Made from biocompatible titanium, dental implants have revolutionized dentistry. Where once the only option for replacing a full arch of missing teeth was a traditional denture, today, dental implants allow you to enjoy your favorite foods and a more confident smile. Dental implants integrate with your bone to replace tooth roots, providing a secure and stable anchor that locks your replacement teeth in place. Yet many people are unclear about the different implant options that are available, and fixed versus snap-on options are a particularly common source of confusion.
Fixed Dental Implant Bridges
Fixed dental implant bridges come in different forms. If you are missing several teeth in a row, a fixed dental implant bridge works just like a traditional dental bridge. The only difference is that it is anchored on an implant at each end, rather than on existing teeth. It is bonded onto the implants in such a way that it cannot be removed except by the dentist, and it is designed to blend in with your existing natural teeth. You brush it just like your teeth, and clean under it with floss or a Waterpik, as directed by the dentist.
A fixed dental implant bridge can also be used to replace a full arch of missing teeth. The main difference between a full arch fixed bridge and one that replaces only a strip of teeth is in the number of implants used. To replace a full arch of teeth, it is necessary to place dental implants at strategic points along the arch. If you have ever heard of an “All on 4” or “All on 6,” these are trade names for specific types of fixed full arch replacement systems. All systems work in basically the same way, however. By distributing the forces of biting and chewing amongst multiple implants, a full arch of teeth can be supported by just a few implants.
Like a shorter fixed dental implant bridge, a full arch replacement is also locked onto the implants in such a way that only the dentist can remove it. You will brush your teeth like normal, and clean underneath the bridge according to your dentist’s instructions.
Snap-on dentures may be implant retained or implant supported. In an implant retained denture, the denture is supported by your gums, just like a traditional denture. However, mini or full-sized dental implants are used to stabilize it. Many denture wearers complain that a traditional denture slips or falls out when talking, laughing, or eating sticky foods. They often use adhesives to minimize slippage, which can come with their own set of difficulties. Implant retained dentures are an excellent solution to this common problem. The denture is fitted with attachments that allow it to securely snap onto the implants. This minimizes or eliminates slippage, allowing you to talk, laugh, and eat with confidence.
Implant supported dentures are sort of a hybrid between implant retained dentures and fixed dental implant bridges. In this scenario, a metal bar or other configuration is used to lock the implants together and distribute biting and chewing forces. Rather than relying on the strength of your gums, the denture is fully supported by the implants. This allows you to eat particularly tough foods, such as steak and corn on the cob, that are a real challenge for traditional denture wearers. It also provides even more security against slippage, since the denture is securely anchored to the implants. In some cases, an implant supported upper denture can have the palate, or the big plastic section that adheres to the roof of the mouth, removed. For those who have trouble with upper dentures due to a gag reflex, or simply want to enjoy the taste and texture of food again, this can be a huge benefit.
Snap-on dentures are not fixed in place. You will be able to remove your dentures for cleaning, and to sleep without them if desired. Some people like this flexibility, while others hate having to remove their dentures at all.
Which Should I Choose?
Many people agree that both snap-on dentures and fixed dental implant bridges are a massive improvement over traditional dentures. Both do an excellent job of addressing the most common complaints about dentures. Choosing between the two is a personal decision based on your own needs, desires, goals, and budget.
A fixed option has the highest upfront cost. The number of implants required, the precision planning, and the cost of making the dental prosthesis to fit over the implants all combine to become a fairly pricey option. However, a fixed bridge has numerous benefits. It looks and feels the most like your natural teeth. It is removable only by the dentist. With proper care, it can easily last a lifetime. It also removes the stigma that many people feel when wearing dentures. No one but you and your dentist ever needs to know that your teeth have been replaced.
Snap-on dentures require fewer implants than fixed implant bridges, and in many cases, your existing dentures can be modified, saving you the cost of a brand new prosthesis. If you have dentures that you like, but simply want them to be more secure, snap-on dentures are an economical choice. In addition, some people choose snap-on dentures as an interim solution while saving up towards a fixed implant bridge.
Only you and your dentist can decide which solution is best for you. Ask lots of questions before you proceed, and listen carefully to your dentist’s recommendations. Whichever choice you make, you will likely be much happier than with traditional dentures.
AtFamily Dental Care of Bellevue, we believe in providing all the latest options for excellent dental care. To schedule an appointment or to speak with our highly knowledgeable office staff, please give us a call today at 425-643-5778.