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Today's Options for Denture Wearers

Aug 17, 2007
With more than 12 percent of the U.S. population at the age of 65 or older, the "baby boom generation" is tackling issues about aging. The focus is not so much about how to accept an aging body passively, but rather, how to preserve health, strength, and vitality, no matter what a person's age.

For example, the Academy of General Dentistry has reported that 60 percent of the American adults between the ages of 35 and 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth. Your dentist want you to maintain healthy teeth throughout your life. But if tooth loss requires dentures, your dentist have several attractive options for you.

Types of dentures

Depending on your situation, dentures may be needed to replace all or some of your teeth. Different types of dentures serve different purposes.

Immediate dentures are placed immediately after removing any remaining teeth. These have the added benefit that you have the look and use of teeth while your mouth heals, making your transition to dentures more subtle. However, your jawbone and gums will gradually shrink after teeth are removed, so you will need to be fitted with conventional dentures later.

Conventional full dentures replace all or most of your upper and lower teeth. They are custom-crafted and fitted over a series of appointments to ensure an excellent fit and natural look. Your dentist will provide you with homecare instructions and have you come in for periodic adjustments or relines to ensure that your conventional dentures continue to fit properly and feel comfortable.

Overdentures look like conventional full dentures. However, overdentures fit over dental implants or a few specially prepared remaining teeth. Overdentures are more secure and feel more natural than conventional dentures. Also, the implants or remaining teeth provide stimulation that can help preserve the bone in your jaw.

Partial dentures may be a good choice when you have lost several teeth but still have some remaining. Partials help to prevent your existing teeth from shifting within your mouth. In turn, the remaining teeth support the dentures and help take the impact of biting and chewing. This reduces the pressure on other parts of your jaw.

Conventional partial dentures have clasps to attach them to your remaining teeth, while precision partial dentures have special attachments that make the clasps less visible. Another option may be a flexible partial denture; these gum-colored clasps attach around your teeth at the gumline for a very natural look.

Benefits of dentures

Dentures are important both for your oral health and the attractiveness of your smile, because they:

1) Provide the necessary support to keep your facial muscles from sagging and giving you an older appearance.
2) Allow you to eat a wider variety of foods than you could without teeth; this helps ensure that you get adequate nutrition to maintain your health.
3) Help you to speak more easily than you could without teeth.

If you have been hiding your mouth because of missing teeth, dentures may help improve how you look and feel about your smile.

Alternatives to dentures

Other options to consider besides dentures may include bridges (sometimes called fixed partial dentures) or dental implants (which are surgically placed below your gumline, providing an invisible and secure fit). Your dentist will work with you to determine the best solution for your needs.

Keep in mind, the best alternative is to not need dentures at all. With consistent and regular dental care, you may be able to preserve all your healthy teeth, so that you can keep them throughout your lifetime.
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