Removable dentures (partial and complete) have been a staple of dental care for decades. One of the most common complaints about dentures - and lower dentures in particular - is that they are difficult to keep in place. Fortunately, with the advanced is dental implant technology, we not only use implants to replace missing teeth, but we can use implants to anchor on dentures. Hence, a denture that is held in place (entirely or in part) by dental implants is known as an implant denture.
An implant denture is a regular denture that has special attachments built in which allow it to connect to dental implants below. A common example is to use two dental implants in the bottom jaw in the area of where each of the canines ("eye-teeth") would be. The denture is then made to snap on to these two dental implants.
The advantages of an implant denture include significantly increased stability compared to a denture that's not retained by implants. And because implant dentures fit securely in place, patients are much more comfortable speaking, smiling and eating, as there is very little chance that a properly fit implant denture will come out of the mouth.
The disadvantages of having an implant denture fabricated is the time needed to have the implants placed and have the implants osseointegrate (heal), as well as the cost of the implants and the expense of having the denture designed to work with dental implants. That being said, if you consider the time people spend with relines, denture adhesives, and with the frustrations that go with a lower complete denture, the benefit of having an implant denture greatly outweighs the disadvantage that is the cost.
As with dental implants that are used to replace single or multiple natural teeth, one of the key determining factors of whether or not someone is a dental implant candidate is the amount of bone they have remaining. Because patients who are long-term lower denture wearers tend to have significant bone loss (hence the inability of the denture to fit well), it's critical to have an evaluation sooner rather than later to see if enough bone is present. Bone resorbs over the years, and the longer that someone waits to have potential implants place, the greater the chance is that they might not have enough bone to support the implant. Of course, in cases where there isn't adequate bone, we are sometimes able to add bone in a procedure called a bone graft.
If you wear a loose lower denture, and you are ready to look forward to eating and smiling with confidence again, it might be time to consider an implant denture.