I saw a bumper sticker a while back that said, “Growing old is not for sissies!” How true! But it got me thinking about the aging process and how many adults over age 65 are missing teeth. For denture wearers, they could have their own bumper sticker: “Wearing dentures is no piece of cake!”
As a dentist, I see how people struggle with dentures. While some individuals are fine with their current denture, most would love to turn back the hands of time and take measures to prevent tooth loss in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief, losing teeth in ‘old age’ is not a normal part of the aging process. Older adults tend to lose teeth for several reasons. Having a dry mouth contributes to gum disease, which is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. And, gum disease that has been present for years can finally emerge with a vengeance as one grows older.
A study shared by the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research states that seniors over the age of 65 have fewer than 19 remaining teeth. Over 27 percent in this age group have no remaining natural teeth at all. (https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/ToothLoss/ToothLossSeniors65andOlder.htm)
When an individual has all their upper and/or lower teeth removed, most opt to have a denture custom-made to restore their ability to speak and eat. For most new denture wearers, it takes time to get used to the feel of an appliance in their mouth. Eventually, however, eating and speaking again with a new denture is more comfortable – for the time being.
What occurs when tooth roots are removed is a process referred to as resorption. This is a ‘melting away’ of jaw bone mass in areas where natural tooth roots were once supported. Without the presence of tooth roots to nurture the jaw bone, the bone simply decreases in width and depth.
The denture that was made when your teeth were first removed was designed to conform to the unique contours of your ‘gum ridge.’ This is the raised arch where tooth roots were once held. The ridge is actually a protrusion of your upper or lower jaw bone that is covered with gum tissue.
As the bone shrinks, this ridge flattens. This means that a denture formed to wrap the contours of your gum ridge won’t have the same shaped surface to hold it a few years later. This is typically when people start to rely on denture pastes and adhesives more often than before.
Biting and chewing with a denture that moves can be uncomfortable, rubbing sore spots on tender gum tissues. Small seeds or food particles, such as nut pieces, can become trapped under the denture and pierce tender gums. As the denture moves unpredictably when eating, it can also cause embarrassing moments.
Eating out with friends or attending social gatherings where food is a centerpiece can create anxiety for denture wearers. Fearing a slip or having dentures ‘click’ while speaking is so worrisome that some people begin to decline invitations. Because studies have shown that social interaction is a healthy part of the aging process, becoming less social because of a loose denture can lead to a decline in overall health.
One study conducted by the Population Research Center at University of Texas (Austin) found that “older adults who maintain high levels of social activity or ramp up their social life as they age might be protected from increases in physical and cognitive issues over time.” (http://www.cfah.org/hbns/2011/socially-active-older-adults-have-slower-rates-of-health-declines).
Eventually, eating with a loose denture becomes so difficult that many people switch to soft foods that dissolve easily in the mouth. Unfortunately, these foods also lack much in the way of nutrition and fiber that fresh fruits, vegetables and meats provide.
When dentures continue to slip and be undependable, relines can be done as a temporary fix. This process re-contours the denture to the current height of the gum ridge. However, because the gum ridge will continue to flatten, the same process as before — more denture adhesive, difficulty chewing, etc. — will simply repeat itself.
One reason so many denture and partial wearers are choosing Dental Implants has to do with the frustrations brought on by resorption. Dental Implants recreate the presence of tooth roots in the jaw, putting a halt to the process of bone loss. Because implants are held by the jaw bone, they provide the same, secure foundation for biting and chewing as your natural teeth once had.
Another bonus of Dental Implants is their longevity. With proper selection, placement and care, they are designed to last a lifetime. And their success rate is exceptional, higher than any other implant-in-bone type, including knees and hip joints.
There are many types of dental implants, each designed to accommodate various needs, including severe bone loss. Some systems, such as the ‘All-On-4,’ are affordable and hold non-removable teeth. Easy monthly payment plans are also available, most are interest-free with no down payment.
Struggling with a denture that moves or causes embarrassment? Begin with a no-charge consultation. Call 843-871-6351.