean it. You also should carefully clean around the attachments.
Dr. Farahmand will test all the parts of your new denture to make sure 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. The doctor will also check your gums and the way your top and bottom teeth come together (your bite) after inserting the denture.
The clip or other attachments on the bar-retained denture usually needs to be replaced every 6 to 12 months. They are made of a plastic material (nylon) and will wear after continued use.