More than 35 million Americans suffer from edentulism, or a complete loss of teeth, and experts have predicted that the number will reach 200 million within the next ten years. With the numbers of patients without teeth on the rise, it is crucial for dentists everywhere to help patients to learn more about tooth replacement and aftercare.
Dentures are one of the most popular tooth replacement options for edentulous patients due to the low cost and non-invasive nature of a denture. However, because the oral cavity will continue to change as more and more bone resorbs, dentists have a responsibility to educate their patients about the importance of a proper denture fit.
The Pursuit of the Perfect Fit
These days, providing patients with well-fitting dentures is easier than ever, with technology like 3D mapping and printing, laser scanning, and quick-setting impression pastes. By carefully scanning the oral cavity and sending a quick email, you might be able to order dentures from the lab electronically-instead of waiting weeks for your impressions to arrive and be evaluated by a technician before the dentures can be crafted by a lab assistant.
Unfortunately, even if that denture fits perfectly now, it will need to be adjusted in the future. With the lifespan of dentures lasting anywhere from 3-10 years on average, patients need to understand that their dentures are not a once-and-done kind of repair. Patients should be encouraged to be honest about the fit of their denture. The fit and function of the denture should be carefully evaluated during every routine oral health exam.
As a dental professional, remember that individuals may be hesitant about sharing the quality of the fit with members of the dental team in order to be polite. Sometimes patients might also hesitate to share concerns because they are worried about the cost of adjustments or replacing their dentures. However, an open dialogue about fit, adjustments, and repairs is necessary to make patients feel comfortable about moving forward with denture maintenance. As you meet with your patients, be sure to discuss the problems associated with poorly fitting dentures.
Problems Associated With Poorly Fitting Dentures
Pain, Headaches, and Infections
A poorly fitting denture can grip onto the gums incorrectly, leading to pressure sores, bone pain, bruising, and serious abrasion. These problems can also cause headaches and jaw pain as tension builds from improperly fitting dentures. Eventually, sores can become infected, which can spark system-wide inflammation that could be hazardous to the patient's health.
Oral Hygiene Problems
Sometimes patients assume that they don't need to brush after dentures have been placed. Unfortunately, plaque and bacteria can still build up in the mouth, which can seep into open sores caused by poorly fitting dentures and cause infections. A painful mouth due to poorly fitting dentures might make it harder for people to brush and rinse properly, which is why a proactive approach to oral hygiene and denture fit is so important.
Patients should be advised to:
- Brush dentures in the morning and at night to keep them clean.
- Brush your mouth, tongue, gums, and soft palate to rid the space of oral bacteria.
- Store dentures in a denture cleanser and keep them wet when not in use.
- Handle dentures over a towel to prevent dropping and breaking the denture.
A poorly fitting denture can make noises as the patient talks and eats, which can make communication and group meals embarrassing.
Poor Dietary Choices
When dentures don't fit properly, patients might not be willing to eat healthy foods like crunchy vegetables and healthy fruits. Instead, they might opt for softer, less nutritious foods like hamburgers and fries. Eventually, these changes can affect other parts of the body through poor nutrition and cause problems with quality of life. However, properly fitting dentures can help patients to maintain a healthy diet. According to Scarsdale prosthodontists Dr. Steven Brisman, patients should avoid eating only soft foods, which tend to be higher in carbohydrates and fat. Patients who enjoy dentures that fit well and remain comfortable can eat a wider variety of foods, which can keep them healthier overall.
Poorly fitting dentures can also cause speech problems, including lisps and slurred words. Because problems with speech can affect a patient's ability to communicate with other people and enjoy social settings, speech problems are one of the most damaging side effects of dentures that don't fit well.
Teaching Patients About Dentures
Dentists and oral healthcare professionals play a pivotal role in the prevention of denture issues. There are many ways that a dental practice can cultivate a culture of preventative care and communication with patients regarding their dentures, including:
Offering In-Office Literature
Although your younger patients might rely on word of mouth or online articles for information, older patients may still rely on paper literature like flyers and brochures. Offer this kind of literature in your waiting room or after appointments with older patients so that they have comfortable access to the information that they need.
Showing Patients Your Website
Having a website filled with information about dentures and proper fit won't help your patients much unless they know how to access it. Consider keeping a computer in your exam rooms to show patients where they can find information about dentures, oral healthcare, and tips for preventing problems. If you have trouble coming up with content for your blog or website, check out the “Dental Buzz” blog list for a directory of dentists who are active bloggers for ideas.
By focusing on your patient's needs and offering information about denture fit and tooth loss, you can ensure that your patients are comfortable and happy for the long haul.