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Implants allow denture wearers to enjoy a fuller life

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With implants a denture is attached to posts implanted in the gums. This allows for a much stronger denture and gives the wearer a stronger chewing power.

Denture pain is relatively common among the millions of people who wear them. Along with the pain comes the sometimes floating feeling a denture wearer experiences when chewing food.

The pain comes from dentures rubbing on the gums. No matter how snuggly a new formed denture feels, it won't last that way as a person's dental ridges are constantly changing.

One procedure available to denture wearers is implants. These have been around for nearly 30 years and allow the denture to 'snap' into posts implanted into the gums.

Josh Brooks, a denturist who owns Columbia Basin Denture Care in Prosser, said over the years the cost of getting implants has dramatically dropped.

"Two implants will cost $4,000 instead of the $8,000 to $12,000 it used to be," Brooks said.

Brooks doesn't actually put the implants into his patients' gums, instead he works with a dentist in the Tri-Cities. Once the posts have been implanted, Brooks designs and fits the dentures for his patients.

Brooks said a different type of implant is featured today. The new material allows the bones to grow around the implant more quickly.

An implant is drilled into the patient's gum and into the bone. Brooks said the procedure is minor and the patient is kept awake for it. Because the bone recovers more quickly the patient is able to use the implant faster, usually within three months. Before, Brooks said, the patient would have to wait anywhere between six months to a year before the implant was strong enough to use.

The new materials don't require as much bone as before, as well.

"This opens it up to a broader range of people," Brooks said.

Once the implants are fitted into the gums and are strong enough to support dentures, one is snapped onto the posts of the implants. These posts are exposed from the gum between two and three millimeters.

The advantage of having implants over dentures is that implants won't move around, which helps to eliminate mouth sores. Another advantage is the renewed chewing power.

Brooks said a person with two implants (one post on each side of the front of the mouth) can regain 75 percent of chewing power. A person with four implants (two in front and two in the back) can expect to regain 90 percent.

With implants, the only thing that goes into the patient's mouth is a ring of teeth. With dentures, the ring of teeth is connected by a synthetic palette. Without this piece Brooks said denture wearers are able to talk and chew their food much easier.

Because Brooks makes the patient's impressions at his office in Prosser, his patients are able to be choosy about how they look. Some like them perfect, others like a more natural look and will even opt to have crooked teeth. Each tooth he makes is matched to either the lower or upper teeth.

More and more people are getting implants as they become more popular, Brooks said. This has cause the price to go down and Brooks said most insurance companies will cover a portion of the cost.

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