Do You Need Dentures? The Painful Truth That You Need to Hear
Dentures are not the last resort. There are times when you may want to consider dentures over options like implants, crowns, and veneers—it ultimately comes down to personal preference, budget, and the current state of your oral health.
With so many factors at play, how do you know when to make the leap and when you should instead be looking for an alternative?
In this guide, we’ll help you discover when it’s time to think about dentures and what steps you should take.
It’s About Health, Not Age
Dentures are worn by millions of Americans and while many of these are over the age of 60, you’ll find denture wearers across all age groups.
If you ask the average person when they think it’s time to opt for dentures, they might say it’s when you’re 60, 70, or 80. In any case, they’ll make it all about age, and that’s simply not the biggest factor to consider.
You can be 80 years old and have perfect teeth. You can also be 40 years old and have a mouthful of decayed, rotten, and missing teeth.
In the first case, you’re not ready for dentures and if you maintain good dental hygiene, you’ll probably never need them. In the second instance, your age isn’t going to save you and it definitely won’t repair your decayed teeth or make your missing ones grow back.
You should always discuss your options with your dentist. They understand your dental health better than anyone and will know what your options are. If you suffer from any of the following issues, and they are severe enough to cause concern, it could be time to have that discussion with your dentist.
Multiple Decayed Teeth
If your teeth are rotten and decayed, and there is very little healthy enamel remaining, it could be time to get dentures.
Modern dentistry is a marvel and there are many ways that your dentist can restore your smile without resorting to dentures. However, not all of these options are available if you have many decayed teeth or a limited budget.
For instance, your dentist can fit crowns or veneers onto your teeth. They will grind down your existing teeth and then add porcelain caps, restoring your beautiful white smile and giving you a mouthful of pearly whites.
The problem is, this treatment doesn’t come cheaply, and if there are underlying issues, such as gum disease, smoking, and a poor dental hygiene routine, those crowns may need to be replaced in the future.
In a guide to Celebrities that Wear Dentures, we talked about the Jackass star Steve-o, and noted how he was fitted for veneers very early on and eventually had 3 different sets due to his poor dental hygiene.
A dozen veneers or crowns could set you back between $10,000 and $20,000, and if you don’t care for them, you may need to repeat that cost in a few years.
A full set of dentures won’t last forever, but they tend to be easier to clean (especially if you own an XODENT kit) and cost between $1,000 and $3,000 on average.
The idea of removing your remaining teeth just to be fitted for dentures may seem pretty drastic, but if you have crowns fitted, those teeth will be ground down to nibs anyway, so the result will be the same.
Multiple Missing Teeth
Just because you have a few missing teeth, doesn’t mean you need to think about pulling out the remaining ones and getting a full set of dentures. However, you may want to look into partial dentures, which are designed to fit around your existing teeth and replace the teeth you’ve lost.
These partial dentures are very common and account for a large percentage of the dentures worn by Americans under the age of 50. They are much cheaper than full sets and serve a similar purpose, albeit without requiring any tooth extractions.
If you’ve reached a point where only a few real teeth remain, you can go one of several ways.
Your dentist may recommend that you get a partial set of dentures. If you have a large budget and the nerve for many hours of treatment, they may advise you to get implants. An implant is basically a fake tooth fitted with a metal screw that is drilled into your jaw bone.
If your remaining teeth are damaged and unhealthy, many dentists will recommend extraction followed by a full set of dentures. They are not trigger happy, however, and a good dentist will find an option that doesn’t entail removing salvageable teeth.
Severe Gum Disease
Gum disease is one of the most common health complaints in the United States and close to half of all adult Americans suffer from some form of this oral disease.
Also known as periodontal disease, this condition is caused by bacteria growth and can result in everything from bleeding gums to receding gums and tooth loss.
It begins with the formation of plaque, which spreads across the teeth and gums. This sticky substance can be brushed or washed away but if it remains, it forms into a hard substance known as tartar. This can eventually spread underneath the gum line, at which point only a dentist can remove it.
If you don’t brush regularly, thus allowing that tartar to develop and spread, and you don’t get regular check-ups, gum disease will follow. Your gums will become inflamed, you may lose some or all of your teeth, and at that point, your dentist may recommend dentures.
When it’s Not Time for Dentures
If missing and/or decayed teeth mean that it’s time to consider dentures, what factors indicate that you should overlook this option in favor of something else?
You Want Sparkling White Teeth
We all want that Hollywood smile and a growing number of Americans consider a person’s smile to be one of their most attractive features. In fact, studies suggest that over half of all adult Americans feel self-conscious about their smile, usually because they believe that their teeth aren’t white enough.
It should come as no surprise in a selfie-obsessed culture preoccupied with celebrities.
Most of the gleaming-white smiles that you see on TV and in magazines are the result of incredibly expensive cosmetic dentistry, including veneers, crowns, and even dentures.
Does that mean you should resort to a full set of dentures just because you want to look like your favorite celeb or take better Instagram pictures? Of course not!
If you have the money, you may want to consider veneers. If your teeth are decayed or otherwise unhealthy, crowns are a good option as well. They will still be destroyed, but they won’t be removed entirely, so you will still have plenty of options in the future.
If your teeth are perfectly healthy and are just a little off-color or crooked, it would be a travesty to do something so drastic. Instead, look into teeth whitening and speak with your dentist about teeth straightening solutions. You can even buy kits to straighten and whiten your teeth at home these days, with kits typically costing less than a couple of hundred dollars.
You Have Receding Gums
While partially receding gums are a good fit for dentures, especially in the presence of many missing or decayed teeth, completely receded gums may not be suitable for a full set.
