By Deborah Pinnock on Dec 3, 2014 @ 02:42 PM
Flying blind is uncomfortable, even for the bravest pilot. People, in general, want to have an idea of where they’re going and what they should expect on the journey. Getting dentures can be a little like flying blind, if you’ve never had them before. You’re not sure what to expect or how to prepare.
Not knowing the facts can also create wrong expectations, which sometimes leads to disappointment. But oh, the beauty of a guide that tells you how to get to where you are going and what to expect. In this interview, Dr. Douglas Goldberg, a general dentist who has been practicing for over 26 years, provides expert guidance as he tackles various questions about this prosthetic and what patients can expect.
Dr. Goldberg, what exactly are dentures?
People believe they are a replacement for teeth but actually, they are a replacement for not having teeth. They are a prosthetic device that imitates your teeth, mostly in terms of shape and color. While they may resemble your teeth, they certainly don’t function as efficiently as your natural teeth. Nothing can replace those.
Teeth are individual units, held very firmly in the jawbone. Dentures are made of plastic and unlike teeth, they are not attached--just sitting on top of the gums. Very often they are held in with Fixodent so they don’t move around. As such, they get dislodged easily. When you bite down on one side of a denture, the other side can come loose.
What are some things patients can expect when they get dentures?
The final product won’t be ready for several weeks. In my office for example, it takes a minimum of five appointments before a patient is able to take home a final denture.
The upper one usually fits better than the lower. In fact, the upper will often fit with just suction as opposed to the lower.
You also have to re-train yourself to chew. Certain foods, like lettuce, become difficult to chew.
Loose During Conversation
Be careful. They may become loose while you’re talking.
Your speech will also be affected. You may struggle as you say certain words and speak in general; however, as you get used to it, your ability to speak clearly will improve.
Basically, the body says to itself, “there are no teeth so we don’t need to maintain the bone.” As a result, over time the jaw bone begins to shrink. After a few years, you find that the replacement no longer fits. The option at that point is to get them relined or remade.
How long does it normally take before a person has a final denture?
When having teeth removed, it is common for the dentist to make an immediate denture, one that is ready the day the teeth are extracted. They typically don’t fit well and are used as a stop gap measure until the mouth is fully healed and a final version can be made. Usually, it is made 6-8 weeks after the teeth are extracted.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that most insurance companies may only cover one per arch, every five years. That means the patient will only get coverage for either the immediate or the final.
What can a patient do to get the best fit?
My advice would be at every opportunity, try and hold onto whatever teeth you can because a partial that fits onto a number of remaining teeth is certainly much better than a full denture, which is not anchored to anything. Any extra support you can provide for this prosthetic is to your advantage.
Another approach, if all your teeth have been removed, is getting dental implants in the upper or lower arch. This way, the prosthetic can be anchored to some degree. Plus, the bone does not shrink away because the body thinks the implants are real teeth.
What are steps individuals should take when they don’t fit?
If they don’t fit well, a reline is the first thing that’s indicated. It’s a technique where an impression is taken with the denture in your mouth; it’s sent to the laboratory and the lab adds plastic to it to make it fit your arches as they are today, as opposed to when the denture was made. Usually, a reline may be needed two or three years after the prosthetic is made; it all depends. Everyone is different.
Your dentist may also recommend a totally new prosthetic. The plastic on your current can wear out or the whole thing may crack.
Can you give some tips on the best way to take care of dentures?
Like anything else, they need maintenance. The same tartar that forms on teeth will form on them. So it’s very important (though you may not have any teeth) to go see your dentist twice a year.
Dentists don’t just check for cavities on teeth; we check for cancer and for things that don’t belong in the mouth. So even though you have no teeth, don’t think you don’t need to go to the dentist just because everything feels good. It’s really good to go and get a medical oral exam, and get this prosthetic cleaned at the dentist.