I have lower Overdentures and regular upper dentures. The upper dentures are 12 years old and need to be replaced. I read something about a newer method that does not require o-rings, like the overdenture. Is this true? What are my other options for the upper denture? What type of specialist do I need to see?
Your prosthetic options for the upper jaw are similar to those on the lower jaw. However, a lot depends on the amount of bone loss present in your mouth. All the options may be a bit confusing at first, which is why I'll answer your last question first:
You definitely need to see a dentist that is knowledgeable about prosthetics with implants and allow him (her) to recommend what is best for your particular case. That being said, here are are some options and explanations.
If you have been a denture wearer for 12 years or longer, you may have enough bone loss to makes it necessary for the prosthesis to not only replace the teeth, but also to include some amount of gum (pink) tissue. Otherwise the teeth would look too long.
This means that you can use a minimum of six implants in the upper jaw to help retain your denture. This may also allow you to remove some of the pink acrylic on the roof of the mouth so you could get more sensation to food from the palate.
You could also put eight implants and have teeth that are fixed by screws that can be removed by the dentist only. This option is called Fixed-Removable or "hybrid"
The next option is fixed reconstruction with porcelain which is a lot more expensive and accomplishes the same as the fixed-removable option.
One alternative that has been advertised recently is the "all on four" treatment which consists of placing four implants to hold all the teeth in one jaw.
Many dentists feel better offering their patients a solution that is "over-engineered, so that if one implant fails, you do not compromise the teeth.
The upper jaw generally has soft bone which is easier to damage and therefore more implants to spread the load are desirable.
I hope the above information helps clarify things.
Carlos Boudet, DDS, DICOI