When we say “dentures,” we are usually talking about a replacement for teeth that is removable. There are two kinds that are referred to, full and partial.

Full or complete dentures should be a treatment of last resort. After the patient has lost any desire to save his or her teeth, they give up on them, get them extracted, and have a complete set of false teeth made.

Some patients view this as a matter of economics-they can’t afford to maintain their teeth any more. I once calculated the cost of a complete set of false teeth, upper and lower, including the cost of the tooth extraction surgery and the additional surgery required to prepare the patient’s mouth for the denture. Instead of getting the dentures, if the patient were to put all that money into a mutual fund that earned a modest 8% annual return, they could have routine checkups and cleanings and a filling or two every year on the dividends. At the end of ten years they would still have their own teeth and still have the full original value of the mutual fund.

However, in cases where the teeth need extensive work otherwise, complete dentures will likely be more economical. And if finances are limited, they may be the only option. But it is a compromise treatment.

 A lower denture just rests on the bony ridge. Gravity holds it in place, and it tends to move around during use

A lower denture just rests on the bony ridge. Gravity holds it in place, and it tends to move around during use

It is a fallacy to think that complete dentures mean the end to troubles with your teeth. Surveys show that about three-fourths of the people who have lower dentures are unhappy with them. They usually aren’t as vocal as the people who are happy with their dentures, which can give you a false picture. About half of those with upper dentures are unhappy with them. They may not complain much to their friends because they may feel embarrassed that they made such a poor decision.

Other useful information:

  • Cosmetic dentures” is a term used to refer to false teeth where extra attention is paid to their appearance. When they are done by an expert cosmetic dentist, it can make a big difference in their appearance.
  • When all the teeth are extracted, the jawbone will shrink. When a patient is young, say in his or her thirties, and has all the teeth extracted at that young age, by the time he or she reaches the age of fifty or sixty the jawbone will be so thin that the patient may end up being a dental cripple who can’t wear a denture comfortably. This condition is called facial collapse.
  • Soft dentures can be an answer for these people with a shrunken jawbone. The soft liner makes them more comfortable and a little more snug. Read about the pros and cons here.
  • When your dentures need repair, it’s important to see a dentist right away. Home repairs can make it more difficult and more expensive, or even impossible for a dentist to make the permanent repair. These repair procedures are generally not very expensive – much less expensive than a complete new denture.
  • Oral yeast infection can occur under your plates if you never take them out.
  • Immediate dentures are placed in your mouth on the same day your teeth are extracted, so that you don’t need to go for weeks with no teeth. They work very well, and are generally recommended for all patients.

Read Dr. Hall’s blog posts about dentures, where he answers questions from visitors.