Even in today’s modern world, it is possible that people may lose teeth. If you are lose one tooth, it’s a clear transaction. One tooth comes out, one tooth goes in. But what if you have lost all your teeth or are losing all your teeth? You could consider a denture, but that has the disadvantage of not feeling  natural. You could consider replacing each tooth with a dental implant, but that requires enough bone for each tooth. Enter a final option: All on 4 dental implants.

All on 4 dental implants are a method to replace an entire arch of teeth with as minimal implants as possible. In this article, we will talk about the benefits, disadvantages, and expectations of all on 4 dental implants as an alternative to traditional dentures.

What are All on 4 Dental Implants

all on 4 dental implant illustration showing how dental implants hold teeth

Can you believe it? More than 35 million people in America are missing all of their upper or lower teeth. Well, I should clarify, they’re missing all their natural teeth. There’s people out there that have us fooled: Their teeth were replaced. But with a few different options for replacing teeth, some people are smiling, laughing, talking, and eatting better than others.

All on 4 dental implants are one of the options for replacing missing teeth. Here’s the deal with how it works. Four implants are placed on the top or bottom jaw. The implants are oriented in a way so that there are two dental implants in the front and two dental implants that are angled as far back as the bone allows. Those four dental implants are the foundation to rebuild an entire arch of teeth.

And in case you’re wondering, why not three dental implants and why not five? The answer is simple. It’s physics. Three dental implants is too few to hold the entire arch of teeth. Five or more is possible if there is sufficient bone, the more the merrier. However, four dental implants is the minimum for the physics to work.

Okay so lets get to how teeth are replaced. It’s called all on 4 for a reason. After the dental implants are placed, the next step is to connect an entire arch of teeth. The teeth connect to each of the dental implants and hold similar to natural teeth.

The teeth are like dentures in the sense that they are all linked together, but they are unlike dentures because they do not dislodge and they do not have plastic that covers the gums or the palate. Therefore, with the use of just four dental implants, all of your teeth on either the top or bottom of your mouth may be fully replaced. If this was 90’s hip hop, they’d say that’s going from Zero to Hero. Bonus points if you can name that artist, but I digress.

How do Dental Implants Work?

We already talked about how the dental implants are the foundation to build the mouth for all on 4, but how do dental implants work? Let’s talk a little bit about that process.

A dental implant replicates the root of a natural tooth. If you look at the shape of the root of the tooth, you will find it closely resembles the shape of a screw with very shallow threads. How convenient. If a tooth is not restorable, essentially what happens is the natural tooth is removed and a dental implant is placed into the same site. The bone fuses to the dental implant similar to a natural tooth root, and voila! You have the foundation of a tooth.

Once the dental implant is secured in the jaw, the implant can function in many different ways. It’s best to think of dental implants as legos. The platform of the dental implant can be used to build many different types of teeth on top.

Why dental implants are versatile

The reason why dental implants are versatile is because they may have various types of connections. In the case of the all on 4 dental implant technique, abutment connectors are placed on top of each of the four dental implants, and then a set of teeth may secure to the connectors, thus replacing an entire arch of teeth that is supported by four implants.

So that leads me to the next point: The great thing about all on 4 dental implants is that you don’t need to place an implant for every single tooth that you are missing. Four dental implants is able to hold the entire arch. The reason this is wonderful is for two reasons: 1) Four implants is more economical than… well, more than four implants and 2) If you only have enough bone for four dental implants, you can still replace your entire arch of teeth.

Benefits of All on 4 Dental Implants

all on 4 dental implants before and after example

After someone completes all on 4 dental implants it’s a little bit different than getting dentures. Here’s what you need to know.

To be honest, whether you get dentures or all on 4 dental implants, the cosmetics will look about equal. Whether you opt for dentures or all on 4 dental implants, the results can be breathtaking and stunning cosmetically. Either way, the smile is custom designed to look great, but here’s where all on 4 dental implants begin set themselves apart: the way the patient can function.

After completing an all on 4 procedure, a patient will be able to eat, smile, and talk more naturally than a traditional denture. With a traditional denture, the appliance is held by suction to the gums. If the suction breaks the whole arch of teeth drops down. Therefore, if a person is wearing a conventional denture they need to be careful not to break the denture’s retention. Laughing too big, or biting into an apple can be embarrassing for someone wearing a denture.

However, with all on 4 dental implants, a patient can enjoy all of the foods they love without the fear of their teeth not being up the task.

Let’s look at some of the other benefits:

  • You can bite into an apple, you can chew corn on the cob, and even chew meat effectively. The point is that it creates a sense of being yourself and feeling natural. Some other benefits of all on 4 dental implants are:
  • Can replace all teeth
  • Feels & Functions like natural teethCustomized to cosmetic goals of the patient
  • Fixed like natural teeth
  • Eat the food you desire
  • Preserves jawbone
  • Best value for replacing an entire arch with implants

What to Expect During the All-on-4 Procedure

The initial consultation will begin with an oral health evaluation to discuss your goals and review options available. For many patients, all on 4 dental implants may not be the only option available. Any alternatives available will be discussed with the pros and cons of each.

