By Jeffrey Jones, DDS
Amazingly, the worst thing about dentures is something that most Americans are not even aware of, let alone understand. It’s actually quite simple. It’s also quite obvious and can be easily proven. What is it? It’s the fact that everyone who has lost all their teeth is melting! Well, their jawbones are melting anyway, and they’re shrinking! Yes! Shrinking! When a human being loses a tooth, the bone in the extracted tooth area shrinks away. It happens every time, and the process starts immediately after the extraction. Within a year, the bone is about 60 percent gone and this bone loss — or shrinking — continues for the rest of the person’s life. So, when I use the words shrink, shrank, shrunken, shrinkage, or melting, it really means losing bone.
Millions of Americans report that their dentures no longer fit as well as they used to, and hundreds of millions of denture “relines,” or refittings, are done in America. Hundreds of millions! In 100 percent of these cases, the person’s bone and gums have shrunken. That’s why the denture loosened in the first place. There are a very small percentage of people who proclaim they don’t ever need refitting of their dentures. If they say it, I believe them, and I am happy they are doing well. However, they are the rare exception. I joke with my patients that I have never seen a denture that shrank. It’s the person who shrinks. They lose bone and the gums also become thinner. Melting, shrinking, it’s all the same.
The scientific phrase for this shrinking is “resorption after tooth extraction.” Google it and check it out! Patients say all kinds of incorrect things about why their denture, that used to fit, now no longer fits. I want to set the record straight. If you are wearing a denture, your bone and gums are slowly shrinking and will continue to shrink for the rest of your life. In fact, the pressure created by the denture accelerates the shrinkage and bone loss! That last fact really stinks! I’m sorry it’s all so negative and I wish I had an easier answer for you, but the proven fact is that only the presence of natural teeth or dental implants stops this process.
There are obvious problems with dentures that cannot be denied. They cover the entire roof of the mouth and cover thousands of taste buds. This clearly reduces a person’s ability to taste and enjoy food. Millions of denture wearers have difficulty chewing, especially hard things, like apples, carrots, meat, or dozens of other foods. Studies show that a denture chews less than 20 percent of what natural teeth can do. A small group of denture wearers may say they can chew anything, but they are the lucky few, the fortunate exceptions to the rule.
Dentures also often result in gagging, lisping, and other speech problems; premature aging; increased wrinkles; digestive problems; and negative facial changes such as sunken cheeks. Patients often feel that dentures are too big and clunky. Many have significant pain and denture sores. Ten percent of people can’t wear dentures at all.
Dentures can impact someone not only physically, but psychologically as well. These effects include feeling older, having lower self-confidence and a poor self-image, having social difficulties, keeping the situation secret, and a constant worry of being seen without teeth. Dentures can even cause changes in personal relationships. A 2015 study by Survata showed 56 percent of denture wearers felt limitations in their work interactions, social interactions, and romantic lives.
With approximately 35-million denture wearers in America, surveys show only 30 percent are happy with their dentures. These 30 percent generally still need refittings, but at least they are happy. 70 percent report significant problems and many just put up with it and spend hundreds of dollars every year on denture glue. After all, what else can they do? The teeth are already gone. What is the answer?
To be continued…
If you can’t wait until next month for more information about solving problems with dentures, contact Jeffrey Jones, DDS, LLC at 309-454-5830 or visit By Jeffrey Jones, DDS or www.jeffjonesdentistry.com. Jeffrey Jones DDS, LLC is located at 305 S. Linden Street in Normal. Dr. Jones is a general dentist and provides state-of-the-art dentistry for all ages.