Dentures are designed to replace your teeth, not your gums, and simply removing your teeth and being fitted for dentures won’t reverse your receding gums.
Your dentist may recommend a graft, whereby your gums or jaw bone are rebuilt. You can get dentures and other fittings on top of this, but they should never be your first choice.
You’re Trying to Save Money
A full set of dentures may be cheaper than getting a mouthful of crowns or veneers, but that doesn’t mean it is the best option. While there is nothing wrong with getting dentures, there definitely is something wrong with removing healthy teeth just so you can save a few bucks! In fact, your dentist may refuse the treatment.
There are many better ways to save money. Look into health insurance—if you can’t get your own plan, see if you can be added to a family or employee plan. If that doesn’t work, ask your dentist about financing or compare costs with dentists across your state.
The price of treatment can differ considerably from one dentist to the next, and this is true whether you’re looking at cross-country options or checking with dentists in your county.
You Have Healthy Teeth
Whether you’re doing it to save money or improve your smile, it’s never a good idea to swap healthy teeth for fake ones. You should always do what you can to save them. Not only will that mean you don’t need to undergo as many invasive and costly procedures, but it also gives your dentists more options in the future.
If you have healthy teeth and gums, you’re a prime candidate for everything from veneers to crowns, implants, and partial dentures. If your healthy teeth have been pulled and your gums aren’t very well cared for, you may need painful grafts before any of those things can be considered and you’ll also have very few options for future treatments.
Most treatments are reversible, and few are permanent, but if you remove healthy teeth to have a full set of dentures fitted, there is no going back.
What You Need to Consider Before You Get Dentures
Now that you have decided to opt for a full or partial set of dentures, it’s time to move onto the next step.
As always, you can discuss any questions or concerns you have with your dentist. To put you on the right track, take a look at the following information before you opt for dentures.
There Are Many Different Types
It’s not just a choice between partial and full dentures—there are other options to consider as well.
For instance, one of the most expensive and long-lasting options is something known as implant-supported dentures. The dental surgeon will drill metal implants through your gum and into your jawbone before using these to secure the dentures in place.
They will typically attach four or six implants, often consisting of small titanium screws. You will then need to wait several months, during which time the implants will fuse with the jawbone and a set of specially-made dentures will be fitted.
Dentures are also made from many different materials and this impacts everything from the fit to the durability, to the aesthetics and cost.
It Won’t Happen Straight Away
It can take several weeks for a pair of dentures to be made. They need to be molded around your gums, so your dentist will need to extract existing teeth, create a mold, and then send for the dentures to be manufactured. Until then, you’ll have to make do with an empty mouth and this can be very off-putting for prospective denture wearers.
There is another option, though. Immediate dentures are fitted as soon as your teeth have been extracted. They may assist with the healing process, but their main purpose is purely aesthetic. These dentures will need to be tweaked and adapted over time, as your gums will change shape when they begin to heal.
They Won’t Last Forever
Dentures are not permanent, nor is the method that you choose. It’s possible to get partial dentures now and full dentures later. You can also get a standard fit now and then opt for an implant-supported set at a later date.
Your dentures need to be properly cleaned and maintained to ensure they last for several years, but even the most cautious users should change their dentures after 7 to 10 years.
Of course, your teeth won’t grow back, but just because you choose a particular type or set of dentures now, doesn’t mean you will be stuck with them forever.
The Costs Aren’t as Straightforward as you Think
Dentures cost between $1,000 and $3,000 on average, but there’s more to it than that.
Firstly, you should know that dentures are rarely covered by health insurance and when they are, you may not be covered for the full cost. Secondly, that’s not the only cost to consider. If you need any initial treatments or extractions, they will be added to the total bill, as will any additional checkups and repairs you have in the future.
If $1,000 is too much and you don’t have another option, there are cheaper dentures available. As with anything else, you get what you pay for and a $400 set of dentures won’t look or feel much like the real thing, but they’re better than nothing!
Your Diet May Change (but not as much as you think)
One of the biggest concerns that would-be denture wearers have is that they need to change their diet. But there is a good chance that they are already making serious dietary adaptions to suit their sensitive, missing, broken, or cosmetically enhanced teeth.
For example, many people with crowns are told to avoid sticky, hard, and crunchy foods, and these are often the same foods that denture-wearers are warned against. The reasoning is similar as well, as sticky foods can cause the crowns/dentures to dislodge and fall out while hard foods could cause chips and cracks.
Veneer wearers also tend to be very cautious with regard to what type of foods they eat. Veneers are often added to front teeth, as these are the most visible. They are stuck to the teeth using strong adhesives and unless there are issues with the surface of the tooth (as is often the case for heavily worked teeth) they will be held in place for many years.
However, even the toughest of veneers are prone to cracking under the pressure of hard foods. Veneers that struggle to adhere to the tooth will fall out under the mildest of pressure, making for an embarrassing mealtime and an awkward scramble as they try to catch or find the veneer.
People who have very sensitive teeth often avoid extremely hot or cold substances and may even suffer when they take a breath of cold air; those with missing teeth may struggle to eat steak and other chewy foodstuffs.
In other words, not only will denture-alternatives require you to make similar changes to your diet, but there’s a good chance that you’re already making them.
Conclusion: Dentures are Common and Effective
Full dentures are not the only solution for missing teeth and other serious dental hygiene issues. Your dentist can install implants, crowns, veneers, and even partial dentures. The important thing is that they will always advise you on the best option for your needs and on many occasions, dentures will be that option.
A well-fitted, high-quality set of full dentures will last for years to come, give you an immaculate smile, and allow you to enjoy most of your favorite foods and drinks.
As noted already, it’s not the last resort, it’s not something to be ashamed of, and on many occasions, it’s the perfect solution!