Dentures Vs Implants – Which Is Best?

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If you are looking to get missing teeth replaced you are probably wondering whether dentures vs implants is the better choice. What are the pros and the cons of each, what are is the difference in cost, and which option looks the most like natural teeth? 

The intention behind this article is to answer all of your most important questions about dentures vs implants. We are going to look at all of the facts and pitch dentures and implants against each other in a head-to-head comparison. By the time you have read all of the way through to the end, you will be armed with all of the knowledge you need to be able to decide for yourself whether dentures or implants are going to be the best missing teeth replacement for you.

Without further ado, let us begin.

Everything you need to know about dentures

Let us start with dentures. 

Dentures have been around for much, much longer than dental implants. In fact, historical evidence suggests that dentures crudely made from human and animal teeth were used by the Etruscans as far back as the 7th century BC. 

With the fall of the Etruscan civilisation, the art of dentures was also temporarily lost. However, it re-emerged in Europe in the 1700s when the import of sugar from overseas plantations created a soaring demand for teeth replacements.

It goes without saying that dentures have seen many improvements over the centuries. As a result, the dentures available to day are entirely different from the handmade dentures of times gone by. Today, dentures tend to be made from acrylic (a form of plastic) resin, porcelain, metal, nylon or a combination of these materials. Either way, they are made to closely resemble natural teeth.

Dentures are custom-made, which means you cannot simply get a pair of ‘one size fits all’ dentures at your local pharmacy. Instead, you will have to see your dentist about getting a custom made set, crafted specifically to fit your mouth.

Removable partial dentures

Two different types of dentures are available today – removable partial dentures and flipper dentures.

Removable partial dentures is the only permanent solution. Unlike dental implants, which are permanently fixed in your mouth, removable partial dentures can be clipped on and off as you wish. You can easily keep them in most of the time, but remove them to brush your teeth or to sleep.

Removable partial dentures offer at least one very clear advantage over dental implants. Whereas implants can only replace one missing tooth at a time, removable partial dentures can replace as many teeth as needed in one go, provided that the missing teeth are in a row. Let us say, for example, that you are missing four front teeth. One set of removable partial dentures can replace all four of them at once, which is both practical and cost-effective.

You can get either tooth-supported dentures or implant-supported dentures depending on whether or not you have enough existing teeth to support your new dentures. Tooth-supported dentures clip onto some of your remaining teeth, while implant-supported dentures clip onto dental implants at either end.

Flipper dentures

Flipper dentures are temporary dentures that are only intended as placeholders until you get your removable partial dentures or implants installed. 

Unlike removable partial dentures, flipper dentures can be flipped in and out of place very easily. Because they are only considered a temporary measure, they are both considerably more bulky and heavy than removable partial dentures, and they can feel rather uncomfortable in your mouth. Still, they are much better than not having any teeth at all while you are waiting for your permanent teeth replacements. 

The procedure

Getting your new custom dentures made and installed requires a few visits to your dentist’s office.

Initially, your dentist is going to make moulds of your teeth and gums to ensure that your new dentures are going to be a perfect fit. The dentures themselves are crafted by an expert dental technician and consist of a metal, nylon or acrylic frame with a number of artificial teeth attached to it. The teeth themselves may be made from resin or porcelain, depending on your budget and preferences. Both resin and porcelain mimic natural teeth very well, but porcelain has the most similar texture and appearance.

When your new dentures are ready, your dentist is going to install them in your mouth, usually by clipping them onto some of your existing natural teeth that will help hold the dentures securely in place. 

Once your new dentures have been installed, you do not need to return to your dentist again except for the regular checkups you would attend anyway. Provided that you take good care of your dentures, they will last you a very long time, between ten and fifteen years on average.

Everything you need to know about dental implants

The world’s first dental implant was installed in a person’s jaw in 1965, which in the grand scheme of things is not very long ago. 

Unsurprisingly and universally, dental implants have become one of the most popular missing teeth replacement options. There are several hard-hitting reasons for this: Dental implants look and function almost exactly the same as natural teeth. Even more so than dentures or bridges, dental implants are replacement teeth. Because they are permanently fixed in your mouth it means you have the luxury of nearly forgetting that the are in fact implants rather than your original teeth. 

What’s more, other people are very unlikely to notice if you have implants. Unlike dentures, they cannot fall out and they are not connected to each other, which is often a dead giveaway if you have false teeth. 

Dental implants are also much easier to keep clean than removable partial dentures. You can simply brush and floss between them exactly like you would your natural teeth.

The procedure

Getting dental implants requires oral surgery. If you are getting more than one implant installed, you may have to spread the surgeries out over several visits.

First, your dentist will have taken moulds of any teeth that need replacing and dental technicians at a lab will have fashioned custom made artificial teeth.

The procedure itself involves a metal prosthetic root being inserted into your gums and all the way into your jawbone to replace the natural tooth root of the missing tooth. An artificial tooth made from porcelain, zirconia or tooth-coloured composite resin is then affixed to this artificial metal root. 

Unless it gets infected or rejected, the titanium screw that the artificial tooth is attached to will never have to be replaced. 

Head-to-head comparison 

Now that you have a good idea of what dentures and dental implants are, let us hold these two tooth replacement options up next to each other and compare them from multiple different angles.

This is the most affordable option

Dentures are by far the more cost-effective solution if you are looking to et replacement teeth.

Unsurprisingly, dental implants are significantly more expensive than removable dentures. A single implant can easily cost $1,500 to $2,000 per implant. In contrast, dentures only cost between $600 and $1,500 for a full set.

If you are only looking to replace a single tooth, it almost always makes the most sense to choose a dental implant. However, if you are looking to replace several teeth and these are all in a row, opting for dentures is a good option to have.

