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Edentulism—the complete loss of the top and/or bottom teeth—is a major problem among older adults. In fact, it’s estimated to affect tens of millions of Americans today. If you know someone who’s suffering from this condition (or if you’re dealing with it yourself), then you probably know this: if left untreated, tooth loss can negatively affect a person’s appearance, speech, self-confidence—and even their nutrition and overall health. What can be done about it?
In the past, there was only one answer: dentures. These oral appliances have been around for a long time—in fact, probably since the dawn of recorded history—and they worked well enough for your parents’ generation. But today, there’s another choice: dental implants. When your natural teeth are failing or missing, most experts agree that dental implants are now your best option for tooth replacement.
What makes implants so much better than dentures? We’re glad you asked! Let’s compare the two systems, and then you can decide for yourself.
Pro: They’re certainly a time-tested technology, and they are relatively inexpensive to purchase. After an adjustment period, many people find they function adequately.
Con: In time, wearing dentures leads to bone loss, because of the pressure applied when they are used. This can cause discomfort, slippage, and loss of function, and it requires that the dentures be re-lined or replaced periodically. Many denture-wearers report they have trouble eating foods that aren’t soft; this can lead to nutritional deficits. Dentures require special cleaning, and can build up unpleasant tastes and odors. Problems with speaking, chewing—even kissing—can lead to the loss of self confidence, which many people who wear dentures have experienced.
Pro: Because dental implants actually become fused with the bone in your jaw, they stop the loss of bone volume as well as density. Implants are by far the most reliable tooth replacement system, with a success rate over 95%. They’re the most durable, too: Given only the standard care you’d provide for your natural teeth (regular brushing and flossing, and periodic dental-office visits), they can last the rest of your life.
Dental implants look, feel and function just like your natural teeth. You can bite, chew, speak—do everything you used to enjoy doing—without worrying that they may come loose. They aren’t subject to decay, and they don’t compromise your oral hygiene the way partial dentures can.
Con: Dental implants are more expensive initially—but you’re paying for something that offers high quality and long-term service, which is another way of saying value. When you look at it from this perspective, you’ll see why dental implants are recognized as the most cost effective way to replace missing teeth.
So now that you know more about your choices, which one is right for you?