By Tony Prestipino, CDT
Do denture wearers still need to see their dentist twice a year for hygiene? The quick answer is yes, and here’s why. We all know when we go to the dentist for our bi-annual teeth cleaning that it is for our oral health. Oral health is much more, however, than just a hygienist cleaning teeth. For dentate patients (people who have teeth), the hygienist will clean the teeth, often take x-rays, check to make sure the bite is in its correct functional orientation, check for oral diseases, and evaluate for any anomalies that may be present in the mouth. These are all very important so the dentist can detect oral diseases and cavities before they get out of hand. It is different when a denture patient sees their dentist for their check-up. Since denture wearers do not have any teeth, they won’t get more cavities, however, the dentist still needs to check for any oral disease and a correctly functioning bite. There are two types of denture patients. The ones who have no teeth and are wearing a denture, and the ones who have implants supporting a denture. Even though denture patients have no teeth connected to their bone, their oral cavity will be evaluated and checked to make sure that the upper and lower jaws come together correctly, and that their teeth hit each other in the correct way. When denture teeth hit each other, they ultimately wear down quickly because they are not as hard as the enamel of a natural tooth. When a person who wears a denture chews, clinches, and/or grinds, the back teeth wear down, and when the back teeth wear down, the front teeth hit. This is not normal and usually results in a broken denture or a broken tooth off of the denture. (ex.#1 and #2).
At a hygiene appointment, the dentist looks to see if the teeth hit correctly. If the dentist notices that the front teeth are hitting before the back teeth because the back teeth have worn down, they will adjust the denture to achieve a proper bite. If patients do not regularly see the dentist, their denture will not last as long and is much more likely to fracture or break. Also, because the denture wearer does not have teeth, the bone that holds those teeth no longer gets stimulated, causing the bone to recede over time. The more the bone recedes with age, the looser the denture fits. The dentist can easily re-align a denture by adding material to make it fit better. When patients lose too much bone, the denture will no longer fit as well as the day it was made because there is not enough bone to properly hold it. There are solutions out in the market for these issues, like Poligrip denture adhesive. For the denture wearer who has dental implants helping retain their dentures in the mouth, there are things that the dentist needs to look at during their hygiene appointment as well. They will be checking the bite to make sure that the back teeth have not worn down, leading the front teeth to hit too hard and causing a potential fracture or a break. They will also check to see how the patient cleans the areas surrounding the dental implants to make sure that they are being cleaned properly, in order to avoid an infection or disease that could cause the implant to fail.
An important note that differentiates a person who wears a denture and a person with dental implants who wears a denture, is that the bone no longer recedes because the dental implants act as the tooth that was originally in the bone. This means the bone will not recede, which causes a loose-fitting denture.
These facilities are known as dental laboratories. Dental laboratories have trained and certified technicians fabricating dental prosthetics. Dental laboratories create such things as crowns, bridges, dentures, and implant restorations. These restorations usually take the dental laboratory two to four weeks to make. They are made from a multitude of materials, depending on the dental restoration. As the patient, you have the right to ask your dentist what materials your restoration is being made from, if the restoration is made in the United States, and if the laboratory they use is certified. It would probably surprise you how little regulation there is in the dental field when it comes to these matters. Most patients do not know where their teeth are made, who is making their teeth, what materials the teeth are made of, if the restoration is made from FDA-approved materials, and if implants, are the implants made with the original manufacturer parts. These are all questions patients have the right to ask their dentist before the dentist decides which laboratory to send to. So yes, it is very important denture wearers maintain their hygiene appointments. As Mr. Bennett Napier said in an earlier post, “it is important that the patient take an active role in their oral health care to ensure their best possible outcomes.”
About the Author
Tony Prestipino, CDT completed the Dental Technology program at Northern Virginia College and received additional, specialized training from the Pankey Institute. He is a member of the National Association of Dental Laboratories, the Academy of Osseointegration, the Northern Virginia Implant Society and the Northern Virginia Dental Society. Mr. Prestipino is a patent holder, published author and lectures throughout the country on implant dentistry. He has provided student and staff support at the University of Maryland. Mr. Prestipino is the President of Artifex Dental Laboratory located outside of Washington, DC.