Hello, this is Dr. Daniel Vinograd, biological dentist in San Diego, California. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about dentures and denture alternatives. If you really think about what dentures are, couple of these little plastics, a little bit like castanets, they’re going against each other trying to mash food together. The concept is a little bit foreign, and it’s a little bit unusual. However, it’s certainly better than not having anything at all.
The truth though is that a lot of people will resign themselves to wearing dentures. At least they have some teeth to show for it, but the mastication is quite reduced, and the quality of life is also not great. There are a lot of issues with sore spots, with bone being reabsorbed, creating dentures to not fit as they should, needing realignments and so forth. Eventually, with time, the bone will reabsorb to a point where the dentures are hard to really keep in place.
A little history. Dentures go as far back as 700 B.C. were being made with animal and human teeth, and they were put together in some contraption. People would use them to try and show that they had teeth and try to do some chewing. That lasted for quite a while. Even up to the 15th century, you’d still have those dentures that were made out of human teeth and animal teeth. I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable and unsightly they were. Of course, we don’t believe that they had any kind of extended use. Around the late 1700s, modern dentures came to be with the advent of modern materials, and this is basically what we are today.
Now, a lot of people feel that once they’re in dentures, this is really their destiny. A lot of them have gone through a lot of dental work, and they slowly but surely have lost their teeth. A lot of our grandparents used to wear them so we became comfortable with the thought that dentures were a normal part of getting old.
The truth though today is that there’s so many alternatives to dentures that can really improve the quality of a person’s life so dramatically, and all of them are really based on the use of implants. Implants, even 20, 30 years ago, were not really considered to be mainstream dentistry. I remember placing one of the first implants, and a lot of my colleagues did not look favorably upon this kind of a procedure. Today, dental implants have progressed to the point that if properly done and properly integrated, the success rate of implants is better than 95%, and implants can actually be used to replace dentures or in conjunction with dentures. So, here’s they work.
There’s actually two ways that you can use implants to improve the quality of life of a denture wearer. First, is you can actually use implants and place an overdenture on them. What you would do is basically, you would use the denture with a couple of female pieces and attach it to a male piece that would come out of the implant. So, in essence, the dentures are actually buttoned into the area in your mouth where the implants were placed, holding it firmly.
Dental Implants / Fixed Restorations
The second way that you can actually use implants is by getting rid of dentures altogether, and you can actually place as many implants as there is bone available, and you can actually place individual teeth to replace the teeth that were lost.
Finally, there is another way of doing it which is placing anywhere from four to six implants and then laying an underpiece to the denture, usually made out of fiber, and then, you can actually permanently cement teeth into that fiber underpiece. This would actually be a fixed, not a removable restoration, which acts pretty much like bridges would on regular teeth.
One of the biggest considerations here is the amount of bone that is left on the patient. So, obviously, earlier in the stage of denture wearing, you would probably, in most cases, have more bone than you would have alter in life. So, this procedure would be well-advised for people who are just wearing dentures or haven’t been wearing for a long time. A lot of patients who have been wearing them for a long time will have conserved enough bone to be able to place some implants, either an overdenture or a fixed prosthesis. So, that is basically the limiting factor.
There are ways to graft bone, and most of the time, it would have to be a bone graft from your own body, usually your hip. You can actually place additional bone there to be able to sustain some implants.
Once you have those implants in place, the difference is just staggering, and I know patients all the time talk about the fact that they could not have imagined how their lives have improved by actually having something fixed and solid again to chew with.
So, I hope this was helpful, and until next time.