Too often during a new patient exam I hear, “Just pull them and give me some dentures.” While dentures can be an indispensable aid in completing daily tasks, such as speaking, eating and re-gaining confidence in public, they have extensive limitations and require realistic expectations.
At Mercy Dental Services, I have the distinct pleasure of meeting patients from an extensive range of ages, races and occupations. Being a Canton kid myself, I especially enjoy hearing their stories about Canton and making connections with them, such as a woman who knew my grandma and regularly shopped at our family’s local Italian market, DioGuardi’s. These interactions make for a fun day, but more importantly, they are the first steps to building a meaningful and healthy patient-doctor relationship.
For me, communication and mutual trust are cornerstones of every good patient-doctor relationship. Without them, our patients are unable to make educated decisions regarding their oral health, especially when trying to answer the question, “Should I just get dentures?”
Prevention Now Is Better Than Dentures Later
The first record of dentures goes all the way back to 500 BC. Fast forward a few thousand years and you’ll find the most popular person to ever wear a set of “plates” – George Washington. When discussing whether dentures are in a patient’s best interest, they will often say, “If they were good enough for my parents and their parents, they’ll be good enough for me.” However, I’m still waiting for a patient to tell me, “If dentures were good enough for our first president, they’ll be good enough for me!”
Arguably, our greatest challenge in dentistry is making a paradigm shift from treating dental problems to preventing them. A consequence of this shift would be to break the family cycle of generation after generation needing dentures. Dental prevention by proper home care and regular dental visits can help prevent cavities and gum disease, both of which can eventually lead to tooth loss. While we have developed ways to “replace” lost teeth, there is no artificial tooth that can function as well as the teeth you were born with. We can’t give you something better than what God gave you!
The process of receiving dentures is a long, arduous process not for the faint of heart. At Mercy Dental Services we follow strict guidelines to achieve the best results. These are the truths you need to know about dentures:
Getting Dentures Is a Long Process
Most patients need their remaining teeth removed, a moderate to extensive dental surgery that may require removal or shaping of the underlying bone. Consequently, healing of gum tissue usually takes around six weeks, but full healing of your bone takes six months!
Since your foundation is constantly changing during the healing phase, “transitional dentures” are worn. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to eat with transitional dentures, they do not look very esthetic, and they do not fit as well as permanent dentures – again, because of the ever-changing foundation. However, they do keep your lips and chin from sinking in and get you used to wearing and speaking with dentures. The alternative is to wear nothing for six months. If you are properly healed after six months, the denture fabrication process can begin.
Denture fabrication also takes five appointments, including initial impressions, final impressions, wax rim and bite registration, esthetic try-in and denture delivery. You typically then need a minimum of two appointments for adjustments.
In addition, dentures cause long-term bone resorption and usually only last 5-10 years before a new set or reline (replacing the inner surface of the denture) must be done.
Other Things You Need to Know About Dentures
- Dentures can cause fungal infections, tissue ulcerations and tissue fibromas.
- Dentures greatly reduce your ability to taste and chew food.
- Dentures can cause changes in speech.
- Dentures can look unnatural.
- Dentures may not be an option for individuals with a strong gag reflex.
- While upper dentures usually fit well because of a suction effect on the palate, the lower denture does not, because of the tongue.
- Dentures have 10% the chewing efficiency of natural teeth.
So, before you decide to give up on your teeth or dismiss the importance of daily oral hygiene remember the following: when an Ohioan looks up “patience” in Webster’s dictionary, they find, “Waiting for the warmth of spring with grace.” When dentists look it up, we find, “denture wearer.”