Dentures are removable devices used to replace missing teeth. Impressions are done and fittings are scheduled to give patients the best possible results. The patient’s success will always be something that depends on their ability to persevere and get used to dentures for speaking and eating. Dental implants have become an increasingly popular option to replace missing teeth and we discuss pros and cons with patients for implants versus dentures for their specific situation.
Let’s start by explaining what dentures are. Can you describe the types of dentures available today and how they work?
Dr. Darren McKeever: More often than not, when people hear the word ‘denture,’ they’re thinking of a complete set of teeth that is removable. But in addition to that, we also have partial dentures where people have some of their own natural teeth and only the teeth that are missing are being replaced by the denture. Full dentures (upper or lower) are more often than not made nowadays completely out of acrylic, where as a partial denture can be made out of a combination of metal and acrylic or even vinyl or they can also be made out of complete acrylic. The thing about dentures though, they are not as effective as something that is permanently mounted to the teeth. Everybody forgets that the middle syllable of the word removable is move. Removable dentures are riding on the teeth and the soft tissues of the mouth, and they are never fixed in as tightly as a natural tooth would be.
What factors are considered when making the decision to get full or partial dentures?
Dr. Darren McKeever: I think it really relies on how many teeth you have left. If it’s going to be for a partial denture, that’s very important. Cost is a major factor because with partial dentures or removable dentures, you’re replacing many, many teeth at one time. But it also depends on the state of the teeth. If the teeth can’t be saved at all, whether it’s due to gum disease or a bone ailment, then you’re really talking like a full denture. But if you can save some teeth then the decision could be made that you don’t need to lose all of them and you can go with a partial denture which more often than not is much better in function than a full denture.
Once a patient decides to get dentures, what is the process for getting them?
Dr. Darren McKeever: It depends on whether or not they have to have teeth extracted which would slow the process down because there is a healing period after the extraction. But once the patient is actually ready to have the dentures fabricated, it’s a matter of getting some impressions. Sometimes the impressions have to be refined with secondary impressions. Then lab work has be tried in and fit to make sure that the future denture will fit not only with the patient’s physiology and function but their phonetics. Then after that, usually a try-in with the teeth on them so that the patient can approve of the aesthetics. You can see it takes several visits to make these in order to do it right and that process can take up to a month, sometimes even longer.
What can someone just getting dentures expect to experience? How do they affect eating and speaking?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Initially it’s going to have a major effect on both eating and speaking. We’re not born with a prosthesis in our mouth. The tongue has to get used to it. The cheeks have to get used to it. Eating is not the same on an appliance that has a subtle motion to it so people have to get used to that. In my opinion, the success and failure of any removable appliance is dependent upon the patient’s perseverance for trying to attain success. More often than not, the laboratory and the dentist can fabricate something that is physiologically acceptable, the phonetics will work, but the patient’s success will always be something that depends on their ability to persevere and just get used to it.
For some patients, are there alternatives to dentures?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Absolutely. If there are enough remaining teeth in the mouth that are stable, a fixed bridge would be the option that I think is ideal because it doesn’t come out. You brush it in your mouth, not in your hand over the sink. But even nowadays, patients who have to replace many, many teeth or even all their teeth with a denture, implants seem to be on the rise in the United States. The utilization of implants has quadrupled in the last 10 years. It’s a second chance for somebody who has a regrettable decision where they had to lose some of their teeth or even all of their teeth. Implants being a man-made tooth root, we don’t have to have one implant for every tooth being replaced. You can use a few implants and replace a whole set of teeth. Basically those two options seem to be, in my opinion, much higher success rates than something that is a removable appliance.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit www.mckeeverdentalcare.com or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.