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Dental Implants vs. Dentures: Costs, Advantages, and Key Differences

Both options offer advantages to different types of patients. Which one is best for you?

Tooth loss impacts people for various reasons and at different stages in life. When you’re trying to figure out how to compare dental implants vs. dentures, cost is obviously a massive factor. Convenience and age also play into the decision. 

Dental implants represent a permanent solution to tooth loss, but there are still valid reasons to investigate the advantages and differences between dentures and implants. 

While dental implants and dentures achieve similar purposes—namely, replacing missing teeth—they work quite differently. Both represent good options for patients in a variety of situations.

At-a-Glance Dental Implants vs. Dentures: Cost and Key Differences

Dental ImplantsDentures
Cost$5,000 and up$500 and up
Permanent/Like Having Real TeethYN
Look NaturalYN
Replacement Period20 years or moreNeed replacing every 3-5 years
Cause Additional Strain and Wear on Other TeethNY
Require Additional MaintenanceNY
Covered by Most Dental Insurance PlansNN

What Are Dentures?

Person holding dentures

Dentures are simply a set of removable teeth you can take in and out of your mouth as you see fit. Like implants, you can get dentures to cover a gap in your smile for just a couple of teeth (a partial) or an entire row (full).

It’s not uncommon for patients, particularly elderly people, to get a full set of dentures for both the upper and lower rows of teeth. 

What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are a set of permanent teeth that are surgically grafted onto your jawbone. It is a more invasive surgical process over dentures, but it’s also a permanent one. 

Dental implants have a foundation of a titanium cylinder/screw that is placed surgically into the jawbone itself below the gumline of the missing teeth. The new crown your dentist custom-fabricates for your mouth and your bite is then attached to that cylinder. When the process is completed, you end up in having what looks like a completely natural set of teeth. 

It’s true that when comparing dental implants vs. dentures, cost is more of a factor with implants, but they also last quite a bit longer. While dentures may last you only a few years, dental implants need regular maintenance and could last nearly a lifetime, or at least upward of 20 years.

Dental implants vs. Dentures (Cost): Are Dental Implants Worth It? 

Cash and credit card representing cost of dentures vs. dental implants

When you’re comparing dental implants vs. dentures and the costs, remember what your goals are. If you really want the look of natural teeth, for example, dental implants are cosmetically undetectable. Dentures tend to look more like what they are: A set of false teeth. 

Also, dentures are a bit restrictive when it comes to what you can and can’t eat. They are much more delicate than implants, and are relatively easy to crack when you eat even what you’d consider to be a regular diet. Yes, you can also damage a dental implant while eating, but your risks in that situation are no greater than damaging a natural tooth if you bite down on something really hard (unpopped popcorn kernel, olive pit, etc.).

Are Dental Implants or Dentures More Painful?

If you need to get teeth extracted prior to getting your dentures or your implants, the pain levels and recovery period are identical. However, the dental implant procedure is obviously quite a bit more invasive than getting a set of false teeth. 

The number of teeth you’re getting replaced does impact the overall healing time. That’s something you should be prepared to discuss with a qualified oral surgeon. However, once the swelling reduces and the incisions heal, you’ll hardly notice that you have them. 

That’s another area where dentures and dental implants are quite different. Dentures need to anchor or attach to the teeth on either side of the gaps where you insert them. For some patients, that additional strain can cause quite a bit of regular, daily discomfort. That additional pressure on adjacent teeth may also lead to further damage. 

Also, your dentist will probably have to shave areas off the teeth that the new bridge sits between, for a better fit. So yes, while it’s not surgery, it is still a process that causes trauma to the adjacent teeth. Depending on your age and the condition of your bite, the damage done to your permanent teeth could require additional maintenance in the future.

Dental Implants vs. Dentures: Who Should and Shouldn’t Get Them?

woman looking in mirror in dentists chair after receiving dental implant

As we age, many of us experience bone loss, gum disease, and other common dental issues that then lead to the loss of one or more teeth. It’s a natural part of aging, and many of us are faced with the decision of whether to get dental implants vs. dentures (even though the cost is higher). 

First, take into account your overall health and age. For some elderly patients, the strain and expense of the investment in dental implants vs. dentures isn’t worth the cost or the healing time. Dentures, in that case, may be a more suitable option for someone who is simply looking for a convenient and nearly instant procedure to correct a smile. 

However, if you’re relatively young and otherwise healthy, it’s likely worth the investment in a dental implant. Most young people don’t like the experience (or look) of dentures. Also, dentures aren’t nearly as convenient. 

Because dental implants are truly replacement teeth, the only maintenance they need are just like your regular oral hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing will keep them in excellent shape.

You can’t actually brush a set of dentures while they’re in your mouth. You should remove them to brush them after each time you eat. You also have to soak dentures overnight every evening in a solution to completely clean them. As a result, most healthy adults simply appreciate the convenience of implants, even if that process requires more upfront cost and commitment.

Dental Implants vs. Dentures: Cost and How to Reduce Your Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You likely can save money on dental implants when you travel out of state. Oral surgeons and dental specialists are just as impacted by the high cost of living in larger cities as any other resident.

Costly cities mean paying more rent for office space, and higher wages for staff. A dentist in a more expensive city also needs to cover a higher cost of their own living expenses.

How to Find a Reliable Out-of-State Dentist for Dental Implants

The truth is: No matter where you travel in the country, you can find a reliable surgeon. Every dentist goes through a rigorous schooling and licensing process, regardless of where they live. 

If you use a reliable search engine that can connect you to a dentist in a state with a lower cost of living, that doesn’t mean you’re using a less-experienced surgeon. It means only that you’re working with a practitioner who doesn’t have to charge you as much for an identical procedure.