Why Don’t Dentures Last Forever? The Shocking Truth That All Seniors Must Read
Dentures are not as resilient as real teeth. They can’t hold up to the same stresses and strains and, as a result, they won’t last as long. But why not? Why don’t dentures last forever, how long do they last, and is there anything that you can do to increase their longevity?
How Long Do Dentures Last?
Dentures can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years; it all depends on how well you care for them. The type of dentures that you have will also dictate their longevity:
Lifespan of Partial Dentures
Partial dentures are made to replace multiple missing teeth. They have an acrylic base that is fitted with just a few teeth. These teeth can be tied to existing teeth to keep the partial dentures in place and limit the risk of them falling out or dislodging. They are cheaper than complete dentures and they also last a long longer, with an average lifespan of between 5 and 15 years.
Lifespan of Immediate Dentures
As the name suggests, immediate dentures are not made for the long term. They are designed to be fitted as soon as the teeth have been extracted. That way, the patient doesn’t need to walk around completely toothless for several weeks until their dentures get back from the lab. Immediate dentures can also help to hasten the healing process as they protect the gums after the teeth have been pulled and while the gums are healing.
The lifespan of immediate dentures is just a few months and your dentist may recommend that you remove them after a few weeks, at which point you can swap them for a full set of dentures. Immediate dentures shouldn’t be used over the long term as they are simply not designed for that purpose.
Lifespan of Implant-Supported Dentures
Implant-supported dentures are a full set of dentures that attach to titanium screws drilled through the gum and into the jawbone. There are a couple of things to consider here, including both the lifespan of the screws that hold the dentures in place and the lifespan of the dentures themselves.
Providing the implants fuse with the patient’s bone and there are no issues with the fitting process, implant-support dentures should last for between 20 and 25 years and could last even longer. As for the prosthesis that fits over the implants, this may only last for 10 years, but with proper care and maintenance that could extend to 15 years.
Lifespan of Economy Dentures
Economy dentures may not last as long as an expensive set, but in reality, most of the additional expense goes on the look and the feel of the dentures. Whether you’re spending $500 or $2,000, a standard set of dentures will still last you for between 5 and 7 years if you care for them properly. There can be some minor differences and you might get a few more months or even a year or two extra out of an expensive set, but the difference isn’t usually that big.
Why Don’t Dentures Last Forever?
Now that we know how vastly different the lifespan of dentures can be, that begs the question: Why don’t they last forever? After all, they’re basically just high-quality acrylics and metal, both of which can remain intact for decades if you treat them well.
What makes dentures so unique?
They Wear Down
Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and has a 96% mineral content. It’s also the substance that protects your teeth, forming the outer shell of the tooth.
In combination with your gums and jawbone, which keep them rooted in place and provide the support they need, your teeth can last a lifetime. Providing you protect them from bacteria, which builds up over time and gradually wears away at the enamel, your teeth will stay strong and healthy.
Dentures, on the other hand, are made from acrylic. The acrylics used in denture construction are very strong, but they are not impervious to harm and they are nowhere near as strong as enamel.
Every time that you chew, and every time that your teeth grind together, a little bit of that material disappears. Over multiple years and countless hours of chewing, they could wear down to a point where they are no longer repairable or usable. Of course, that doesn’t mean that your fake teeth will be worn down to small nibs just like a pencil. Instead, they will wear down to the point that they become weak and brittle, at which point they may break.
Even real teeth can wear down, especially if you grind your teeth, chew ice cubes, or adopt other bad habits. And if that can happen to the hardest substance in the human body, imagine how much damage it can do to a synthetic substance designed for comfort and ease of use, and not necessarily for durability.
Dentures can warp under intense heat and can also dry out. If you place them too close to a heat source or try to clean them using boiling water, you may damage the acrylics or warp the metals. By the same token, if you leave them out of water they can dry out.
Dentures are designed for warm and wet conditions. They are fine when they are in your mouth or soaking in water, but if you leave them out, it won’t be long before they become brittle and weak.
They Break, Chip, and Crack
You probably know to avoid seeds and nuts, and you don’t need a dentist to tell you that it’s a bad idea to chew ice cubes when you’re a denture-wearer. But all the care in the world can’t save you when you’re eating popcorn and unexpectedly chomp on a stray kernel. It’s strong enough to damage real teeth, so your dentures won’t stand a chance.
And what about seeded bread with linseeds or muffins with nuts? It’s not always easy to avoid damaging foods and it just takes one bite to chip or crack your prosthesis.
You can also break your dentures when you drop them or bang something against them. Some repairs can be fixed, but there’s a limit to what your dentist can do. Eventually, you’re going to run out of options and there won’t be any repairs left to make.
They Don’t Fit
After 7 years—the recommended timeframe for changing your dentures—a lot can happen to the anatomy of your mouth. Your jawbone will gradually be resorbed by your body when it no longer has any teeth to hold on to. Your gums will go the same way, and you may also experience notable changes if you smoke, drink, use drugs, or take medications that cause dry mouth.
7 years is a long time to be without real teeth and there will be changes to the shape of your mouth in that time. Your dentures were molded around your mouth at the point that they were fitted and you can’t remold them with the same ease as a cheap mouthguard. Boiling water and a few bites won’t suffice here—you need to visit your dentist.
They can make minor changes to accommodate the changing shape of your mouth, but they can’t work miracles. If the changes keep coming, and extensive work is needed, it might be time for a completely new set.
