A Better Bite
Implant-supported dentures are changing the definition of ‘false teeth.’
Once the preferred solution for older adults who have lost their teeth, dentures have their disadvantages. They don’t always sit well on the lower jaw, and the longer a person wears traditional dentures, the more destructive they can be to underlying soft tissue and bone.
“If dentures are loose, people often worry about what they are going to eat,” says James Ryan, DDS, MS, Diplomate American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. “They may no longer be able to count dining and food as pleasurable activities.”
Dr. Ryan and his colleagues at the George Washington University Hospital often recommend a different kind of denture, one that is anchored securely to the jaw. Implants made of titanium are embedded into the jawbone, and when healed, become integrated into the bone. Small connectors allow dentures to snap securely into the implants. Contrary to the mental image, placing the implants in the jaw is a virtually painless process.
“There are no pain receptors in bone,” says Dr. Ryan. “The procedure is done under local anesthesia and patients often only need Tylenol® afterward.”
Benefits of implant-supported dentures include a more comfortable fit and feel in the mouth, no canker sores from slipping dentures, no need to use denture adhesives and teeth that look more natural. People often opt for permanent dentures because they feel more confident when they talk, laugh and eat in public.
“Once we place the implant and attach it, I’ve seen patients become totally different people,” says Dr. Ryan. “On a psychological, personal and social level, there’s an improved quality of life.”