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Shelley Shearer: These aren’t your father’s dentures; they may be necessary and, today, they look natural

Just like cars, television and beer, dentures have dramatically changed since Pop’s heyday. Dentures used to be jagged, ill-fitting, uncomfortable to wear and looked unnatural. Not anymore.

Today dentures come in partial and full sizes for the mouth, are made quicker than ever and look like natural teeth.

Approximately 37 million American adults currently wear full or partial dentures. That’s a lot of people considering that modern dentistry has been preaching prevention for the past few decades.

Dentures are needed for two primary reasons: an abundance of cavity stricken teeth that have been or need to be extracted, or gum disease. With the gum disease (gingivitis) the bone loss is so great that the remaining teeth cannot be supported. They become loose and cause jawbone problems, trouble eating and sometimes speaking.

Dr. Shelley Shearer

That’s what happened to our first President, George Washington. He lost his first adult tooth when he was 22 and had just one left by the time he became President. Contrary to popular belief, his dentures were not made of wood. On inauguration Day his false teeth were composed of hippopotamus and elephant ivory, held together by gold springs.

So if you are missing some or all of your teeth like George Washington, dentures can be your best bet. The great news is that they are quick to make, fit beautifully and cannot be distinguished from your real teeth! As an added plus, you can eat just about anything with confidence. They are available in partial dentures to replace sections of missing teeth, and full dentures which replace an entire arch in the mouth. There’s also an option of attaching dentures to implants, making them ultra-firm in place and providing the feeling of having original teeth again.

The yucky molds with gooey putty that were sent back and forth to labs are a thing of the past. They have been replaced with 3-dimensional images on the computer. The computer creates a design of your mouth that is able to customize the correct measurements for dentures. The imaging looks at existing teeth and where dentures would sit once any targeted remaining teeth are extracted. The images are reviewed by the dentist to ensure everything will be in place. That means no extra office visits for our patients.

While you are at the office, your computerized images are immediately used. The new teeth are milled in a special machine. The preshrunk material used to create the dentures helps to ensure a terrific fit and lessens the need for any adjustments. The new teeth are ready for you that day or when you return for any necessary tooth extractions. This technology also creates digital files stored on a computer. If you ever lose or damage your dentures, a new set can be made without any extra office visits.

This is all great news for those who require full or partial dentures. But I would be remiss if I did not tell you how to avoid having dentures in the first place. So here it goes:

Visit the dentist every six months

For some reason, people think that if they brush and floss every day, they’ll be exempt from the dental chair. But unbeknownst to them, mouth problems creep up that only a trip to the dentist can detect—plaque hidden behind molars, the beginning of gum disease and many more challenges. If not caught in time, tooth decay may result in lost teeth and eventually, the need for partial or full dentures will arise

Press the pause button on trouble eating chewy or hard food

Some chalk it up to aging. They can’t eat taffy like they did as a kid so they think nothing of it. The reality is that many denture wearers confess that they lost their teeth due to a cracked tooth from chomping on hard candy, an abundance of cavities (think back to that taffy) or undetected gum disease because they neglected dental visits.

Send up a flare to your dentist if your gums are swollen, red or bleeding

There’s always a reason behind gum problems and it’s not good news. Dentists are like psychics when they see a gum going bad. They can save teeth if you plop down in the dental chair soon enough.

Put your dentist on speed dial if you are missing some teeth and others are loose or shifting, making wider gaps between teeth

This happens when gum disease takes over and you didn’t heed the warning of red, swollen gums. The gums and jaw start acting up because they no longer have the strength to support the teeth. Get help fast.

Call the office if you’ve stopped smiling

We get it. You are embarrassed because that tooth gap is bigger than David Letterman’s. A few others may be rotting around it. Don’t let your feelings of humiliation get in the way of a dental visit. We can fix things before tooth loss occurs. A beautiful smile can uplift your self-esteem.

Talk to your dentist if have a toothache or tummy ache

That intense pain can be a sign that decay has progressed so much that the tooth nerves are under attach. See a dentist quickly to determine if the tooth—or teeth—are salvageable. As for the stomachache, your teeth may be the culprit. Have a discussion about any trouble chewing that could result in bigger than usual pieces of food being digested.

Dentists are here to help. We will try our best to save your teeth, but when that’s not possible, know that the very best in technology can assist you with comfortable, new teeth that if cared for, will last a lifetime.

Dr. Shelley Shearer is a graduate of the University of Louisville Dental School and Founder of Shearer Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Florence, the largest all-female dental practice in Northern Kentucky.

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