When it comes to dental implants vs dentures, which is the better tooth replacement option? While both have cosmetic and health benefits, implants are considered by most dentists to be the superior option. But for some people, the high cost of implants simply isn't feasible, and quality dentures can be a solid alternative.
In this article we'll take a closer look at the comparison of dentures and implants, including:
- Cost of dentures vs implants
- Benefits of implants over dentures
- Benefits of dentures over implants
…In other words, we have the information you need (in addition to consulting with your dentist) to make the best decision for you.
Table of contents
The difference between dentures and implants
First let's do a quick recap of the differences between dentures versus implants, primarily how they work and how they're made.
What are dentures?
Dentures are false teeth that are attached to an acrylic resin, gum-colored plate. They adhere to your gums (ideally by suction) and help you eat and talk normally. If you have some natural teeth, you can also get partial dentures, which may use your existing teeth as a support for attaching your new teeth.
Dentures are removable and should be taken out at night and soaked. Permanent dentures, or implant-retained dentures are a hybrid between implants and dentures, and they aren't removable. In the US, around 5% of people wear dentures or have a plate.
What are dental implants?
Implants consist of three parts: a post/screw, an abutment, and a crown. The screw actually replaces your natural tooth root and helps anchor the crown in your jaw, just as real roots do for real teeth. These are the preferred options by dentists for replacing teeth because they do the best job at replicating natural teeth, and they support jawbone health as well.
Dental implants are sometimes created with technology known as CAD/CAM dentistry, which allows dentists to scan and digitally customize implants.
Dentures vs implants: Which is better?
Now that we've refreshed our memories about dentures and implants, let's do a deep dive into the specific differences.
Cost is often the most important factor for many people trying to decide whether to get dentures or implants.
How much do dentures cost?
Dentures are much cheaper than dental implants, especially if you need to replace a full mouth of teeth. The average cost of a quality set of dentures can be anywhere from $800 to $1,500 for a full set of upper and lower dentures. And while there are very cheap denture varieties available, we do not recommend budget options when it comes to something so important as replacing your teeth.
Implant-supported dentures will cost much more. They can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000, and flexible dentures can cost between $700 and $3,000.
If you need help paying for your dentures, you can read our guide on how to find free dentures.
How much do implants cost?
Dental implants can cost anywhere from $1,500 and $6,000 for a single tooth, and an entire mouth of implants can start at $40,000, but there are cheaper options for implants. All-on-4s, a type of implant-supported dentures, cost around $15,000 per arch. Implant-supported bridges are another alternative.
Another, more affordable type of implant are mini dental implants, which can cost up to 70% less than normal implants because they use less material and the placement process is easier.
Next up it's time to talk about the differences of how implants and dentures work.
How dentures work
There are various types of dentures available, including complete partial and implant-retained dentures. If you are missing all of your teeth, then you'll need a complete set of dentures to replace them. Full dentures consist of artificial teeth, usually made from porcelain, that are attached to a plate. This plate is made from gum-colored acrylic resin or metal and will sit over your gums, or on the roof of your mouth if it's an upper denture.
When dentures fit well, natural suction keeps them in place, and they shouldn't shift or move when you eat or talk. However, over time the shape of your jaw bone will change, and this is accelerated when you don't have tooth roots to keep the bone structure strong.
When your jaw bone changes shape, the plate that sits on the roof of your mouth and over your gums will become loose. When this happens, denture adhesive can be used to help keep it in place, but the best thing to do is go see your dentist and get fitted for a new set of dentures.
If you are missing a few of your teeth but you still have some healthy, natural teeth, then you should get partial dentures (any dentist worth their salt will not extract healthy natural teeth) instead of full dentures. Partial dentures have little clips that actually help them clip onto your natural teeth. While the metal clips are designed to be inconspicuous, they may be visible when you talk, especially if they are in the front of your mouth.
Then there are implant-retained dentures. These are sort of a hybrid between dentures and implants. These dentures are held in place by dental implants that are inserted into your jaw. They are cheaper than a full mouth of dental implants because in order to secure the dentures, and just 4 to 6 implants are needed per jaw.
These dentures solve some of the problems presented by standard dentures, especially when it comes to preventing problems with fit and slippage. Additionally, they help keep the bone in your jaw from receding and keep your face from sagging inwards.
One final type of dentures worth mentioning are snap-on dentures. These also use implants in your jaw to stabilize, but the dentures are removed at night for cleaning.
How implants work
Dental implants consist of the actual implant (which is the screw that goes into your jawbone), the abutment, and the implant crown, which is the part of the implant you actually see and looks like a tooth. Implants may have a titanium screw that is biocompatible with your jawbone, meaning there is no negative reaction with your body and your bone actually grows around your implant over time.