This option looks the most like natural teeth

Dentures have come a long way since their crudely made counterparts from hundreds of years ago, but implants are hands-down the most natural-looking teeth replacement option available today.

This is particularly true if you opt for porcelain implants. Not only does porcelain closely mimic the appearance and texture of natural teeth, it also functions very similarly and getting used to having your new porcelain implant in your mouth for a day or two, you are likely to almost forget that it isn’t one of your natural teeth.

As a besides, you are less likely to feel self-conscious with implants than with dentures, since the implants cannot fall out. In most cases, your dentures will stay in too, but there is always the option of them falling out at an inopportune moment which might cause you some embarrassment. 

This option feels more comfortable in the mouth

As well as being the most natural-looking, implants are also the most comfortable tooth replacement choice you could make.

Even the most well-made dentures feel more bulky and alien in your mouth than implants.

This is the longest lasting option

Dentures last between 5 and 15 years, which is not bad at all. However, dental implants last a minimum of 10-15 years if you take good care of them, and often much longer than that.

This option is easier to keep clean

Implants are much easier to keep clean and healthy than dentures.

Implants you can simply treat the same as the rest of your teeth. What this means in practice is that you can simply brush the and floss between them twice a day just like you do the rest of your teeth. 

Dentures, on the other hand, require quite a bit more dedication. First and foremost, you should always take them out before you go to bed and store them in a glass of water. You will also have to clean them carefully every day as plaque can very easily build up both around and underneath the dentures.

When to choose implants

Choose implants unless you have a good reason not to.

Implants cost more than dentures, but they also look, function and last better than dentures. In other words, implants are a worthwhile investment.

When to choose dentures

Replacing missing teeth with either partial or complete dentures is a great option to have if you cannot afford implants and your dental insurance does not cover them.

Dentures vs implants FAQ

Is it better to have dentures or implants?

In the vast majority of cases, getting dental implants is a better solution than dentures.

Dentures are a fanatic option to have if you are unfortunate enough to have to replace most of your natural teeth and cannot afford to refill your mouth with individual dental implants. 

However, if you are only looking to replace a few or even one single missing tooth, here are a few hard-hitting reasons for choosing dental implants instead of dentures: Dental implants look, feel and work much more like natural teeth. This is particularly true for porcelain implants. Implants also tend to last longer than dentures, and they are easier to keep clean and healthy.

What are the pros and cons of dentures vs implants?

There are pros and cons associated with both dentures and implants.

If we look at dentures first, the main pros is that they are cost-effective, as you can replace several missing teeth at once, often with one single clip-on set of dentures. Dentures are also long-lasting; you can expect them to serve you well for ten to fifteen years on average. 

As for cons, dentures look slightly more like the false teeth they are than other teeth replacement options. Dentures also have to be taken out and cleaned thoroughly every day, which can seem like an annoying chore. However, it is absolutely necessary to stick with this routine since plaque tends to build up around and under the dentures. You also cannot sleep with your dentures in but will have to store them in a glass of water over night. Another con worth mentioning is that there are certain foods you should avoid while wearing your dentures. Sticky and chewy foods from taffy to hard meats can pull at your dentures and may make them fall out.

Moving on to implants. The primary pros of implants is that they look, feel and act almost exactly like natural teeth. Unless someone is standing really close and is deliberately looking for implants in your mouth, no one is likely to notice that your teeth are made from porcelain. Dental implants are also wonderfully easy to keep clean – or at least, they are no harder to keep clean and healthy than natural teeth. You can simply brush and floss around them like you do the rest of your teeth. Dental implants last very long time; expect ten to fifteen years minimum, although they might last you much longer.

And now for the cons. Dental implants require dental procedures that involve metal posts being inserted into your gum and jawbone, and as with any type of surgery, there is a risk of infection or implant rejection. Another con is the price point, which is significantly higher than it is for dentures. The price tag alone may put dental implants out of the reach of some patients who would like to have them. 

Are permanent dentures the same as implants?

No, permanent dentures and implants are not the same. 

Dental implants are artificial teeth affixed to metal posts that are inserted into the gums and the jawbone underneath. Permanent dentures, on the other hand, are artificial teeth affixed to a metal or acrylic frame which is clipped in place. Permanent dentures may be bracketed and held in place by implants rather than natural teeth.

Are dentures better than no teeth?

Absolutely. Not having any teeth is never a good idea, for so many reasons.

If you have several missing teeth, this leaves plenty of room for your remaining teeth to shift into crooked positions. It is also very impractical as a lack of teeth make it difficult to chew and user your mouth properly. Having teeth is also much more visually pleasing than not having them, or having multiple large gaps between your teeth where individual teeth are missing.

If you want to replace numerous missing teeth and cannot afford dental implants, dentures are a great alternative solution.

Conclusion: This is the best replacement option for a missing tooth or missing teeth

Choosing dental implants is almost always going to be the right call, particularly if you are only replacing one or a few missing teeth.

The only scenario in which partial or complete dentures might be a better solution is if you are looking to replace a significant number of missing teeth and you cannot afford all of the dental procedure that would result in you having all of your missing teeth replaced with individual dental implants. There may also be individual cases where severe gum disease or some other health condition affecting your gums or your jaw bone may make it difficult or impossible for your dentist to instal the metal posts in your jaw that are a pre-requisite for getting implants.

In the vast majority of cases, however, implants is the way to go. They are by far the more expensive solution, but the extra upfront cost is going to be offset by the facts that they last much longer (A lifetime, in some cases), look, feel and function much more like natural teeth, and are easier to keep clean and healthy.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.