Dental implants vs. dentures: Which are right for you?

Elderly woman looking in the mirror at her new dental implants

Did you know that an estimated 120 million people in the U.S. are missing at least one tooth? Many people experience tooth loss for one reason or another: tooth decay, gum disease, an injury or simply wear.

Missing teeth can cause considerable embarrassment, and you may find yourself covering your mouth when you smile or, even worse, you may avoid smiling altogether. Failing to fix a missing tooth can result in painful and long-term health problems.

Why? Because your jawbone's primary function is to act as a foundation that supports your teeth, the jawbone begins to disintegrate when a tooth is missing. This bone loss is permanent and can't be reversed, so it's recommended to replace missing teeth as soon as possible.

The main ways that tooth loss can be corrected are with dentures and dental implants, and if you're dealing with missing teeth, the most important thing to do is talk to your dentist for a recommendation.

In the meantime, I'll help by explaining the difference between the two.

What is the difference between dentures and dental implants?


Dentures are a removable prosthetic device supported by the surrounding soft and hard tissues of the space left by your missing tooth or teeth.

There are two different types of dentures:

  • Complete: used when all your teeth are missing in one arch or both arches.
  • Partial: used when you still have some healthy natural teeth remaining.

Thanks to technological advancements, today's dentures are custom-made to fit your mouth and can look incredibly true to life! While technological advancements have improved the appearance of dentures, it’s important to remember that dentures are still removable. They’re not fixed in your mouth and complete dentures provide only 20% of the biting force of natural teeth.

Things to keep in mind when selecting dentures:

  • Dentures are less expensive than dental implants.
  • The process involved in making dentures takes less time than dental implants.
  • They give you the freedom to remove them throughout the day.
  • There is a significant period of adjustment when learning to wear complete dentures, including learning to chew and talk, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and your dentist as you work through this period.
  • It’s normal to return to your dentist for adjustments when dentures are first placed.
  • Dentures often need to be secured with a denture adhesive, or they can slip out of place while eating or speaking.
  • They need to be cleaned regularly and replaced if they show signs of significant wear.

Dental Implants

A dental implant is a permanent tooth replacement option, surgically placed in your jawbone, where your tooth's natural root would be. A titanium post is placed in the jawbone to support a single tooth or multiple teeth.

Once the implant has been given time to heal, it will be topped off with a restoration, including a dental crown, part of a bridge or a permanent denture. The healing time will depend on the individual situation.

Dental implants do an excellent job restoring your smile to its natural appearance, and they provide function that’s very similar to your natural teeth.

The number of implants required to replace missing teeth will vary depending on the individual situation.

Things to keep in mind when selecting dental implants:

  • Dental implants cost more than dentures — yet they last longer and can save you money over time.
  • You never have to worry about them falling out while speaking or laughing.
  • Teeth supported by dental implants function more like your natural teeth.
  • They require surgery, which will require some additional healing time and additional appointments.
  • They require more planning than complete dentures, often including 3D radiograph to evaluate the supporting bone for the dental implants.
  • Dental implants require fewer post-treatment adjustment appointments with the dentist.
  • It’s important to return to your dentist for regular cleanings and exams after implant treatment to properly maintain your dental implants.

Which is the better option — dentures or dental implants?

Both tooth replacement options can help keep your mouth healthy and likely boost your confidence. Choosing the right solution for your missing teeth depends on multiple factors, and dentures and dental implants each have their own advantages and disadvantages to consider. Ultimately, the most important part of the decision-making process is to talk with your dentist to understand your particular situation and which of the two would be right for you.

Healthy teeth start here

Ohio State offers complete general and specialty dental care, including emergency care for patients of all ages.

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