The art and science of implant dentistry has advanced rapidly during recent years and new techniques and materials have greatly improved our ability to replace missing tissues with functional and natural-looking artificial prostheses called dentures implants. However, it must be remembered from the outset that no prosthesis or artificial substitute will ever function as well as the original living tissues. Research has shown that the chewing efficiency of experienced denture patients is, at best, less than 20% as efficient as the average chewing efficiency of patients with natural teeth.
Both upper and lower dentures are retained in the mouth by an intimately close fit of the plastic denture base to the gums. The intimately close fit is achieved by a combination of muscle control and suction. Mastering the function of the lower denture is more difficult than learning to use an upper complete denture. By comparison, the lower denture has less stable tissue with which to rest on than the upper denture. The lower denture stays in place largely due to the ability of the denture wearer to control their tongue well enough to hold the denture down while they speak and chew. Therefore, lack of tongue coordination in a lower complete denture wearer can severely affect the patient's ability to wear a lower complete denture.
For various reasons, teeth have to be removed. After tooth removal, the residual bone that is used to support the teeth will then shrink away quite rapidly over the first year because the body knows that the residual bone is no longer needed. The greatest amount of shrinkage occurs during the first year after tooth removal. Research has shown that wearing dentures will accelerate jawbone shrinkage. As the shrinkage of the jawbone support progresses over time, new dentures will need to be fabricated in approximately six to ten years. Because each denture wearer is unique, sometimes the internal surface of the denture needs to be readapted to the gum tissues. This procedure is called a reline.
Some patients are never able to adapt to functioning day-to-day with their complete dentures. Many of these patients do not have adequate bone to stabilize a lower denture. Others never develop enough muscle coordination to learn to chew with their dentures. For many years, dentistry had nothing more to offer patients other than a denture adhesive. Today, such problems can often be managed through the use of implant dentistry. Even with as few as two dental implants, the retention and stability of a lower denture can be greatly increased with denture implants. In fact, the chewing efficiency can also be greatly increased. Some patients have estimated that they regained up to 70% of their original chewing capacity. Overall, patients feel more confident when they are in public because they no longer fear that their dentures will slip or cause them embarrassment with denture implants.
By Benjamin O. Watkins, III, DDS» Return to Implant Dentistry Articles Library