Unlike a traditional denture, which is supported by your gums, implant-supported dentures are anchored in your mouth by dental implants. Usually dental implants are placed in the lower jaw because dentures tend to be less stable in the lower jaw (as discussed in a previous post.)
There are two types of implant-supported dentures: bar-retained dentures and locator-retained dentures. Both types of dentures require two or more dental implants to be placed.
In the bar-retained type of denture, three or more implants are surgically placed in the gums. Attached to these implants is a metal bar that runs along the gum line. The denture then rests on the metal bar and is attached using clips or other types of attachments.
Locator-retained dentures, also called locator-attachment dentures, use a male-female design (similar to a stud/O-ring system) to attach the dentures to the implants surgically placed in the gums. The denture is fitted with rubber male components, and the implants female metal locators. The denture and implants snap together where the male and female components meet.
A locator-retained implant denture can be used successfully in the upper jaw when patients have a gag reflex which hinders their ability to wear a traditional upper denture. The implants allow the removal of the palatal portion of the denture, thus relieving the tendency to gag.