Is It Time For Dentures?

The process for getting evaluated and fitted for dentures is relatively simple. Dr. Vitale explains the steps to expect and the results.

Let’s start by explaining what dentures are. Can you describe the types of dentures available today and how they work?

Dr. John Vitale: Certainly. Dentures are removable appliances. They’re placed in people’s mouths when they either have no teeth at all (they’re called full dentures) or when they’re missing a large number of teeth in their mouth and we place appliances that are removable (they’re called partial dentures).

Why would a patient need dentures? What factors are considered when making that decision?

Dr. John Vitale: The basic reason why people need dentures is because either the remaining teeth (if they have any teeth in their mouths) have no bone around these teeth and they’re moving and people are constantly in pain, they can’t chew their foods, there’s a lot of discomfort, or they have no teeth in their mouth as a result of whether it be an accident or trauma or just having teeth extracted over the course of their lives rather than having them restored. These are generally extreme cases. Unfortunately there are a just a couple of tools available to us to restore people’s mouths when they present with situations like that.

For some patients, are there alternatives to dentures?

Dr. John Vitale: Today there are alternatives to dentures, both in a fixed manner and a removable manner. If one qualifies after they have all of their teeth removed – meaning that they have enough bone in their mouth to sustain the placement of implants – then dentists can place implants in people’s mouths and restore the implants with a prosthetic device that stays in a patient’s mouth. It would be considered a fixed bridge and it would be an implant bridge.

We also have something that we call implant dentures. In instances like that, people who have no teeth, we have some implants, a type of implant that’s placed with people who do not have a whole lot of bone. On top of these implants we put receptacles and snaps and we make dentures that snap into these receptacles in the mouth. They provide the patient with a firm sense of attachment. You can eat, drink, you can bite sandwiches. You can do a lot of things that you would have problems with a conventional denture.

Once a patient decides to get the conventional dentures, what is the process like for getting them?

Dr. John Vitale: It’s generally a 5 or 6 visit endeavor. The first one we take what we call a primary impression to get a general idea of what the patient has as far as bone formation and number of teeth and things like that. We go to a final impression which would be the second phase. That’s a more exacting impression of the person’s mouth. After that, we develop what we call bite blocks. We place those in a patient’s mouth on the third visit. With those bite blocks, we get their exact dimensions of where they bite to and the height between the different ridges, the upper ridge and the lower ridge, we set that. The fourth stage is we supply teeth in a ‘wax up’ so that the patient can see what they’re going to look like before the product is finalized. Once everything is okay and the patient approves, we go ahead and we process the try in dentures and we get a final prosthetic device. That’s what we place in their mouths.

What can someone just getting dentures expect to experience? How do they effect their eating and speaking, etc.?

Dr. John Vitale: It’s a different world when you have dentures in your mouth. You bite with approximately 10% of the force that you would bite with your normal teeth. You have to be cognizant of the fact that you’re wearing dentures in your mouth. Generally you just can’t rip into things like you would with your natural teeth. It’s a process. I always say it’s like getting a new pair of shoes. You have to break them in. You have to know how they’re feeling and generally over time they feel a little bit better. After any sore spots are identified –  if one was to get them during a course of 3 weeks or a month or so – you tend to get used to what you’re wearing and life goes on.

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