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Podcast: Dentures & Denture Alternatives

Hello. This is Daniel Vinograd, biological dentist in San Diego, California. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about dentures and denture alternatives.

If you really think about what dentures are, you will probably describe them as a couple of plastic pieces pounding against each other trying to mash food together. This concept is a little bit unusual and dated, but it’s certainly better than not having anything at all.

The truth however is that a lot of people resign themselves to wearing dentures. They do have some teeth to show for it, but the mastication is quite reduced, the quality of their life is not great. Feelings of being old and unattractive are often voiced by many denture wearers.

There are a lot of issues with sore spots with bone being reabsorbed resulting in dentures that do not fit as they should, needing realignments. And ultimately, the bone will tend to reabsorb to the point where the dentures are hard to really keep in place – not a good way to live.

Now, a lot of people feel that once they’re in dentures, they are destined to always be in dentures. A lot of them have gone through a lot of dental work, a lot of suffering and they slowly, but surely have lost their teeth. A lot of our grandparents used to wear them and so we became comfortable with the idea that dentures are a natural part of getting old. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Modern dentistry can provide today so many different alternatives to dentures that can dramatically improve the quality of a person’s life and all of them are really based on the use of implants. Implants, even 20 or 30 years ago were not really considered to be mainstream dentistry. I remember placing some of the first implants amongst my peers. A lot of colleagues did not look favorably upon this kind of a procedure.

Today, dental implants have progressed to the point that if properly done and properly integrated, their success rate is better than 95% and they can actually be used to replace dentures or in conjunction with dentures.

There are actually a number of ways in which we can use the implants to improve the quality of life of a denture where first, we can actually use two or four implants and place the denture fitted with a couple of female pieces that attach to its male counterparts (male counterparts being part of the implants). So in essence, the dentures are actually buttoned firmly to the implants. It actually is a tremendous improvement on just having two dentures that are just flopping around.

The second way in which implants can be used to get rid of dentures altogether is placing as many implants as there are bones available and placing individual crowns and bridges to replace the teeth that were once lost.

And finally, there’s another popular way of replacing your teeth by placing anywhere from four to six implants and then permanently cementing them to a full set of teeth. This would actually be affixed, not a removal or restoration, which acts pretty much like a long, solid bridge. The advantage of this last one is that you really don’t need as many implants as you would if you were to restore your mouth with individual implants or small bridges.

Now, what are the considerations for a dental implants? What are the requirements? Mostly, it’s just about having healthy bones, which much of the population has, but also and very importantly, enough bone to be an implant to be placed. There are a number of different dental implants in the market and when the first modern generation of implants first came out and were being placed, they were quite long. They were 18-20mm., which are really quite invasive. They require quite a bit of bone and usually, that amount of bone was not available.

In the last decade or so, dental implants have gotten smaller. As a matter of fact, there is a lot of research that has been published that shows that well-designed smaller implants actually integrate better and have equal or longer longevity than their longer counterparts. So today, most of the implants are in the 10-15 mm range, which is still large and somewhat invasive, not compared to what they used to be, but still require quite a bit of bone for adequate placement.

In my office, we use bicon implants, which are actually not only much shorter, but really well-designed. They provide a large surface that bone can integrate to. In fact, as I’ve said, the scientific research that have been published demonstrating this sort of implants integrate better than their longer implants.

The dental implants I place are about 6 mm, which is considerably less than other implants being placed today. It actually makes a huge difference in my ability to place them without being so invasive, without needing so much bone. That often translates into a shorter recuperation time.

Also, they are often less costly simply because when we don’t have enough bone to place the larger implants, it have to require some bone grafting into the area or sometimes, nerves need to be repositioned or sinuses need to be lifted to create the space required by those longer implants. Those are all invasive and costly procedures as you can imagine. So the ability to place 6 mm implants allows us to have tremendous versatility, keeping the costs lower and allowing us to place those implants in areas where a regular implant simply could not be easily placed.

Once you have your implants in place and you’re rehabilitated with strong, beautiful teeth, you’re going to experience a staggering difference. I know patients talk about the fact that they could not have imagined how much their lives have improved by actually having fixed, beautiful teeth they could smile at you with.

I hope this was helpful. Until next time. Again, Dr. Daniel Vinograd, San Diego. All the best.

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