Your Mouth Damages Them
Although dentures are designed to stay in your mouth for long periods, it can also be a very hostile environment and one that will degrade them over time. Your mouth is full of bacteria and it’s also very acidic. Spending 15 hours or more in that environment can be very toxic for your dentures and while they’re made to withstand those changes in the short term, they can’t handle it in the long term.
They Stain and Grow Bacteria
Every time you drink a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette, or enjoy a glass of red wine, you risk staining your dentures. Unlike real teeth, those stains don’t just occur on the teeth and can also accumulate on the base. Your dentist can help you to remove some of these, but again, there are limits and if you’re a heavy smoker and/or drinker you may need to change your dentures a lot sooner.
How Long do People Keep Their Dentures?
We mentioned that the average set of dentures will last anywhere from 5 to 7 years, and most denture wearers know that. But experts also recommend that you change your mattress every 6 to 8 years, and yet many of us are using the same mattress that we’ve had for decades, even though it’s covered with sweat stains and riddled with bacteria.
The truth is that people don’t always follow this advice and tend to hold onto things for as long as possible. They like to get their money’s worth, and who can blame them?
It should come as no surprise that the average denture-wearer holds onto their dentures for at least 17 years, with some exceeding 2 decades. That’s a long time to use a set of dentures, especially when you consider the countless hours that it has spent in your mouth and the many times that it has been left on your nightstand or even dropped on the floor.
Technology also changes a lot over the years. If you’ve been holding onto your dentures for more than 20 years, it means you got them just after the turn of the new Millennium. Denture prosthetics were very high quality back then, but they have come a long way and dental labs are making dentures that look and feel better while also lasting a little longer.
If money is tight, you should keep your dentures for as long as you can. But if you can afford to make the change, you need to start thinking about it as soon as you exceed that 5- to 7-year timeframe.
How to Make Your Dentures Last Longer
Although your dentures won’t last forever, there are a few things that you can do to keep them clean and strong long before those 5 to 7 years have elapsed, and potentially many more years after that:
Remove and Clean Them Every Night
Every night you need to remove your dentures and soak them. You can use an XODENT Denture Cleaning Set for this purpose, as it contains everything that you need to clean your dentures. It’s one of the best and most affordable kits on the market and we even include a spare kit that you can give to your partner, use as a spare, or keep for travel purposes.
Just follow the instructions on the box and it will guide you through the process. It should only take a minute or two to maintain this routine and it makes a massive difference, potentially adding years to the life of your dentures. Without this simple routine, they probably won’t last more than a few months and you’ll be introducing all kinds of nasty bacteria to your mouth in that time.
Use a Soft-Bristled Brush
A hard-bristled toothbrush is great when you have real teeth. It creates more of an abrasive action and helps to shift all of that plaque, leaving your teeth clean and your mouth healthy. Add a little whitening toothpaste and you have the perfect combination and one that has worked for decades. When it comes to dentures, though, it’s a different story entirely.
You need a soft-bristled brush to clean your dentures, otherwise, you’ll scrub away at the resin and leave groove marks. You might not notice these straight away and you might even get away with it the first few times, but if you keep following the same routine, you’ll greatly reduce the lifespan of your dentures.
We include two soft-bristled brushes in all of our XODENT kits. It is tailormade for dentures and can clean them without causing harm.
Be Wary of the Damage Caused by Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is one of the biggest contributing factors for loose and ill-fitting dentures. Your dentures need a layer of saliva to create suction. If you take that away, they won’t fit as snugly and you’ll also lose some of the lubrication that prevents irritation to the gums.
Even dental adhesive won’t work as well if you have a dry mouth, as it needs a little saliva to create a bond.
The body becomes less efficient at holding and using water as we age, and dry mouth is also a common side effect of many illnesses and medications, including opioids and sedatives.
Use Mouthwash on Your Gums and Not Your Mouth
In a pinch, when you don’t have any other option, you can use a little mouthwash to clean your dentures. However, it’s not something that you should be using over the long term and you also need to be very careful if you’re using mouthwash that has a high alcohol content.
Don’t throw the mouthwash away just yet, though, as it can help you to keep your mouth clean after your remove your dentures. Have a little rinse after you have eaten (while rinsing your dentures under the faucet), as well as in the morning and at night.
Get Rid of Bad Habits
Some bad habits are incredibly damaging to your dentures, including nail-biting, chewing ice cubes, and grinding your teeth. You need to stop all of these if you want your dentures to last. If you have a history of jaw pain, pain in the back teeth, and worn molars, you should also ask your dentist about bruxism, as you may be grinding your teeth when you sleep.
It’s generally not a problem for denture-wearers as you shouldn’t be wearing your dentures to bed, but there are times when you nap in front of the TV or have forty-winks after dinner, and if you have bruxism, even just an hour or two could be enough to seriously harm your dentures.
Change Your Diet
It’s often said that you can still eat what you want if you have a good set of dentures or some good dental adhesive. That’s not quite true—not if you want them to last for years.
Small and hard foods should be avoided at all costs, as they can chip and crack. You should also be wary of really tough meats. Not only can they dislodge your dentures, but they will place them under great strain if you start using them to rip and tear.
Contact Your Dentist at the First Sign of Trouble
Last but not least, whenever you crack your dentures, notice a warping of the materials, or feel that they are a little loose, you should book an appointment with your dentist. There are a lot of fixes and changes that they can make to bring your dentures back up to scratch, and unless the damage is significant, it shouldn’t cost you a lot of money.
They will also tell you whether or not your dentures are nearing the end of their lifespan, but that doesn’t mean that you have to follow their advice and immediately buy a new set.