Do you have vivid memories of your parents or grandparents having to pull out their teeth every evening and leave them in a glass of water overnight? Gross, right? Maybe, but the fact is they certainly aren’t the only people who have needed dentures over the years, and now that you’re approaching the senior years yourself you’re beginning to realise that you might one day need to go down the same route.
Dentures have a long history. For hundreds of years they’ve been the primary way in which we’ve handled the toll that time takes on our teeth. In the 21st century, denture technology is better than ever, but no longer are they the only option for people wishing to recover and replace their teeth.
Whether through poor oral hygiene, unfortunate genetics, accident or simply the passage of time, eventually most of us will suffer the loss of at least some teeth. Now that you’ve reached the age where dental replacements are becoming a concern, what are some of the options out there to consider?
This is a bit of a coverall term as there are different types of dentures. Partial dentures are used when a patient has only lost a few teeth, while complete denture sets are used for people who have lost all their teeth. When a complete set of dentures is used, usually a dentist will decide that whatever remaining teeth the patient has left are unsalvageable, and will remove them for the fitment of a complete set of false teeth.
Dentures have a few advantages over other form of replacement teeth.
- Tried and true: Dentures have been around for a long time and their technology is sound.
- Cost effective: Dentures are the cheapest form of false teeth by quite some margin.
- Non-invasive: Unlike other forms or false teeth, dentures don’t require surgery or teeth reshaping in order to fit.
- Flexible: Dentures can be replaced and changed with ease down the track if a patient’s situation changes.
- Short turnaround: Usually, denture fitment doesn’t require a patient to be without teeth for any amount of time. The remaining teeth are generally removed and the denture fitted during the same session.
Despite their advantages, there are some drawbacks to dentures.
- Not as functional: Other forms of false teeth are more effective replacements for natural teeth. Dentures generally provide less chewing power and may restrict users from some types of food.
- Less realistic: Dentures can shift in the mouth and since they sit over the existing gum they may not look quite right in the mouth.
- More upkeep: Dentures require constant care, and may require further accessories such as denture paste to properly secure.
Bridges are an excellent alternative to partial dentures for people who only have to replace a few teeth. Applying a bridge involves attaching a false tooth facade to adjacent teeth, known as abutments. The abutment teeth are slightly shaved down and are then capped. The false tooth or teeth are securely attached to these crowns, and the abutment teeth provide the support for it to act as a fully functional tooth.
The advantages of bridges are numerous.
- Much more secure: Bridges are a permanent solution. The crowns are securely attached to the abutment teeth which in turn securely attach the false tooth.
- Stronger: Bridges are much more secure than dentures and the patient can eat most foods just as they did with their ordinary teeth.
- Permanent: Barring any further dental issues, bridges should last a lifetime with proper care.
- Less maintenance: Bridges can be cared for in the same way as normal teeth. They don’t require any special maintenance.
Bridges have a lot of positives, but they aren’t without their difficulties.
- More invasive: Bridges require otherwise healthy teeth to be shaved down to provide the abutment caps.
- Not suitable for larger jobs: The abutment teeth are only capable to handling so much stress, so if more than two or three teeth are missing in a row then the strain they would be forced to take on would cause them to weaken and suffer damage themselves.
- Cost: Bridges are more expensive than traditional dentures.
Dental implants are without a doubt the most effective, functional and aesthetically pleasing replacement for a natural tooth. A dental implant involves inserting a titanium “root” into the jaw in place of the missing tooth, then capping this with a false crown. Dental implants are a relatively new technology, but they have opened up a whole new world of tooth replacement for patients. However, due to some of the requirement of their installation, they may not be as suitable for older patients as some other solutions.
Dental implants have many advantages, and are without doubt the best solution for tooth replacement.
- Realistic: The end result of a dental implant is virtually invisible: no-one will ever know the tooth isn’t real.
- Secure: Dental implants are firmly secured to the jaw and do not shift.
- Powerful: Dental implants allow a patient to eat the same foods they enjoyed with a full set of real teeth.
- Stop jaw degradation: One of the secondary disadvantages of losing teeth is that the jaw bone begins to deteriorate without their support, leading to ‘collapsed face syndrome’. Implants prevent this and help the jaw retain its strength which preserves a person’s facial aesthetics.
- Flexible: As many or as few teeth as needed can be replaced with dental implants.
Dental implants aren’t without their drawbacks which could put them out of reach for some people.
- Price: Dental implants are by far the most expensive form of false teeth.
- Invasive: The process of inserting the titanium root into the jaw requires surgery and the accompanying recovery time.
- Lengthy process: From start to finish the process of installing dental implants takes several months as the jaw must be left to heal around the titanium root before it can be capped.
- Complications: Dental implants are unsuitable for people whose jaws have already degraded. They are also unsuitable for people with gum disease of receding gums.
- Failure: Dental implants can fail in rare occurrences, usually due to being improperly installed. Peri-implantitis, or the infection of the gum around the implant, can occur if proper oral care is not followed.
There are lots of options for people to replace their aging and deteriorating teeth with an alternative that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The first step towards finding out which option is right for you is talking to your dentist. They can help you work out what situation your teeth, gums and jaws are in, and whether you’re suitable for each option. Make an appointment today and take a step along the road to a better smile.