Lower dentures are notorious for the being unstable. Many patients with lower dentures experience discomfort, difficulty chewing food, decreased social contact and quality of life.
Several implant treatment options have been developed to address poor stability of the lower dentures. In this article I would like to discuss snap on dentures. It is a cost effective and relatively simple treatment approach where 2 dental implants are used for the support of the denture in the lower jaw.
Pros and Cons
Despite preventive efforts considerable number of people still missing all their teeth in one or both jaws. Complete (also called full) dentures have been traditionally used for the replacement of teeth and rehabilitation of oral functions. Advantages of complete denture treatment includes their relatively low treatment and maintenance costs and straightforward production protocols.
On the other hand complete dentures also present with a number of disadvantages. Dentures require learning on how to use them. Patient also has to adapt to the changes in speech, decreased chewing efficiency and occasional discomfort in the supporting gum tissues. Supporting jaw bone under the denture will be undergoing shrinkage over the the course of time. For some patient shrinkage can be a significant problem since there may not be enough jaw bone left for the support of the denture.
Difference Between Upper and Lower Dentures
Another important factor to consider is the difference between upper (top) and lower (bottom) dentures. For majority of patients anatomy of the lower jaw is less favorable for the denture support than in the upper jaw. In the upper jaw, denture covers roof of the mouth and this additional coverage provides considerable stability to the upper denture. Surface area of the lower jaw is much smaller and there is close proximity of the tongue and chewing muscles which tend to displace the denture. As a result of these differences most of the patient experience significantly more problems with their lower dentures.
Dental implants were initially developed to help patients deal with poor stability of the lower dentures. At first researches developed a design where 4 to 6 implants were inserted into the jaw bone for the support of fixed bridge. This proved to be a very successful design and with some refinements we continue to use it in contemporary clinical practice. However one disadvantage of this approach is a high treatment cost because it requires several implants and sophisticated production technology.
In order to further decrease cost of treatment, dental industry developed an alternative design with minimal number of implants. We call this treatment implant retained dentures or snap on dentures.
Snap On Dentures
Snap on dentures (also called implant retained dentures) is a design where minimal number of implants are used for the support of the lower denture. For clarification purposes implant retained dentures is a term used by the dentists and snap on dentures is a layman’s term. Most commonly 2 dental implants are inserted into the front area of the lower jaw. The removable denture is than stabilized with help of a special Snap On attachment mechanism.
The holding power of this attachment mechanism provides good stability to the denture during chewing, talking and swallowing. Since the artificial prosthesis is a removable denture, it is designed in such manner that it is taken out daily by the patient for cleaning.
Snap on dentures are well supported by clinical research which documents high success rates, improved satisfaction and quality of life in comparison to the traditional denture.
Snap on denture is a good treatment option for somebody who is not satisfied with their lower denture or for somebody who is loosing all teeth in the lower jaw and does not want to deal with disadvantages of traditional denture.
In regard to the treatment cost, snap on dentures are less expensive than fixed implant bridges but more expensive than traditional dentures.
Treatment Process with Snap On Dentures
Treatment with snap on dentures includes several stages. In the initial stage, patient’s dental state and general health is evaluated and treatment options are presented to the patient. Once decision is made to proceed with dental implants, preparations are made for a surgery. For patients with hopeless teeth a dentist usually makes an immediate denture.
During surgical stage, implants are placed in the anterior area of the mandible. When hopeless teeth are present, they are removed and in majority of instances dental implants are placed during the same surgery. Existing denture is relined and about 3 month are allowed for appropriate healing of the bone, gums and integration of the dental implants with the jaw bone.
Upon completion of the healing, dentist proceeds with the fabrication of an implant denture. If indicated dentist makes a completely new prosthesis. Some patients can also have their existing denture converted into the implant retained denture. There are a number of factors which are considered whether a new prosthesis is fabricated or an existing denture is converted into an overdenture. Included is a link to the article which addresses this issue- Can My Denture Be Converted Into Implant Denture.
Upon completion of the prosthesis, patient is given care instructions and patient is usually recalled on a once or twice a year schedule for the follow up and maintenance appointments.
Snap on Dentures: Conclusion
Snap on dentures is a cost effective solution for the replacement of missing teeth. It is a good treatment option for somebody who is missing all teeth and have problems with lower denture, or for somebody who is loosing all teeth and does not want to deal with disadvantages of traditional dentures.
Thank you for reading,
Dr. Alex Shor