What is the true story about dentures? Are dentures the worst thing that can happen to you? Or,
as some say, is it the best thing that can happen to you? Why do we know a grandparent, that at some
stage in their lives they stopped wearing their “teeth”, and are just “gumming” it? Why have we heard
stories of an uncle that had his teeth pulled at the age of 24, and he states that he has been eating steak
since that day and he thinks it’s the best thing he has ever done? What is the real story behind
I have been practicing dentistry for over 16 years. After being a community college instructor, I
earned my dental degree from the University Of Washington School Of Dentistry. I did my post graduate
work in Philadelphia in Hospital Dentistry, learning to deal the sick while having dental needs. Since then
I have taken hundreds of hours of continuing education, taught at the University of Washington School of
Dentistry, been on the hospital staff at a local hospital for 16 years and maintain a private dental practice
for 14 years at Olympic View Dental, (www.olympicviewdental.com). I also own and operate a small but
very satisfying denture practice in Renton called The Renton Denture Clinic
(www.rentondentureclinic.com). Here we custom fit and fabricate wonderful dentures. More delicately,
we counsel people through the loss of their teeth and help them deal with the world of dentures. We
make complete dentures, interim dentures, immediate dentures, partial dentures and perform the
respective dental extractions and surgeries in conjunction with these prosthesis. We also place and
coordinate dental implants to support dentures. We have a denture lab in the building and have a
certified laboratory dental technician. We also do repairs while you wait. What I am most proud of we
deal professionally with each persons individual needs and take into account the emotional factors with
During these years I have taken care of patients at local nursing homes, counseled families and
individuals for the care of their parents and grandparents, some ailing or dying. I have learned to
appreciate the complexities of the emotional, medical and social issues when dealing with people with
failing teeth or people in need of replacement dentures. I have witnessed hundreds of times the
grandmother that doesn’t wear her teeth except to go to the dinning hall of her retirement center due to
psychosocial issues. These are real issues and deserve our attention. I have witnessed family members
struggling with the emotional dilemma of how to get their grandfather teeth while he’s losing weight, his
health is failing and his teeth are so far gone there are only a half a dozen teeth in different stages of
hopelessness. I have dealt with the man who did have his teeth pulled at 24 and now is seventy-two and
has the same set of dentures and the family, with all good intentions, wants their father to have teeth that
look nice, and he doesn’t want anything to do with any of it, and believe me these dentures look 50 years
old! (This is what I call the “Perfect Old Slipper Syndrome” These individuals’ never like parting with
In the United States and many parts of the world we are now have at our disposal the most
advanced trained and skilled dental professionals the world has ever seen. Technological advances in
dentistry are so amazing today that many hopeless and failing teeth can be saved and restored and in
many instances will last for the remainder of a person’s life. The training and skills of dentists today are
second to none. So why is there a conversation at all about dentures? Why are people still in the market
for dentures? Well first of all, sadly to say only 40% of the population in this country goes to the dentist
on regular basis (one time per year). Also many people had their teeth removed several decades ago
when it was the common thought to remove all teeth if a person had only a couple of bad teeth. It was
the thought that these people’s teeth were going to be hopeless so why perpetuate the inevitable, and
just get rid of all of them. Today, over 500,000 people every year in this country have their teeth removed
and partial or complete dentures inserted to replace them. Did you know that most of these people doing
so are between the ages of 40 and 60? Did you know that of this group there are no boundaries of
income or social status? So why is this? Why in this day of such advanced technology, knowledge of
fluoride, lasers in density, computer generated crowns, why then are people still loosing there teeth and
what is the story of dentures?
People loose their teeth today for a host of reasons; illness, periodontal disease, rampant tooth
decay, affects of drug addiction, side effects of dry mouth, (xeristomia), related issues due to
multipharmicutical, trauma or even chemo or radiation therapy. True, tooth loss is for the most part
completely preventable in this day in age, but reality goes on. People do get gum diseases and they “let
it go too long”. There are people that grow cavities quicker than we can fix them. I have experienced
people that have completely restored their mouths 2 to 3 times over a life time with extensive and
expensive crowns and bridges to eventually throw in the towel and loose them any way. I try explaining
to these people that if they didn’t do all that dentistry in their past they would have been in dentures a
long time ago and would be dealing with a whole host of different crippling dental issues (severe bone
I am the first to say, that dentures are no replacement for your teeth. However they are a
reasonable substitute when you have no teeth. Dentures don’t chew like real teeth, they do make your
food taste different, they initially make your speech different, and yes, they can look better then your real
teeth, but remember people who loose their teeth most likely didn’t have good looking “failing” teeth.
