March 12, 2015

From the desk of Dr. Fass

It’s unfortunate in this day and age that there are still some people who have such overwhelming dental problems that full dentures are the only viable option to restore a healthy oral environment. How well you might function with dentures is a very individual trait. Suffice it to say that at least half the success is a good mental attitude that you will learn to use these new tools.

Once the patient is comfortable and functioning well, they often think that they are in the clear. As time progresses however, the mouth tissues continue to change. Bone that is not supporting teeth will begin to disappear and the gums can get thinner with time. The dentures begin to settle and go to new positions, allowing the jaws to collapse in the bite. The changes are slow and gradual and often can go unnoticed. If there is no pain, patients often will not visit the dental office for many years. But damage is being done to the support structures under the dentures.

Over the years, the bite changes and might even result in the appearance of the lower teeth being in front of the upper teeth when the patient bites. This is a very poor functional position, making it hard to bite food and difficult to chew anything with resistance. Of necessity, the diet becomes softer and general health may suffer.

The solution for this is to see your dental professional regularly, generally once a year. Depending on the rate of change, a reline might be suggested to restore the proper position and bite. And while many keep dentures for much longer, the average time for replacement of full dentures is 5 years. Remember, this is just an average. Every case is unique and needs to be evaluated individually.

Many of the problems associated with the poor function of dentures after many years of wear can be addressed with the placement of implants. Just 2 of these titanium “artificial roots” can help support a denture and prevent the further shifting and collapse. In fact, the implants will help stabilize the bone and prevent further bone loss in the area they are placed. In many cases, 4 or 6 implants can support and entire denture and allow it to function with the same forces as natural teeth.