The iconic picture of a set of teeth floating in a glass of water on the night tableis a common snapshot of senior living that some people would rather not envision. The thought of false teeth still makes us shudder, probably because we grew up around elderly relatives whose dentures were so uncomfortable or ill-fitting that they preferred not to wear them. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in the world of prosthetic teeth. Today, the word ‘denture’ refers to all different kinds of replacement teeth, including fixed partial dentures (bridgework) and implant retained dentures, which can be a full, complete set of teeth that can only be removed by a dentist – a far cry from the kind you pop out into a glass of water.
Removable dentures are the rotary phones of yesteryear, a true original. At one point, there were no alternatives to false removable teeth except to try and get by with whatever natural teeth were remaining to you. Yet while removable dentures have restored smiles to generations of patients, they are far from an ideal solution to tooth loss. They are not stable in the mouth, which can make a full range of normal activities, such as eating and laughing, difficult and even painful for some people. Another major problem is that natural teeth act as placeholders in the mouth and preserve the bone in which they are implanted. Without teeth to hold the jaw, bone loss accelerates, and dentures make matters worse by pressing down on the jaws from the outside.
Why is bone loss such a big deal? Over time, as bone volume shrinks, dentures stop fitting properly and must be re-lined, rebased or even replaced. When the dentures are removed, facial changes become apparent as the support for the facial structure slowly erodes. Without their false teeth in, patients may barely be able to recognize themselves in a mirror.
Fixed dentures are the Smart phones of today, on the cutting edge of science and technology. Because these dentures – whether full or partial – are anchored into the living bone tissue via implanted titanium posts, they act on the jaw bone as natural teeth would, providing support and preventing bone loss. The implants fuse with the jaw bone to provide a solid foundation for the dentures, which are screwed directly into the titanium posts.
As one can imagine, such a procedure was, at one time, prohibitively expensive, not to mention the fact that people who had been living with dentures for a long time were not good candidates due to the advanced deterioration of the jaw bone leaving insufficient bone tissue for the implants. Advances in technique have made it possible to implant an entire set of replacement teeth on as few as four implants, which can be placed strategically in the mouth to take advantage of the remaining bone. And with financing and payment plans available, the procedure has never been more affordable.
For many people, implant supported dentures are the way to go, because they’re fixed in the mouth so there is no risk of them falling out or sliding around. You can eat, talk, laugh, cough, and carry on all your normal activities much as you would with natural, healthy teeth. This improves self-esteem and quality of life.
Fixed dentures are a long-lasting solution to the problem of tooth loss. Ask your denturist if they might be right for you!