Thursday, September 6, 2012

Premature Tooth Loss and Dentures

Dentures…They Aren’t for Grandmas Anymore!


When I was a kid my Grandma and Grandpa always took their teeth out night before they went to bed.  As a child, I thought that was just what happened when you got older. Many of us still have that image of “Mrs. Claus” grandmas in our head, but those days are long gone.  Today’s retirees are fit, active, and vibrant! Why shouldn’t their teeth reflect that? With the advances in dental technology and knowledge there is no reason why anyone needs to lose their teeth as part of “normal” aging! Let me repeat that… With proper preventative and restorative treatment, hygiene, diet and habits there is no reason a person should lose their teeth as they age. 

I am frequently surprised by the amount of people who don’t realize how valuable their teeth really are.  This sometimes happens in my office… a patient will have the option of restorative treatment for their tooth that will allow them to keep that tooth, but will want an extraction. To me, extracting a tooth unnecessarily is like amputating a finger, because you have a hangnail that is bothering you.  We don’t expect to lose our fingers as we age, why do we expect to lose our teeth? I realize that people elect for extraction most of the time because of cost.  However, while the short-term cost of an extraction can be lower than the restorative option, the long-term costs are typically more expensive.  Often times, the cost of replacing a tooth and maintaining that replacement can be significantly more expensive than the alternative option of restoring the tooth to begin with.

You might be saying, “But, the tooth is in the back of my head.  Nobody sees it when I smile. Why should I replace it?” This is true. Cosmetically, it is not as difficult to lose a back tooth, but let’s remember our mouth is the beginning of our digestive system and its main function is to allow us to eat and nourish our bodies.  Good nourishment, exercise and having an intact immune system are keys to aging well.

Supraeruption on top back tooth
 Let me explain the domino effect that happens when just one tooth is extracted.  When a tooth is extracted and not replaced with anything it can be compared to pulling a fence post out of the ground and not back filling the hole with dirt. What happens over time is the adjacent teeth will start to tilt or drift toward the open area where the tooth use to be.  Like soil that erodes when grass is not planted, bone starts to recede in a process known as resorption. The opposing tooth (if you are missing a lower tooth this would be tooth directly above it) will start to supraerupt, When there is not an opposing tooth every time you bite, chew, or just shut your mouth there is no equal and opposite force and the tooth starts to erupt more. Your jaw muscles are some of the strongest muscles in your body, when teeth are missing there are fewer teeth to take the force of those biting forces, this starts to take a toll on the remaining teeth, and thus begins the path towards dentures. However, if a tooth cannot be restored and saved there are replacement options that will stop this domino effect and can keep you out of dentures! (See my previous blog: Implants)

Note the bone loss and drifting around the extractions
If you are wondering, “what’s so wrong with dentures?’ Just ask somebody who has them and they will tell you.  Most people don’t like dentures.  They don’t like taking them out at night.  They don’t like how they look without their dentures.  They don’t like eating with the hard plastic pieces in their mouth.  Many of my patients complain about not being able to tell the temperature of their food or their food not tasting right. Nobody really loves their dentures.  Moreover, properly fitted and maintained dentures are not cheap.  Dentures need to be adjusted at least once a year and should be replaced every 5 years, earlier if needed.  When adding in the cost of cleaners and adhesives, the cost is still quite considerable.  Thus, long-term costs end up being more than the restorative work that could have saved their teeth.

The good news is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOSE YOUR TEETH! Advances today can help you keep your teeth for your whole life.  It’s time to re-think how we think about dentistry and what we think about dentures!


Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit www.advanced-smiles.com

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