In some people’s lives there will come a time when they need some form of replacement for their teeth. If you are like me, you may have grown up with family or friends that chose to have the remainder of their teeth pulled and got dentures. I now know after years working with patients, those people most probably did it because they thought they had no other choice and perhaps years ago, that was the case. The case is different for patients these days. I’ve heard it said that dentures are a substitute for no teeth and that about sums up how I feel about it. It is time to just say no to dentures.
For years, TV commercials showing denture patients blissfully eating corn on the cob have promoted an unrealistic message. The truth is once you have dentures, you essentially lose 75 percent or more of your biting power. That is because your original teeth were anchored in your jawbone. There is no type or amount of adhesive that can make up for that loss of structure. Dentures are held in place by gravity or pressure against the lower denture set and you will never have the chewing power you once did with your natural teeth.
In addition, it is important to realize your teeth help maintain the structure of not just your mouth but also your entire face. Removing all of your teeth fundamentally degrades the structural integrity of the bone sometimes resulting in a significant change in one’s facial appearance. The process is called resorption and is caused by the loss of your teeth’s nerves, which renew the jawbone. Wearing dentures all of the time instead of removing them at night exacerbates the problem. Also problematic is the possibility of yeast infection in your mouth caused by the plate on a set of upper full dentures. The alternative is choosing to keep as many existing teeth as possible and use implants to maintain the structure of your face and preserve bone.
Denture wearers must endure a significant burden of maintenance. In order to retain your facial appearance, it is necessary to adjust the fit your dentures every two years. This is important to compensate the length of the dentures due to the receding bone line. Without this adjustment, two things will happen. First, your jaw muscles will shrink because of inactivity at full extension. This will prevent you from chewing properly once the new, adjusted dentures are put in. Second, if you don’t adjust the size of the dentures, the fit will deteriorate and the wearer’s face will gradually retract inward, resulting in a dramatic change in appearance. Expecting a patient with dentures to keep up with this is unrealistic as the average patient is seeing their dentist about every 14 years!
With full dentures, the upper palate is covered to a large extent. As the upper palate is crucial to your sense of taste, food could become bland tasting. So now, in addition to not being able to eat many foods that you could eat before, now you can’t taste the food you can eat. Worst of all, the denture plate is uncomfortable to some, inducing their gag reflex, which makes everyday events like drinking water most unpleasant.
Finally, it is not inevitable that you will lose your teeth as you grow older. You may have to work at it, but there is a lot to be said for basic dental maintenance.
Perhaps you can’t find a way to avoid severe dental issues. But please, always get a second opinion if you feel that you are being railroaded into a decision about major changes to your teeth, especially regarding getting dentures. Old thought patterns still exist in the dental community and the idea that dentures are even an option today in all but the most extreme cases is a shame. As technology continues its relentless march forward, there are going to be more and more options for tooth replacement. I really hope that dentures can be replaced with something new sooner rather than later.