There are many reasons why people lose their teeth. The most common causes are cavities, periodontal disease, tooth wear, tooth erosion, and accidents. Years ago, extraction was one of the only options available for the treatment of these dental diseases, and many of us have parents or grandparents who had all of their teeth pulled very early in life. Today, advances in dentistry allow patients to maintain their natural teeth much longer; however, there are also those patients who, despite their best efforts, struggle with dental problems and continue to lose teeth. There are also those patients who have simply neglected their dental care, and are now faced with the reality of tooth loss. Whatever the case may be, the transition from natural teeth to artificial teeth (dentures) can be a difficult one.
This decision should also not be taken lightly. In the age of dental implants, some dentists are quick to recommend extraction and implant placement for patients with a failing set of teeth, while others might be more traditional and recommend any means necessary in the attempt to maintain at least a few natural teeth. The truth is that sometimes it is better to restore what is left of a patient’s natural teeth and sometimes it is actually better for the patient to transition to dentures. Things like the type and severity of dental disease, the patient’s medical health, a prominent gag reflex, dry mouth, and dexterity for home care, as well as many other factors all play into the decision making process. Ultimately, the goal of any dental treatment is to improve a patient’s quality of life by helping them chew better, speak clearly, and smile confidently.Once the decision is made to the transition from a failing set of natural teeth to dentures, there are several other important questions to ask. First, “are dental implants possible?” This is important as it may affect the sequence of treatment, and should be decided before hand. Using dental implants to help stabilize dentures can tremendously improve a patient’s level of comfort; however, implant therapy can be expensive and is therefore not possible for everyone. The good news is that a properly constructed set of conventional dentures is generally well tolerated by patients once they get through the healing phase.
Second, how do I get from start to finish? Because this process can take time, and can also be rather challenging, it is important to understand what to expect. For patients having all of their teeth extracted, the first step is to have a set of temporary dentures fabricated prior to the extraction surgery. Then, on the day of extraction surgery, the teeth are removed and the temporary dentures are fitted in place. In this way, the patient is never with out some type of teeth. These temporary dentures are also called “immediate dentures”, because they are fitted immediately after extraction. The first few weeks after surgery are flat out difficult. Not only does the patient have discomfort from the surgery, but also they are now faced with the task of learning the coordination necessary for using removable dentures. For some patients, this comes naturally, for others it may take weeks or even months. Over the next 3-6 months, the patient is allowed to heal with their immediate dentures. The patient will be seen every 2-3 weeks during this time to make adjustments and to attempt to keep things as comfortable as is possible, but there will be good days and there will be bad days. Sore spots, speech changes, chewing difficulty are all a part of this process. Once healing is complete, the patient can then have an idealized set of conventional dentures fabricated on the healed jaws. This set is call the definitive dentures, and will allow improvements in tooth position, fit, and esthetics. It is important that the final set of dentures not be made too soon after extraction, as this may cause misfit in the final set. Again, once the final set is made, there will be another period of getting use to things. Every time the position of teeth are moved, there is the risk of speech or chewing changes. All together, it will likely take one year to go through extraction, immediate dentures, and then to fully adjust to a set of properly constructed definitive dentures.
This process may sound daunting, but it may also be the best choice for your dental and medical health. As a prosthodontist, Dr. Bryan Limmer has extensive training in helping patients successfully navigate the transition from failing teeth to dentures. Finally, not all dentures are the same. Dr. Limmer utilizes his in-house dental laboratory and his understanding of materials and techniques to ensure excellent fit, function, and esthetics (See Patient Stories – Case 11). . If you would like to discuss dentures with Dr. Bryan Limmer, please contact us at 720-242-6803 to set up a consultation.