Missing teeth can be embarrassing and detrimental to your self esteem as well as the health of your gums and remaining teeth. Technological advances in restorative dentistry have created a variety of tooth replacement solutions for patients with missing teeth. One of the most traditional, and aesthetically effective options is dentures. Dentures are a valuable option for patients who are missing more than one tooth. Dentures come in several types, and it is important to understand the pros and cons of each before pursuing a restorative dentistry plan. Below, Dr. Robinson will describe the three most common options in dentures today, and hopefully 🤞 answer many of your questions. If you want to know more after reading this post, connect with us! We’d love to hear from you!
If a patient is missing several teeth, but still retains some natural teeth, one option to replace the missing teeth may be a partial denture. Patients often have questions about the differences between a partial denture and a fixed bridge. Both a fixed bridge and a partial denture can replace more than one missing tooth in a row, with the partial denture being an inexpensive alternative to a bridge.
Partial Dentures vs. Fixed Bridge
There are a few important differences between a bridge and a partial denture to consider. First, a partial denture is removable and gains stabilization by resting on the roof of the mouth, against remaining natural teeth and over the gums, making it a rather large appliance and somewhat visible, while a bridge consists only of the material needed to create the teeth that will replace your natural teeth, and is permanently bonded into place. Because a bridge does not require additional structures to stay in place, barring atypical circumstances, a bridge should appear indistinguishable from natural teeth. The appearance of the teeth used to replace the natural teeth is another difference between the two tooth replacement options. Typically, teeth used in partial dentures will appear less lifelike than the teeth used to make a bridge because they are made of different materials and with difference processes.
Finally, a partial denture and bridge have different effects on speaking and chewing abilities. Most patients can learn to return to normal speaking abilities while wearing a partial after enough time has passed giving the tongue, roof of the mouth and gums an opportunity to become used to the extra material newly present in the mouth. When it comes to chewing function, the natural teeth that are being replaced with the partial denture (how many, and which teeth) influence the extent of the patients’ loss of ability to chew food and therefore varies widely. It’s important to remember that a partial denture is usually able to offer good aesthetic solutions, but not necessarily good solutions for replacing the function lost by removing natural teeth. Partials can also present some new obstacles, for instance trapping food that natural teeth would not while eating.
Restoring missing teeth with a fixed bridge, on the other hand, causes no permanent disruptions in the mouth. It therefore eliminates the issues with chewing and speaking while wearing a partial as described above. In fact, once bonded into place, a patient should not be able to feel or see a difference between the bridge and their natural teeth. This leaves the mouth able to chew and speak exactly as it had before the procedure, with no chewing/eating functions lost or changed.
Full dentures are a removable prosthetic option for patients with no remaining natural teeth. The dentist and collaborating dental laboratory should pay close attention to size, color, and shape when making a denture to suit each patient’s unique smile, and if done properly, a good aesthetic result is typically achievable. Your dentist will do their best to ensure your dentures fit comfortably in your mouth with minimal slippage, however, many patients’ mouth anatomy does not accommodate dentures well, and in these cases, the dentures may have very little function when it comes to chewing food. Unfortunately, there is not anything that can be done to improve the stability of the dentures in these cases without adding implants as described below.
Generally speaking, patients are more satisfied with dentures that replace their upper teeth than with dentures that replace their lower teeth. This again, has to do with anatomy. A typical lower jaw provides no possibility for the “suction” that keeps an upper denture in place. Therefore, very few patients have anatomy that allows a lower denture to remain in place without slippage.
How Long Do Dentures Last?
Additionally, depending on how long a patient uses dentures, they may have to be replaced due to wear or fit. The fit can become unstable because while the dentures do not change in shape, the anatomy of the mouth changes over time due to the lack of natural teeth. The best way to describe these changes might be to say that the bone which held the natural teeth thinks it no longer has a purpose and dies; as it dies it shrinks, therefore making dentures fit less and less well over time. Dentures gather plaque and tartar just like natural teeth and require daily cleaning. Even if you have no natural teeth in your mouth, it is important to see your dentist for a yearly head, neck and oral cancer screening.
Implant dentures, an exciting permanent tooth replacement solution, combine the pleasing aesthetics of a denture with the function of natural teeth. The process begins with small posts (called implants), being surgically placed in the jaw. The implants become anchored in the bone, much like the root of a natural tooth. Patients choose a removable implant denture or a permanently fixed implant dentures. This determines the implant quantity and placements.
Permanent vs. Removable Implant Dentures
As mentioned above, many patients find it difficult to use a lower denture for anything other than aesthetics. In these cases, just 2 implants can dramatically improve the function of the denture, as the denture can “snap” into the implants when placed in the mouth. The denture can then maintain stability from its connection to the implants. A denture can be permanently fixed into place by placing 4-6 implants in either the upper or lower jaw, and then attaching the denture to the implants. Permanent placement allows the denture to function much like natural teeth. Some of the well known laboratories that produce these products refer to them as “All-on-4” or “All-on-6.” This is an excellent solution for patients who need all their natural teeth replaced, and wish to retain the function of their natural teeth while also designing the smile of their dreams.
Using implant dentures to restore a smile often provides a result that is indistinguishable from natural teeth in both appearance and function. Implants not only provide the immediate benefit of stabilization, which allows a denture to mimic the function of natural teeth, they also have an additional and less well known long-term benefit. Placing an implant “tricks” the bone into thinking there is still a natural tooth in place that needs blood supply; therefore, it continues to function normally, eliminating the issue of “shrinkage” that inevitably occurs over time with regular dentures (this is also discussed in the section above). Because they require more procedures, demand higher quality materials to more closely resemble natural teeth, provide far better function and last much longer than standard dentures, implant dentures are not surprisingly more expensive than standard dentures.
Bottom Line: Every patient is different, and a consultation with a dentist you trust is the best way to determine what options are available to you.
Dentures and more in New Philadelphia, OH
Dr. Robinson provides patients in Dover, Ohio, New Philadelphia, OH and beyond with all types of dentures and other restorative dentistry. Our practice also offers cosmetic and general dentistry services for patients of all ages. To schedule an appointment ask a question, connect with us and let us know how we can help!