Dentures: The End of Dental Problems or Just the Beginning

Dentures: The End of Dental Problems or Just the Beginning?

By John Shoemaker, DDS, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine

Having practiced over 30 years, I have seen a tremendous variety of dental problems, from the simple to the complex. With new technology and patient education, some dental problems have been reduced and yet other problems have increased. And yet, the fundamental problem we all face regardless of age, dental history, genetics, gender, etc., remains: How do I make my teeth last a lifetime?

You see, most dental procedures have a life expectancy (or how long the service will last) between six months to 20 years, possibly longer with some patients. A cleaning will last six months for most patients, while root canals, crowns and bridges could provide service for 20 years or more. My patients are pleased and relieved when I tell them that their dentistry is in good shape and holding up well. We always like to know when our health is good. But every patient is not pleased when at his or her exam they are told they are in need of repair or a major overhaul. This is understandable due to the time, expense and commitment that some rehabilitation involves. Many times a patient will have some comment like, “This is the last time I do this.” Or “If this wears out before I do I’ll just get dentures.” But then another response has been, “You mean you can fix me!”

To be able to be fixed or to be in a condition that can be healed is a wonderful thing. I believe modern dentistry accomplishes this very well.  But not all patients have this option. What changes occur so that patients hear these words: “I’m sorry; I cannot help you.” or “Mrs. Jones, your teeth can’t be fixed.” Difficult words to tell any patient. The number one change in dental health over time is lack of a solid foundation. There is not enough foundation left to build anything upon. This condition is serious and for the most part irreversible. And what is this foundation? Most of you might think it’s having enough teeth left to build upon. And that is true, but what I want you to realize is that not having enough bone left is what constitutes a poor foundation. A lack of bone compromises treatment, resulting in poor esthetics, function and comfort. If a doctor told you that you had osteoporosis would you take medicine to prevent the disease? Certainly, because hip and spinal fractures can be devastating to your long-term health. If a dentist told you that you were losing bone around your teeth or bone that supports your denture would you take the necessary steps to prevent it? I hope you would because continued bone loss can be devastating to your dental health both now and long-term.

So how does bone loss affect the denture patient?

1) Loss of comfort: frequent sore spots, denture slips

2) Loss of function: changes in dietary habits, unnatural smile, using the lips to hold in the denture

3) Poor esthetics: teeth placed in an unnatural position

4) Having to tolerate denture adhesives

Long-term effects:

1) Dentures, especially the lower, are painful to wear

2) Frequent burning sensation on gums

3) Witches chin develops from bone loss

4) Accelerated aged appearance

5) Excessive wrinkles

6) Inability to eat except soft or liquid diet

7) Inability to wear dentures period!

If this sounds like a road that you do not want to start down then do the following: Never let your teeth be extracted and replaced with dentures, without a long-term plan in place that addresses these issues. How do I want to eat, function, or appear in five, 10, 20, or 30 years from now?

If you already have dentures, get an exam now to evaluate the foundation of your future. Make sure the opportunity will always be there for you to enjoy optimum comfort, function and appearance. Make the choice today for your long-term health. For better long-term health.

You can contact Dr. Shoemaker at his office at 903-893-7751.