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Fixed vs. removable dentures: A close-up comparison

Dec. 27, 2022
Your smile is one of the most unique things about you—which is why choosing the best dentures is an important decision. But what's the best choice, fixed or removable dentures?

Your smile is one of the most unique things about you—which is why choosing the best dentures is an important decision. Generally, most people prefer fixed dentures, but there are some circumstances when removable dentures are the better option. Here’s a breakdown comparing the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Esthetic and mouth feel

Anyone can see your dentures, but only you can feel them. That’s why it’s you need to consider how the dentures will fit in your mouth after being installed. When dentures don’t fit correctly, they cause lingering, often painful, oral discomfort.

When installed properly, fixed dentures will have a consistent, comfortable fit. They also offer esthetic advantages that make them feel more like natural teeth.

Fixed dentures will allow you to eat and speak more comfortably than removable dentures. You don’t have to worry about them unexpectedly loosening, even over several years. They are also typically better heat conductors than removable dentures, reportedly giving patients a better sense of food temperatures.

The primary reason a patient is not a good candidate for fixed dentures is that their jawbone is not healthy enough to support surgery. Although removable dentures ideally should function like their fixed counterparts, their detached nature is more likely to cause pain and discomfort.

Keep in mind that dentures take several weeks or even a month or two to really settle into the mouth. This adjustment period is when patients most often report soreness or discomfort. Although removable dentures may feel less natural at first, most patients do grow accustomed to them with time.

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Function and care over time

The type of dentures you ultimately choose should be designed to best serve you for years to come. Dentures should match your lifestyle in terms of causing the least intrusion in your daily activities. While both fixed and removable dentures are viable options for long-term use, there are some differences in their care and maintenance that might be helpful to discuss with your dentist.

While removable dentures can be soaked and cleaned thoroughly in a specialized solution, taking them in and out exposes them to more germs and bacteria than fixed ones. Because of this, patients with removable dentures may experience higher rates of decay, tooth fracturing, and periodontitis over time. When considering removable dentures, patients will find them more successful by adhering to best hygiene practices. Some tips include:

  • Storing your dentures in a clean glass of water or a dentist-approved soaking solution.
  • Brushing your dentures with brands specifying denture maintenance.
  • Run your dentures under water to clear debris between overnight soaks.
  • Be gentle with your dentures—cracks, bends, or any other manipulation to the set could impact the device’s comfort and allow more bacteria to slip in.

Fixed dentures are brushed like normal teeth and require the same attention and care. They remain bonded over time, even in cases where they are also supporting acrylic teeth (which removable dentures may not bond well with over time). In fact, most reported failures of fixed dentures are associated with preexisting decay in and around the denture area—in other words, the decay was already causing damage that led to the dentures’ failure, rather than the fixed denture itself failing.

Once again, the biggest disadvantage of fixed dentures is that they can exacerbate existing oral health issues by attaching to a weakened bone structure. Despite the advantages of fixed dentures in other areas, patients with poor overall oral health may not be good candidates.

Cost comparisons

If you asked a dentist, or even an online search engine, “Which is cheaper—fixed or removable dentures?” you might find it a challenge to find a concise answer outlining the immediate and long-term costs associated with each procedure.

The truth is, your specific circumstance will determine the cost-effectiveness of different approaches to your dental care. While identifying your options is part of the suite of care provided by your dentist, it helps to have a bit of background about what to expect going into the conversation.

Removable dentures tend to be the more affordable option in the short term. Their low levels of invasiveness allow for cost reduction in many affecting factors, including the numbing agent required to install them (for example, novocaine local numbing versus full anesthetic sedation).

While fixed dentures tend to consistently be a pricier option than removable ones, many patients do prefer them in a quality-of-life comparison as they allow for easier chewing and speaking.

Invasiveness of installation

While some people may benefit from having entire rows of teeth replaced, there are instances where some patients’ original teeth can be saved. In this scenario, dentists are likely to suggest removable dentures. Research shows that sound teeth (without cavities) are viable candidates for removable dentures. They are the less invasive options for jaw bones that don’t have surgery as a viable option.

According to the International Journal of Prosthodontics, the procedural invasiveness associated with the installation of fixed dentures “requires sacrifice of healthy hard tissues.” This makes the procedure far more invasive than removable dentures; it may not be a tolerable option for many consumers. But the benefit is that it only has to be installed once and is generally secure after, with light in-office dental maintenance.

Weigh your options

Dental research points to an increasing need worldwide for both fixed and removable dentures. If you have experienced tooth loss or significant decay, discuss all of your available options with your dentist, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The right choice is the one that best supports your overall oral health.

About the Author

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is a Los Angeles-based content strategist and consultant who supports STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. Smith works closely with Taly Dental SpecialistsIn his free time, Smith enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.