Dentures are not want I would elect to have anyone have in replacement to a healthy set of natural teeth.
With this being stated, dentures are needed. Making a properly fitted denture is a must. Denture
fabrication is a difficult task, and as a veteran to this art, there is not one set the same as another, as
there are not two individuals the same. Dentures do come with their own unique emotional factors,
physical and medical factors and anyone fabricating dentures cannot ignore this.
Here are some other facts of dentures.
People who have dentures for many years and then don’t wear them is due to the fact of
something called ridge resorbtion or “bone resorbtion” or something people state and is a
misnomer “gum resorbtion.
Uneven pressure on the ridge caused by denture with a poor bite or a poor fit causes accelerated
Bone resorbtion is fast in women especially after menopause.
For people with no teeth and they do wear dentures, the only way to stop bone resorbtion is
through the use of dental implants.
When there is a lack of bone to support an upper denture there is less ridge to create suction.
This suction is what keeps the upper denture in place.
When the lower ridge looses a critical amount of bone the lower denture floats and moves. By
the way, all lower dentures float, but with no ridge they float and move to where many can not
wear them at all. (IE the grandmother who only wears them to the dining hall)
The older we get the less acceptable we are to change and trying to put up with anything new.
For many senior citizens who are experiencing some degree of dementia, they are literally not
capable of incorporating something new into their lives.
No amount of denture adhesive can glue a denture onto a ridge that has no boney ridge.
Dentures need a good amount of saliva. This is necessary to provide a lubricant for suction and
Dentures are made out of acrylic and have separately fabricated denture teeth that are hand selected
by the laboratory technician, based on the doctor’s instructions, along with the physical dimensions and
shape of the patient’s ridges, and then matched to the color of a mutually agreed upon shade. Dentures
wear out; they don’t last forever. This simply is a denture.
Dentures should be relined every 1 – 3 years to ensure proper fit and equal pressure on the boney
ridge. Dentures should be replaced every 5 – 10 years to re-establish what a reline can’t do, and when
the denture is just too worn and too old to reline. Many people state they don’t need a reline or replace
their dentures, but these people haven’t looked at the biting surface other denture teeth and noticed they
are completely worn, nor have they noticed the decreased dimension from the tip of their nose to the tip
of their chin. They haven’t noticed the increased folds at the corners of their mouths or the “Bull Dog” look
that worn and broken down dentures can cause. Most importantly, full dentures cause accelerated bone
loss. It’s no ones fault, it just happens. Poor fitting dentures cause accelerated ridge resorbtion.
Properly made dentures at any age are better then poor fitting dentures that are worn and broken
down. The topic of when someone is too old or sick is a very emotional but real topic. I deal with this topic
at least once if not twice a week. There is only one answer I have on this issue and that is to make
everyone “comfortable”. (Which as we all know is not possible, but with patience and good listening, I
usually achieve some degree of success) This could mean comfortable for the patient, emotionally,
physically, medically, or even financially. This again brings me to another topic that is too big for this
article, but I will address at another issue. (Look for; “What is Comfortable”, in the upcoming months.)
Dentures are here to stay and it is in my opinion that if you know someone who has dentures or
needs dentures that you seek out a professional who knows the business not just physically, but is able
to deal with all the emotional issues that circle around denture wearers.
Is there any answer to make dentures more comfortable/ Is there anything that dentistry can provide
to patients who wear denture or who are facing a life of wearing dentures? Is there a hope? Yes: Dental
Implants. (see Fall news Letter “dental Implants” at www.rentondentureclinic.com or
www.olypicviewdentl.com or www.3i-online.com/English/USA/ptEd-main.cfm.)