Should I just get dentures?

Q. Should I just have all my teeth pulled and get dentures? Both my parents had dentures… and I just feel like I’m headed that way eventually.

A. I am often surprised when people w
ith very few dental problems ask this question.  Some people seem to to view their teeth as a row of miniature ticking time bombs and assume its only a matter of time before they go off.

There are situations where removing the remaining teeth is prudent and maybe even necessary… but many people fail to understand what is sacrificed with dentures.

Some estimates have put the chewing ability of denture patients at about 15% of patients with natural teeth. This lack of chewing ability makes eating many foods more difficult.  Enjoyment of eating is limited by the lack of variety as well as the loss of taste that often results from the upper denture covering the palate.  In addition, maintaining proper nutrition becomes more of a challenge due to the lack of variety in the diet, decreased nutrient absorption and increased choking risks.

In addition, after teeth are removed, the ridge of bone that used to house them, begins to shrink.  This occurs more quickly at first but continues at a slower rate afterwards.  The longer the teeth are missing, the less ridge the denture has to sit on.  Because of this, dentures tend to lose stability the longer they are worn. This often ends up with an unhappy patient down the road who cannot keep the dentures in place well enough to chew.

We do have many more options for rebuilding smiles today than we did in your parents’ generation.  Patients that must resort to dentures now have the option of anchoring the dentures with dental implants or mini dental implants to regain some of the stability and chewing efficiency that natural teeth once afforded them.

That being said, a patient’s quality of life is significantly better when a he/she retains and cares for natural teeth instead of opting for tooth replacement.  The good news is that, in most cases, tooth loss is preventable.  Regular cleanings, daily brushing and flossing, and preventative measures like fluoride are usually sufficient to keep teeth healthy for a life time.