I have seen many people suffer with slipping, poorly fitting, unattractive dentures or simply dentures that are just too old.
The first question for someone with denture problems is, “How old are your dentures?” The second question is, “Who made them.”
If your dentures are over five to eight years old, you need a new set. Dentures are made of PMMA, a type of acrylic polymer. PMMA is great if cared for properly but the expected lifetime of PMMA is only eight to ten years. After ten years, the PMMA becomes more porous and can hold on to some nasty bacteria and even fungus. Yes, fungus. It also becomes more brittle and can break easily.
Yes, I have heard of many people who wear dentures much longer than that. This is really risky and may lead to excessive bone loss, overgrowth of gum tissue, infections and even worse problems. One recent research article in a very trusted journal even suggested that sleeping with old dentures in your mouth can make you twice as likely to get pneumonia. They called dentures sponges for bacteria.
Now, we come to the second question, “Who made your dentures.”
Is there a difference? Yes.
In Washington State, we have three different types of denture providers. General dentists have been making complete dentures since dentures became popular in the eighteenth century. Nowadays, many general dentists just prefer to not make complete dentures. It is time consuming and the follow up problems can really stress some people.
The second provider group are denturists. Denturists are not dentists. They are technicians who have one to two years of training in a technical program. It became legal for denturists to make dentures in Washington State around the year 2000. The legislature decided that they would allow denturists to practice in order to provide less expensive denture service for our poorer citizens.
The third provider group are prosthodontists. This is me. A prosthodontist is a dentist who went back to school full-time in a university or hospital based residency program for an extra two or three years to study dentures, implants, crowns and bridges. A prosthodontist is the only type of dentist in the United States who can legally say that he or she is a specialist in dentures.
There was a time when complete dentures were the only way to replace missing teeth. For people who are comfortable with complete dentures I say, “good for you.” There are many thousands of others who don’t do so well with dentures, especially those replacing lower teeth. Thankfully, we
Rick Jude, DMD