Many people quickly get fed up with the problems of dentures. The loose fit, the difficulty biting and chewing. The interference with talking and the inability to go out and hang with friends all quickly degrades your quality of life so that it can be hard to take.

The next step up from loose dentures is implant retained dentures, where the denture is held in the mouth by dental implants. You might initially think this is enough to solve your denture problems, but it might not be. What do you do then? Can you upgrade your dentures further to get dentures that are actually supported by your dental implants?

That depends.

senior man showing off his smile

The Difference between Retained and Supported Dentures

With implant dentures, you can choose between implant-retained dentures and implant-supported dentures.

With implant-retained dentures, implants are only used to hold dentures in place. They provide stability for the dentures, but don’t bear much of the force of biting and chewing. Much of this force still pushes down on your gums.

Implant-supported dentures, on the other hand, are designed to direct bite force from the denture, through the implants, and into the bone. This gives you a firm platform for biting and chewing. With implant-supported dentures, your bite force is almost as strong as it was with natural teeth. 

Limitations of Retained Dentures

Implant-retained dentures are better than traditional dentures because dental implants keep them from slipping around in the mouth. The dentures will stay in place, so they won’t come flying out of your mouth when you’re talking or laughing.

But with implant-retained dentures the force is still resting on your gums. As a result you may still experience:

  • Reduced bite force
  • Painful gum irritation
  • Dislodged dentures when biting or chewing

Your bite force is stronger when you have implant retained dentures. The dentures are held in place so you can bite down more firmly than with loose, slippery dentures. But much of the bite force is still resting on your gums. That means your bite force will still be much less than it was with your natural teeth. For some people, the improvement is enough. Others find that they still can’t bite hard enough to enjoy the foods they want.

And the increased bite force with retained dentures can actually be a problem. That’s because it increases the pressure on your gums, leading to painful irritation. And sometimes when you bite down, the force can be enough that it will cause your dentures to be dislodged, depending on the style of attachment.

Can You Get an Upgrade?

The good news is that, for most people, it’s possible to upgrade your dentures to fully supported implant dentures.

The biggest question is whether you have sufficient bone to support the new dental implants. For this, it’s best to make your decision as soon as possible after getting dentures. That’s because your body is constantly removing bone it doesn’t think is necessary after you’ve had your teeth removed. And the pressure from poorly fitting dentures may even accelerate bone loss.

If you have two implants to retain your dentures, you will be upgraded to at least four implants, although six implants might be best for function and long-term health.

You may also need to replace your denture, too. Some dentures may be strong enough to serve as implant-supported, but others may not. Other times, your old dentures may not be adaptable to the new implant configuration. Often, it’s recommended that you upgrade from a denture with a PMMA base to one that is fully ceramic. Advanced ceramics are strong enough to withstand all your bite forces.

Moving to Fixed or Hybrid Dentures

If you decide to upgrade, you will also have to decide if you want your implant-supported dentures to be removable or fully fixed dentures sometimes called “hybrid dentures.” These dentures can only be removed by your dentist..

Some people like the idea of fully fixed dentures. The thought of not taking their dentures out at night and soaking them in a jar is appealing. Then they know they will always be able to smile at their spouse or significant other at any time, day or night. Plus, these dentures might feel more like they’re a part of you.

Other people might get medical benefits from having fixed dentures. Without teeth, your jaw can move into an unhealthy position. This can strain your joints and contribute to painful TMJ. Sleeping without dentures might also make your airway more likely to close at night, contributing to sleep apnea.

On the other hand, fully fixed dentures are a hygiene challenge. If you’re not able to clean your dentures well enough when they’re in your mouth, it might be necessary to have removable dentures to ensure they stay clean. 

Talk to a Denture Dentist about Your Options

The only way to know for sure what’s necessary in moving to implant-supported dentures is to talk to a denture dentist.  They can also help you decide if removable or fixed dentures are a better choice for you.

Please contact a local FOY® Dentures dentist today for an appointment.