If you have one or more missing or damaged teeth, you’re probably weighing the pros and cons of dentures and dental implants. In the short term, dentures may be less expensive — but if your gums and jawbone are healthy, dental implants are a far better choice over the long haul. Here are four reasons why:

1.  Implants stay in place

Even the best-fitting dentures can feel precarious now and then — and the fit changes over time. As dentures become looser, they can impair your speech, change the look of your smile, keep you from eating certain foods, and make you feel cautious about laughing, kissing or even speaking.

Dental implants keep your teeth securely in your mouth. They’re fixed in place and fused into your jaw so they look, feel, and function just like your natural teeth do. There’s no fear that they’ll fall out, or make an odd noise when you speak. Implants allow you to live your life as you choose, and enjoy all your activities to the fullest.

2.  Implants protect healthy teeth

A bridge that replaces missing teeth has to be supported by the healthy teeth on either side of the empty spot. This requires your dentist to grind down the healthy teeth just to ensure a good, tight fit — damaging the good teeth to replace a missing one. Bridges and dentures also allow your healthy teeth to shift and loosen in your mouth, increasing the possibility that you’ll lose more teeth over time.

Instead of creating more damage, dental implants support healthy teeth. Attached directly to the jawbone, a dental implant doesn’t depend on your other teeth for reinforcement. And because an implant isn’t removable as bridges or dentures are, it prevents your healthy teeth from shifting position.

3.  Implants keep your bone structure sound

It’s important to understand that your teeth and jawbone work together. In the spots where teeth are missing, the jawbone can begin to deteriorate. This deterioration not only changes the shape and look of your face — it can also cause serious health problems. A purely cosmetic solution, a bridge or denture does nothing to prevent this bone loss.

Because dental implants are anchored into the jawbone, your body perceives them as naturally rooted teeth. This encourages the maintenance and growth of healthy bone tissue, keeping your facial structure firm, strong, and healthy.

4.  Implants can last a lifetime

Anyone who has accidentally dropped their dentures into the sink will tell you that they’re fragile and easily cracked or broken. Dentures often require relining as their fit changes, and this can become expensive. Even the best maintained traditional bridges will only last five to seven years.

Implants, on the other hand, are a permanent solution that will never need to be replaced. With proper care and occasional adjustment, dental implants will remain strong and stable. They really are the next best thing to your own healthy teeth.

Caring for your dental implants is as simple as caring for your natural teeth. With diligent brushing and flossing, and regular visits to your dentist, your implants will allow you to eat, speak, and live a healthy life without fear or embarrassment.

There’s absolutely no need to go through life with missing teeth. Ask your dentist about the advantages of dental implants — you’ll be glad you did.