I have had dentures now for over a decade. Is it at all possible for me to switch to dental implants at this point? I am miserable with my dentures. They are uncomfortable and I think they look fake.
-Regina in New Hampshire
Thank you for your question, Regina. The good news is that yes, it’s possible to get dental implants after you have had dentures. However, each cases varies on what will be required to successfully make the switch.
The longer a patient wears a complete denture, the more at risk they are to a condition called facial collapse. You mention some discomfort with your dentures now. When facial collapse sets in, it means that bone loss has occurred. When you no longer have teeth in place, the body senses that the minerals and vitamins should be used elsewhere in the body because they aren’t needed to support the teeth. So, bone loss is the result. Often times, when an individual has worn dentures for a long time, over 10-15 years, they may appear older than they are and they also may deal with discomfort or painful sores from their dentures. This is because the bone has been resorbed to be used elsewhere in the body and it makes it increasingly difficult to keep the denture in place. Sometimes, an individual with facial collapse will get to the point where the denture won’t even stay in. From what you have shared, it sounds like you are miserable. It’s possible you have begun to experience the effects of facial collapse.
In severe facial collapse cases, there is so little bone left that there isn’t adequate bone remaining for dental implants to be placed successfully. So, if that is the case, here are the options available.
One of the things you could have done is bone grafting. This is a surgical procedure that will build up the bone supply in your jaw again. Sometimes, bone is harvested from other areas of your body. Otherwise, there are artificial bone products that can be used to build up the bone in that area again. You will need to talk more with your implant dentist and oral surgeon to learn more about what sources they typically use for bone grafting.
If you don’t want to go that route, it is possible you can use a limited number of dental implants, using what is often referred to as an all-on-4 or all-on-6 dental implants procedure. Now, this is all dependent on if there is enough thickness of bone left near the front of your mouth. This procedure may work by using the bone to support short dental implants that are placed at an angle. This strategy will increase their resistance to displacement and it may help avoid the need for bone grafting surgery.
In full disclosure, the all-on-4 technique does have risks and may not work well for everyone. The best thing you can do is focus your search on finding the best implant dentist in your area. Not just any general dentist has the training and experience to deliver successful results, especially for such an elaborate case like bone grafting or dental implants. So, be sure to get several opinions and get a full understanding of your options. The most important thing is to select the most experienced implant dentist you can find, who you trust the most. Ask about their training and credentials. Also, ask to see before and after images from other patients in similar situations.
Since you will require oral surgery too, be sure to learn more about their role and recommendations too. Your implant dentist will likely have someone they recommend for that portion of the procedure.
Thank you for your question, and best of luck.
This post is sponsored by Petaluma dentist Dr. Rick Lane.