A big question patients always have is, how long will I be without teeth? Here’s the good news: you will never have to be without teeth. With all on 4 dental implants, the procedure is planned so that the same day the implants are placed, you will be fitted with temporary teeth so that you can function immediately. The temporary may either be held by the implants or may rest over the dental implants which is known as a temporary immediate denture. The temporary is meant to get by for a period of time.

Of course there will be about 1-2 weeks of healing after your surgery, but many people are surprised to know they can walk in and walk out with teeth in the same day.

In the beginning, you will need to follow moderate dietary restrictions to allow the implants to heal, and you will be asked to restrict exercise for about 1 week. Generally after the implants heal and the gums settle, the temporary teeth can be replaced with a permanent set in 2-3 months.

How Long Does All-on-4 Last?

longevity image how long do dental implants last

All on 4 dental implants can last many years—if not a lifetime. The longevity of all on 4 is very successful similar to that of traditional dental implants. The caveat of course is when they are properly designed, created, and maintained. All on 4 dental implants require dental hygiene consisting of brushing twice daily and flossing at least once daily. The patient also should maintain routine professional exams and cleanings

How Much Does All-on-4 Cost?

how much do dental implants cost featured image

The cost for all on 4 dental implants will vary depending on an individual’s treatment plan. The biggest factors that affect the cost of all on 4 are the geographic location and the experience of the all on 4 dental implant specialist.

But you probably want a ballpark cost of all on 4 dental implants right? Each dental implant costs between $2000 and $4,000 each, plus the cost of the arch of teeth which is about $10,000 to $30,000. Yes, it is certainly an investment. However, since far fewer implants are used than with a full set, the procedure generates substantial savings to replace your teeth with all on 4 compared to the cost of a dental implant for each tooth.

Not many general practice dentists perform all on 4 dental implants. Typically all on 4 dental implants are done by implant specialists with surgical and restorative training, or by a team between a surgeon (periodontist or oral surgeon) and a prosthodontist. Many of these specialists are familiar with helping patients make the financing easier. They will have many types of financing plans to help make the cost of all on 4 dental implants easier.

Alternatives to All on 4 Dental Implants

As you know All on 4 Dental Implants are not the only option to restore an arch of teeth. There are pros and cons to each options so its important to understand which option is best for you. All on four is a great procedure but it is certainly more complex than some of the alternatives. Complexity means that there is more risk for one complication to affect the entire arch of teeth. Thats one of the biggest drawbacks to all on 4 dental implants. Let’s look at how some of the other options compare.

Alternative #1 – Bridges on Implants

dental implant bridges as alternative to all on 4 dental implants

In this option, the most common orientation is to create four 3 unit bridges. When would you consider it? When you have plenty of bone throughout the entire mouth, and when you want the safety of not having all your teeth connected. By having your teeth bridges in only 3 unit sections, if there is an issue with one tooth, it only affects those three teeth, not the entire arch.

Alternative #2 – Removable Implant Denture

removeable implant denture is alternative to all on 4 dental implants

Removeable implant dentures are a great alternative to all on 4 dental implants. A removeable implant denture achieves similar cosmetics to the all on 4, the teeth are connected similarly into a single arch, but the only exception is that the denture may be removed. The disadvantage is that it might feel slightly less natural to be able to remove your teeth, but the benefit is that you may clean the area under the dentures more readily and the cost is less than all on 4 dental implants.

Alternative #3 – Traditional Complete Dentures

traditional full denture is alternative to all on 4 dental implants

Tradional dentures are the most simplist way to restore a beautiful smile. They will look natural and help you achieve better health. Dentures are generally the easiest to maintain of these alternatives and are generally the most economical. The disadvantages of traditional dentures are they feel the least natural, they require additional plastic over the roof of the mouth, and they are prone to dislodge when eatting, talking, or laughing.

How Replacing an Arch of Teeth can Be life Changing

The bottom line is that all on 4 dental implants create a life changing smile makeover. An improved smile has emotional, physical, biological, and psychological benefits that extend much greater than teeth. Some of the benefits include:

  • Eliminate the burden of being self-conscious to smile
  • Be the best version of yourself
  • Improve your oral health and overall health. Oral health has been linked to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Healthy teeth are easier to clean, floss, and mainain
  • Less risk of decay, infections, or surprise dental emergencies

If you are replacing an entire mouth of teeth, I understand. It may sound overwhelming at first, but it is a procedure that truly can be life-changing. The best advice I can give is: Take ones step at a time. You will know when it is your time to smile again. Do it for yourself. You deserve it.