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Converting from Removable to Permanent Implant-Supported Dentures

The benefits of implant-supported dentures

Implant dentistry has revolutionized the dental industry and the lives of the patients who benefit from them. Today, dental implants are considered the primary treatment option for people with missing teeth. In fact, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), The average success rate of dental implant treatment is more than 95 percent! People with many or all of their teeth missing will often be prescribed implant-supported dentures. In contrast to traditional dentures, patients with implant-supported dentures (also known as ‘overdentures’) are able to eat, speak, and smile with confidence, knowing that their dentures are securely in place. Furthermore, implant-supported dentures can actually improve a patient’s oral health by improving chewing functions, speech, & preventing jawbone disintegration & loss.

It’s all about the implants

“I currently have removable implant-supported dentures. Can I convert to a permanent solution?” The answer to that is a resounding “maybe”. It all depends on the number and position of the implants. Let’s think about this together. Many people think that you need an implant for each tooth that you are missing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, with as little as 4 implants, you can support 10-12 teeth.

Removable vs permanent implant-supported dentures & the spacing they require

However, there’s a catch. The implants have to be spaced properly so teeth are not extended way beyond the implants. If there is too much of an extension of permanent teeth beyond the implant, the permanent dentures can break due to lack of support. A denture that you remove and insert that is held in place partially by implants also rests on the gum. It is being supported all over. Implant spacing is important but not as important as in a permanent solution. A denture can be helped and made more stable with as little as 2 implants in the front of the mouth.

Clearly, in the case of front implants only, the teeth in the back have no implant support. They have gum support. A permanent solution requires implant support, not gum support. That requires proper implant spacing.

This doesn’t mean that a permanent solution is not an option if you only have front implants. If the situation allows, implants can be added to the back of the mouth to give proper support for the permanent teeth. Then you can move to permanent teeth and eliminate the denture.

Permanent dentures need space to avoid breakage

The other factor to consider is the space between the top of the existing implants and the top of the teeth that they are chewing against. In other words, if we have existing top implants, we need to measure the space between these top implants and the bottom teeth. It doesn’t make a difference if the bottom teeth are natural, crowns or a denture. Permanent teeth need space to avoid breakage. If the space is too small then the strength of the teeth is compromised and fractures are likely.

Proper evaluation is required

This is why we evaluate you via a visual exam, x-rays, CT scans, and models. There are many factors that come into play and can influence whether or not you can make the conversion from something removable to something that is permanent.

If you have questions about existing dental implants or, even questions regarding if you are a candidate for implant dentistry, please call me at 440-951-7856.  I am more than happy to talk to each and every one of you and help with your dental implant awareness.

Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD is an Ohio licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.

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