An artificial device, made specially to replace missing teeth is a denture. Patients require dentures or false teeth, as they are commonly called, when they either become totally edentulous (without teeth) or when some teeth go missing.
Out of the many reasons, why people have missing teeth, one common reason is dental disease relating to periodontal disease or tooth decay which requires oral treatment. Not so common reasons for missing teeth are tooth developmental defects due to extreme malnutrition, trauma, and drug use or because of genetic reasons like “Dentinogenesis Imperfecta”.
There are many kinds of dentures and most common ones are those that can be removed. The dentures sit firmly in the oral cavity as they are supported by the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. Some other dentures are designed to clasp onto the teeth while others are bonded into the gums. The dentures are designed either for the mandibular arch (lower) or for the upper maxillary arch, depending on whether the teeth are missing at the bottom or the top. Sometimes teeth are also implanted into the gums.
The earliest dentures are recorded to have been used in 700BC when Etruscans in northern Italy made false teeth out of other human or animal teeth. These kinds of dentures remained popular even till the 19th century because they could be made easily, however the major defect was that such dentures deteriorated very swiftly.
A denture that was useful and which had a complete set of teeth was traced to a temple in Japan, known as Ganjyoji in the province of Kii. The denture was used by a person with the name of Nakaoka Tei. The denture was wooden and made from Buxus microphylla. What is unique about this denture is that it was as good as the modern dentures and was fixed by suction. It was shaped to exactly fit each condition of tooth loss. Wooden dentures were quite common in Japan till about the Meiji period.
Peter de la Roche a ‘specialist’ from London is considered to be the first “Tooth Operator” or surgeon. One cannot fathom how much of a surgeon he was as people who fashioned teeth in those days were either ivory turners, professional goldsmiths, or they were those who were learning to be barber-surgeons.
Alexis Duchâteau made the first porcelain dentures around 1770 A.D and Nicholas Dubois De Chemant, an assistant to Alexis Duchâteau, was given the first British patent for “De Chemant’s Specifications through which he was granted the right to make individual, pairs, rows, or a complete set of artificial teeth. Nicholas Dubois De Chemant began to sell his dentures in 1792 and Wedgewood supplied him the porcelain paste to make the dentures.
George Washington is one of the famous people who used one of the earliest dentures. The dentures which were fitted on in 1764 are now on exhibition at Mount Vernon. Washington’s dentures were actually made from hippopotamus ivory though it was widely believed that they were made from wood.
Claudius Ash, a London goldsmith began to manufacture porcelain dentures mounted with 18 carat gold plates in 1820.
After the 1850s, dentures began to be made out of vulcanite which was actually hardened rubber. The largest manufacturer of dental vulcanite was Claudius Ash’s company. The porcelain teeth were set into the hardened rubber as base. Later in the 20th century, acrylic resins and other plastics were used instead of rubber. In 1968, about 79% of British people in their 60s and 70s had no natural teeth; luckily the figure had dropped to 36% by 1998.
Advantages of dentures
Dentures can help patients in a number of ways. Though dentures may not be able to replace natural teeth but they help to a great extent in masticating food. Care has to be taken to avoid biting into hard food items such as nuts and apples to avoid damaging the denture as well as edentulous tissues.
Secondly aesthetically speaking the teeth define the face by providing a shapely appearance. Wearing a denture helps the cheeks and lips to have firmer look as it prevents the collapsed look often seen when teeth are missing.
Dentures help us to pronounce words better. When the missing front teeth are replaced with false teeth, phonetics improves as words are pronounced with a better clarity. Particularly words that have sibilants and fricatives show a marked improvement.
Cosmetic dentistry is now a field in itself. In a fashion conscious world a set of dentures used to replace the teeth which show “in the smile” can do wonders for the self-esteem and boost confidence.
Types of dentures
Removable partial dentures are for people who have teeth missing in a particular place or arc of the gum. Crown and bridge are fixed dentures which are fitted on parts of the teeth that are still intact. They are made so scientifically that they are shaped and colored exactly like, and resemble, the missing teeth. Fixed bridges may be more expensive but they provide a stability that removable appliances cannot.
Complete dentures are worn by patients who have no teeth either in the maxillary arch or in the mandibular arch. People who wear dentures often complain of a sore mouth particularly when they first take to wearing the denture. Also keeping dentures in place could pose a problem. However if certain precautions are followed the gums could be kept healthy and the dentures will not slip out of position.
Supplements and herbs
Supplements and herbs are beneficial in removing soreness from gums. Red sage mouthwash helps when gums are inflamed or bleeding. A concoction to be used for rinsing the mouth can be made by infusing two teaspoons of red sage leaves with a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes.
Soreness in the gums can be alleviated with lavender essential oil and inflammation can be reduced with tea tree oil as it is a good antiseptic. Just two drops each added to a glass of warm water can be effectively used to rinse the mouth both in the morning and evening.
Additional things you may do
To find relief from pain you should avoid wearing dentures all the time. Use them gradually till you get used to the feel of them. Remove them from time to time so that the gums don’t feel rubbed. It is advisable to eat soft foods till you have broken in and gotten used to the dentures.
Talking with dentures becomes a difficult task especially if there is a tendency to pop out of the mouth. You could learn to talk while using dentures by reading aloud to yourself. It may not sound right at first but slowly as you practice you will definitely improve and feel more confident over a period of time.
To ensure oral health you must still brush your teeth and keep your dentures clean. Brush your gums gently with a very soft brush and the dentures as well while the mouth should be rinsed regularly.
To keep the dentures in place initially, a dental adhesive could be bought (a prescription is not required) to keep the dentures in place, temporarily till you get used to wearing dentures.