In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have cavities, gum disease, or lose a tooth. The world may not be ideal, but at least we wouldn’t have those problems.
Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that many people lose their teeth, either to tooth decay or periodontal disease, and then need a tooth replacement. Despite the growing popularity and acceptance of dental implants as prosthetics, removable dentures remain the most common solution for missing teeth.
If a person still has some natural teeth, they can get what we call a “dentures rubbing gums .” When they have lost all their teeth, they usually get full dentures.
Some people think that if they remove all their teeth and put in dentures, they will finally see the end of their dental problems.
This is far from reality. In fact, what happens is that patients simply trade one set of dental problems for another.
While many patients will tell you that they eat very well with their dentures, it’s likely been so long since they had their real teeth that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to eat normally.
What are some of the disadvantages of wearing dentures?
- You lose up to 50% of your biting force.
- A full upper denture covers your palate and interferes with your ability to taste your food.
- Dentures can move when you eat, speak, cough, or sneeze.
- Food accumulates around your dentures after a meal.
- Sore spots can develop when the hard denture rubs against your gums.
- Patients with an active gag reflex may not be able to even wear a denture without feeling as though they will gag.
- Atrophy of the upper or lower jaws can make it impossible to develop suction with the denture.
How long do they last?
This is an interesting question because it is not uncommon to find patients telling you that their dentures were made twenty or even thirty years ago. Believe me, at that time it is rarely beautiful dentures. But it underscores something about wearing dentures that is not well understood.
Once dentures are fabricated and assumed to fit correctly at delivery, most patients expect and can experience good retention and stability.
But the main point is that once made, dentures do not change. However, your mouth can, and often does. New medications can also make your mouth dry, leading to irritation and sore spots. Osteoporosis can lead to jaw shrinkage.
Despite these changes, many patients are trying to solve new problems with denture adhesives. Unfortunately, this can open the door to even more irritation.
While relines can help with these changes and correct the fit of your dentures to improve retention, many patients would do well to consider reshaping their dentures after about five to seven years. In my experience, waiting too long after that period can complicate the transition to a new prosthesis.
When the change is minimal, as you might expect after about five years, the transition is usually quite easy. It also helps to have a backup prosthesis for those “oops!” moments.