People with cavity prone teeth or other dental issues want nothing more than to get rid of the pain. Often the most immediate answer seems to be to pull the teeth that are causing the pain. What many do not understand is that dentures come with their own problems, sometimes even more than the teeth that caused the original problems. Many people do not understand how many problems dentures can cause, especially lower dentures.
Advances in modern dentistry mean that fewer people have trouble with lower dentures than they use to, but there are still many denture wearers that experience significant pain from fitting dentures that put pressure on the gums, as well as embarrassment from dentures that move during eating or speech.
Problems are much more common with lower dentures than upper dentures. One dentist used to tell people,“I usually charge only for my upper dentures and I give my lower dentures for free because inevitably, patients come back with great problems with their lower dentures.”
Why do lower dentures cause so much trouble for so many people compared to upper dentures? There are several factors.
A good impression combined with stable flanges and post stem are typically enough to get a great seal for upper dentures. The upper arch of the mouth does not move which means a good seal is both easy to achieve and sufficient to hold upper dentures securely in place. The lower jaw and the tongue, on the other hand, is constantly moving, especially during eating and speaking. Lower dentures tend to move as the tongue in the lower jaw moves.
Lower teeth are vital to the structure of the bone in the jaw. Without teeth, bone tends to even out over time. As the bone wears away, the gums shrink causing the dentures to no longer fit properly. Poorly fitting dentures can cause friction that can lead to sores that can become infected.
These factors combine to make lower dentures much more difficult than upper dentures.
While the majority of people are quite happy with upper dentures, about nine out of every 10 dislike their lower dentures. Most dentists will tell you that lower dentures are the most challenging part of their practice, and the one most likely to lead to problems for the patient.
In the past, implants offered relief to some denture wearers, but traditional implants have two major problems. Traditional implants are fairly large and require invasive surgery costing thousands of dollars to place. The cost is a huge obstacle for many patients. Some patients, especially those who had worn traditional dentures for a long time, did not have enough bone left in the jaw to support implants even if they could afford them.
New implants are much smaller, making these obstacles less of a problem for most denture wearers. Smaller diameter implants can significantly improve quality of life, and offer a sense of confidence, for many denture wearers who may not have been able to get traditional implants.
Smaller diameter implants can be placed more easily, using only local anesthesia, with no incisions or stitches. The procedure is far less invasive and more comfortable than standard implants. Because the procedure to place the smaller implants is so much easier, they cost significantly less than traditional implants. To lower the cost even more, the patient’s existing dentures can be refitted so that they snap securely onto the implants and the patient can walk out of the office with dentures that fit more securely in about an hour. Patients who have been told that they do not have enough bone to support implants are often able to receive the smaller implants, as they require less bone for support. Of course, if natural teeth can be preserved and kept healthy, this is preferred. But when natural teeth cannot be kept, smaller implants can make dentures easier to handle.
As a dentist, I love improving the quality of life for all of my patients, but it really pulls at my heartstrings when I can help a patient who has suffered years of pain and embarrassment with traditional dentures. Watching someone genuinely smile, perhaps for the first time in years, is an indescribable feeling.
If you are among the thousands of people who suffer pain and embarrassment from poorly fitting dentures, talk to your dentist. Whether you and your dentist decide on standard implants with fixed prosthetic is a good choice for you, or that smaller implants are better suited to your particular situation, you do not have to suffer, there are ways to make your dentures more comfortable and secure.