Teeth can be such a problem—but we just can’t manage without them. Obviously, they are important for eating, but they are also important for social reasons. What can you do if your teeth have reached the end of the line? Bridges require healthy teeth to anchor them, a whole mouthful of implants is prohibitively expensive, and full dentures are annoying and feel unnatural. To the rescue comes the ‘all-on-4.’
Disadvantages of Traditional Full Dentures
Traditional dentures provide a complete set of upper or lower teeth fixed to a base which mimics the appearance of gums. They can restore confidence and eating ability to mouths spoiled by badly damaged or decayed teeth. However, they have several drawbacks:
- They need to be taken out at night, cleaned, and left in water until the morning.
- They can affect speech patterns.
- They tend to become loose and need replacing as jaws change with age.
- Upper dentures cover the palate and can affect the enjoyment of food.
- They can become detached at embarrassing moments.
What Is an All-on-4?
Also known as permanent dentures, the all-on-4 is a combination of denture and implant technology. After the removal of all the teeth, implants are inserted into the jaw—normally four, hence the name, but there could be more depending on the jaw structure.
A set of artificial teeth is then produced on a bridge. This is the same technology as would be used for a traditional bridge, but unlike those bridges, which are fixed to natural teeth, this bridge is fixed to the implants, and hence it is known as a fixed implant bridge.
Normally several months are allowed between fixing the implants and fitting the bridge, to allow the bone to heal completely, but some procedures can be quicker.
The process results in permanent teeth that feel very natural and disposes of all the disadvantages of dentures.
Is It Expensive?
Certainly, all-on-4 treatment is more expensive than traditional dentures. You will need to check with your insurers whether they will meet all or part of the cost. If you are paying for your own treatment, costs can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
One way to lower the cost would be to join the increasing numbers of people who are resorting to health tourism, getting their treatment performed in another country where standards can be just as high but overhead costs are considerably lower. This can often be combined with a holiday!
For instance, it is possible to find a dentist who will fit all-on-4 permanent dentures in Costa Rica at a fraction of the cost that would apply in the United States. Against the cost savings, you need to weigh the inconvenience of returning for follow-up treatment, if required.
New Teeth, New Life
A good set of teeth can radically alter someone’s sense of well-being and confidence. There are always different alternatives to be considered, but modern technology has revolutionized what can be achieved through implants, and few people who move from removable to permanent dentures are likely to regret the decision.
Maria Smyth works in the dental industry and shares her thoughts and insights on dental matters around the web; her articles appearing on health and lifestyle blogs.
Photo by Kathy McGraw