Q: Is there a less complicated and less expensive way to make my dentures more stable than the standard implant option?
A: Yes. Relatively recently there has been some new developments in implant therapy called mini-implants. These have been around for a while for use as transitional (temporary) implants during the healing and stabilization of standard implants. They would typically be removed after stabilization of the standard, larger implants were complete and before new teeth (crowns or bridges) are attached to the larger implants. Often the problem was that these temporary implants were difficult or impossible to remove because they attached equally well to bone as the standard implants and as such they have now been approved for long-term use in most of the world.
However, standard implants are about 3.5mm wide or larger requiring a minimum of bone ridge width of 5 or 6mm and often months of healing stabilization. For people who have had significant bone loss with thin narrow ridges, like many people who have worn dentures for many years, bone grafting to widen the ridge is required for placing these types of implants.
Mini-implants on the other hand are as narrow as 1.8mm (the thickness of two pennies together). They are made of titanium alloy similar to standard diameter implants and are very strong. Because of the narrow diameter they can be placed in ridges previously not suitable for standard implants and their best indication is to provide attachments to stabilize dentures-especially lower dentures.
The current protocol for these is to place four mini-implants in the front of the jaw arch. This typically takes less than one hour. They have ball type male attachments (think trailer hitch) which extends above the gums providing a “handle” for the denture. A female component (o-ring) is incorporated into the underside of the denture (either existing denture or a new one if required). The two attachments snap together for the stability many denture wearers can only otherwise dream about.
The most impressive aspect about mini-implants is because it is a much simpler procedure than standard diameter implants usually requiring a very simple surgery and in only one appointment.