What Are Permanent Dentures?

A quick search online, and you will find quite a few different definitions of what ‘permanent dentures’ are. The term is not generally used by dentists, and as such it can be difficult to pin down an exact answer. “Permanent” can be used to mean fixed in the mouth or alternatively can be used to imply a treatment that is not “temporary”.

In terms of false teeth that are not temporary, this will apply to most such treatments. The exception here is when ‘immediate dentures’ are placed, to replace teeth that have just been extracted. A waiting period is generally needed before a permanent treatment, such as an implant or a bridge, can be carried out. Information on dentures in general is covered starting here.

In this article, we will focus on permanent dentures as those that are more-or-less fixed into the mouth by means of dental implants.

Image of two lower dental implants to hold in place a permanent denture

Two implants like in this picture in the lower jaw can support a bottom ‘permanent’ denture

 

Fixed dentures

Traditionally, false teeth have been held in place by any remaining teeth and/or the ridges of gum (where teeth have been lost). These types can be easily taken out of the mouth. Fixed versions, on the other hand, are held more permanently, or at least more securely, in place. One such treatment is more commonly known as permanent dental bridges, also fixed partial dentures. You can read about bridges here.  However, when we talk permanent ‘plates’ I think it is fair to say that most people actually mean those are held in place by implants.

 

Implant-retained dentures

Implants, in brief, are titanium screws that are surgically placed in the jaw to replace missing teeth. They can be used to replace a single tooth, groups of, or indeed all missing teeth if needs be. Crowns or bridges are then attached to the implants, if there are small numbers of missing teeth to be replaced. Where few or no natural teeth remain, there are two options. The first is where many screws are placed, which then hold new teeth (as a bridge) permanently in the mouth. The downside here is the cost and extent of treatment needed.

A second option is to place fewer implants, which then help hold a removable plate in place (see image above). Also, mini-implants can be used. These are smaller and therefore easier to place than the standard size. This is a compromise of sorts, but still generally leads to a very satisfactory result. Generally speaking, although they can be taken out (they are not truly ‘fixed’), such protheses are held tightly in place. There are much less likely to move about when you eat or speak.

Pros and cons of permanent dentures

Referring to false teeth that are held in place by implants, here are some general notes on the pros and cons:

Advantages

  • When compared to traditional plates, these are generally much more stable. As such, the wearer is usually a lot more confident with them, finding them much more acceptable and easier to wear. This is especially true for bottom full protheses which are usually the most unstable. Here even two implants can make a huge difference
  • Indeed for a small group of patients (for example, those with very worn down jaw ridges) it can be almost impossible to wear unsupported plates. Implant support for these patients can completely change their lives.

Disadvantages

There are two main disadvantages for most people with this treatment;

  1. Permanent dentures cost. Getting implants to maintain dentures in place is an expensive procedure, these are not the most affordable dentures. Depending on the amount of teeth missing and therefore the amount of screws are needed, the total price could exceed five figures. Furthermore, most dental insurance will not pay out on this type of procedure. More information on the factors behind how much they cost can be found here.
  2. Surgery. Implant treatment involves a surgical procedure, and quite a few lengthy visits to your dentist. As such, there may be some discomfort afterwards, and there is a a healing period involved. It may be six months between the surgery being carried out and teeth been fitted. That being said, ‘mini-implants’ can be used in some circumstances, and these are much easier to insert and heal faster. Another inherent problem here is that patients will not be suitable to get surgical work done.  Finally, as a more involved procedure, there are more chances of having problems (when compared to ‘traditional’ denture work).

 

Note that no dentures can really be described as “permanent”. Even implant-retained dentures may need to be replaced periodically as the teeth can wear down on them. However, the screws themselves – ‘the foundation’ – will last a lifetime in most cases if properly looked after.

 

You can find much more information on implants here.

And lots of advice on dentures here.

 

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