How many times have I heard that comment or something similar? “If I just got them all pulled, all of my troubles will be gone”. After all, we all have a great grand-daddy or some old relative who had all of his dental problems go away with a new set of “plates” Maybe just a quick trip to the “mill in Florence” was all it took to end years of dental problems. While dentures might seem like a permanent solution, they are really only the start of a lifelong set of all new problems.
Let us discuss a few commonly held beliefs (or myths) about dentures.
First, dentures are a permanent fix. Many people think that with dentures…its “one and done”… that one set of dentures will last the rest of their life. Not true! The American Dental Association states that the average set of dentures can last up to 5-7 years. Just as natural teeth wear down and stain, so will your dentures. God’s enamel is much harder than man-made porcelain or plastic! Worse, the base for the support for your dentures, the ridges in your mouth where the teeth used to sit, will continue to shrink and wear away under the force of your dentures, for the rest of your life. And as that ridge wears away, the dentures start to slip and move.
Next myth…” once I get my dentures I’ll never have to see the dentist again!” Again, not true! Even with dentures, you still should see the dentist at least once a year. Many times the dentist can adjust or add to the dentures to prevent some of that slipping and wear on the ridge and the dentures. And the dentist can examine you for deadly oral cancer, and provide professional cleaning for your dentures.
Next myth…” with my new plates, I can eat corn on the cob and bite into apples”. Maybe. There are some people who do figure out how to eat corn on the cob with their dentures. But eating with dentures is tricky, and a learning process. But if you can master the art of eating with dentures, then eating most anything is again a pleasure.
The biggest problem with eating with dentures is taste. The dentures cover up most of your taste buds (located on the roof of your mouth) so taste becomes difficult, as does the sense of hot and cold.
So what are your alternatives to complete dentures? Maybe something supported by implants.
Dental implants are cylindrical titanium pieces placed into the jaw bone, on which dentists can place crowns, bridges, or support dentures. Dental implants are like having teeth (or roots) again. They are incredibly stable and strong, but there are things to be aware of with implants.
First, not everyone is a candidate for implants. In a healthy person, an implant is 94-96% successful (some do fail). In a smoker, the success rate might drop to 75%. In a diabetic, maybe the same. In a smoker and a diabetic, you might have a success rate of 50%! So folks on medications or those who smoke may not be the best candidate for an implant.
Second, the person must have enough bone in order to place the implant. Many denture wearers or those with gum disease have lost much of the supporting bone in their jaws. Many times, this bone can be repaired, so an implant can be placed. The only way to really tell is with an x-ray that is three-dimensional, like a dental “cat scan”. Few dental offices have this capability (My office in Irmo does have the capability to do a three-dimensional scan) The 3-D scan is very important before thinking about implants.
Dentures can best be stabilized by between four and six implants for each jaw. The patient is wearing a “cosmetic, healing denture” while the implants are healing (about 6 months, longer if the bone has to be repaired) Throughout the entire process, the patient is never left without teeth or teeth replacements (dentures).
Then the denture is fabricated over the implants with a series of impressions and “try-ins”. The denture then “snaps into” a bar, or special attachments on the implant, to give it incredible stability.
After the implant-supported denture is placed, the patient still needs to go to the dentist and have “cleanings”. The implants must be cleaned, just like the teeth are cleaned. But the implants will keep the jaw bone from shrinking…a huge benefit of implants!
Implants and implant-supported dentures have helped many people turn from “dental cripples” to being able to function again. Imagine, regaining the ability to chew and taste your food. That really is “priceless”!