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Dentures - A New Beginning

Dentures - A New Beginning

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By Dr. David Leader

Dentures are a poor replacement for natural teeth. They can be likened to an artificial limb. Complete upper and lower dentures never feel like the teeth they replace. Often, there is a feeling of loss, even of failure by the patient and the dentist. For the dentist who offers this treatment option there must be compassion and sensitivity. For the patient there must be understanding.

Many people suffer with uncomfortable, loose, unattractive teeth. They may have a high rate of tooth decay, or suffer the ravages of periodontal disease. Perhaps absent teeth give a patient the appearance of someone who does not care about their dental health or doesn't know better. It may be time to consider a removable denture.

Periodontal (gum) disease causes teeth to slowly loose the support of the surrounding bone. Loose teeth can make it uncomfortable to bite into tough foods or to chew. There may be an incessant odor, bleeding gums, and sensitivity to cold. Some may have received unsuccessful treatment from a periodontist (gum specialist). Periodontal disease is complicated by diabetes and can cause problems with the control of blood sugar. Advanced periodontal disease can make heart disease more serious. The bacteria that cause periodontal disease can be a serious problem for people whose immune system has been affected by chemotherapy or disease. It is easy to understand why a dentist or physician may recommend a compromised patient to have all of their severely periodontally involved teeth to be removed. In many instances not all the teeth need to be extracted and a partial denture can be made to replace just the missing teeth. In general, a partial denture is most stable as the dentist uses the adjacent teeth for additional anchorage.

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases. Most people keep it under control with prevention by brushing and flossing daily and regular dental treatment. It's easy to get out of the habit of visiting the dentist semi-annually. Someone who has allowed most of their teeth to deteriorate may find that they cannot afford the time or cost of repairing the damage. Dentures provide a relatively quick and less expensive alternative.

Accidental tooth loss can be prevented. Always wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports or mountain biking. When an unbelted driver hits the steering wheel or a motorcyclist falls, wearing a helmet without face protection severe dental damage may result. The fastest way to return to function and appearance may be with dentures until a dental bridge (non-removable) or dental implants can be fabricated.

Teeth should be arranged a certain way to chew properly. When they are misaligned, dentists call it malocclusion. Malocclusion is usually treated with braces. Often, teeth can be straightened with crowns or veneers. If left untreated, malocclusion can cause severe wear to some or all of the teeth. Sometimes the easiest way to treat worn teeth is to make dentures right over them. This is called an Overdenture.

Children's teeth do not have to be neglected to be lost. Rare genetic disorders such as amelogenesis imperfecta, or dentinogenesis imperfecta cause serious dental problems. In very unusual cases, children may require dentures to replace baby or deciduous teeth while waiting for their adult teeth to come in.

If you feel that the problems that face your teeth are insurmountable, it may be time for a new beginning. Ask your dentist for options. If you are not comfortable, with what you hear get another opinion. The decision to remove and replace teeth is an important one. You and your dentist should be comfortable with the treatment plan. Today dental implants offer the best option for tooth replacement.

For a list of denture cleaners and adhesive please visit Denture Care 

Dr. David Leader is the Chairman of the Health Advisory Committee of the Lynnfield Schools, a member of the Professional Advisory Committee of Tri-CAP Head Start, and is a member of the Mass Dental Society Council on Dental Care and Benefits Programs.