If you are missing a single tooth, you can get a single implant, and if you are missing several teeth you can get several individual implants. If you need to replace an entire mouth of teeth, you have the option of getting individual implants or more affordable alternatives like All-on-4s or implant-retained dentures, which we mentioned above, that only require four to six implants per jaw.
Dental implants and dentures have different lifespans, with implants generally lasting much longer. Dental implants should last at least 10 years and can last a lifetime with good oral hygiene and proper care.
Dentures are more susceptible to cracks and general wear and tear than dentures, and they also run the risk of losing their shape over time. Traditional dentures can last up to five years, and maybe a bit longer with proper care. It's important to visit your dentist regularly and get new dentures before your old ones become too loose or uncomfortable.
Both dentures and implants do a great job of giving you a natural-looking, full smile, but as far as their effect on your actual oral health, they differ quite a bit. That's because implants are more stable and secure, they cause no gum discomfort, they're more hygienic than dentures, and they allow for completely normal chewing and eating. And perhaps most importantly, they stop the bone in your jaw from receding.
While dentures do help some from keeping the muscles around your mouth from sagging inwards, they don't replace the actual root of your tooth, and thus don't stop your jawbone from deteriorating. It's also more likely for food to get trapped between your dentures and your gums, causing irritation or decay if not cleaned properly.
Dentures vs implants pros & cons
Now let's look at the pros and cons of dentures and dental implants.
Pros of dentures
- Aesthetically pleasing
- No surgery required
- Help stop mouth from sagging inwards
Cons of dentures
- Wear down and need to be replaced periodically
- Potentially require a lot of preparation—tooth removal, making molds, fitting
- Can become loose and make clacking noises
- Don't stop the bone from deteriorating
Dentures were traditionally one of the only options for patients in late-stage or end-stage dental disease. Although many patients were able to adapt to them, the science and clinical research has expanded and advanced the treatment options available.
Dental implants have revolutionized the way dental professionals address dental disease and have largely eliminated the numerous disadvantages and shortcomings of traditional dentures. Many of the more common complaints from patients who have attempted to wear dentures point to their bulk, size and unnatural feel.
When planned correctly by a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon and restored by a knowledgeable prosthodontist or dentist, dental implants can eliminate all of these issues. They can reduce bone loss in the jaws with proper placement and provide anchorage for more aesthetically pleasing and smaller dental prosthetics.
Dental implants also afford patients the opportunity to return to eating all of the foods they enjoy.
Dr. Paul Koshgerian, The Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Specialists of San Diego
Pros of implants
- Look just like natural teeth
- Implants replace tooth roots and support bone health
- They fuse to your jaw bone and can last a lifetime
- Total stability for eating and speaking
Cons of implants
- Getting implants can take as much as a year
- Surgery is required for placement
- You may have pain after getting implants during recovery
- Bone graft or sinus lift may be necessary
- They are the most expensive option
Summary of pros and cons
In the following table, we show a side-by-side comparison of the pros and cons of implants vs dentures.
In the video below, Dr. Sbenati does an excellent job of describing the differences between dentures and dental implants and why the best choice really depends on the individual needs of the patient.
Both dentures and implants can be effective ways of replacing missing teeth. Dentures are a more affordable option, but they don't last as long and can cause more problems, like looseness, irritation, and trouble speaking and eating. Implants, while the best option to replace natural teeth, may not be accessible for everyone due to their high prices.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are missing teeth is that you should get them replaced with a dentist-approved option like dental implants or dentures. Having a missing tooth or teeth can have many negative repercussions for your oral and overall health. You can read more about missing teeth and replacement options in our full guide here.
3 Ways To Finance Dental Work That Aren’t Insurance
Should I get dentures or implants?
If you can afford them, your dentist will most likely recommend implants over dentures. That's because there are more benefits to implants than there are to dentures. Implants in general are:
- More stable
- Better for maintaining jawbone health
What is the difference between dentures and implants?
The main differences are that implants actually consist of screws that are implanted into your jawbone and replace the roots of your missing teeth. Dentures sit on top of your gums. They are removable and should be taken out while you are sleeping, and implants are permanent.
What are the differences between partial dentures vs implants?
Partial dentures are used to replace one or more missing teeth, but not a full mouth of teeth. They have small metal clasps that hook on to your natural teeth to stay in place. Implants have screws that are implanted into your jawbone and actually replace the roots of your natural teeth. They are permanent, longer-lasting, and much more stable than partial dentures.