Are Pretty Dentures Possible After 20 Years?

I’ve had dentures for 20 years. I’ve never liked them and have been quite embarrassed about my smile ever since. I now mostly smile with my lips closed. But, things have been getting quite worse. Lately, they’ve been painful and difficult to keep in. They’ve even fallen out once while I was in public. Talk about humiliating. This likely means I need a new pair of dentures. Since there have been 20 years of developments in dentistry, I’m hoping that means dentures can be made pretty now? Pretty please tell me that’s the case.

Alexandra M.

Dear Alexandra,

Mature couple smiling
You can have a gorgeous smile no matter what your age!

I hate hearing stories like yours. It saddens me to know you’ve spent this much time ashamed of your smile. You’re right that there have been improvements in the dental field. In fact, there’ve been remarkable improvements. I’ll share several of them in a moment. First, I want you to know that you can definitely have a gorgeous smile, even with dentures. You could have when you first received dentures, too, had your dentist been skilled in the cosmetic end of dental care.

Let’s start with the beauty of dentures. Even back when you received your dentures, a skilled, artistic cosmetic dentist could have prepared a stunning set of dentures for you where you’d be thrilled to share your smile with the world. However, now you have a second chance to get that gorgeous smile.

Fixing Your Denture Problems

The reason your dentures no longer fit properly and are falling out is a condition known as facial collapse. It’s a result of the length of time your teeth have been removed. You can learn more about this on our problems with dentures page. The end result, however, is you no longer have enough jawbone to support any form of tooth replacement, including dentures.

All is not lost, though. The first thing you’ll need to do is have some bone grafting done. This is a relatively simple procedure (if the dentist knows what they’re doing) which can build back up the jawbone that you’ve lost. It can be done in one appointment, but you will need some healing time afterward for the bone to be secure.

After that, you have several options:

  • Get New Dentures Made

DenturesObviously, the first solution is to just have new dentures made. If you want them to be beautiful, though, you’ll need to go to a skilled cosmetic dentist. There isn’t really a cosmetic dentist specialty, so any general dentist can perform cosmetic procedures. The problem with that is their results vary. So, you need to do some research to determine if this is a skilled artistic dentist or not.

The absolute easiest way to do that is to simply go to an AACD accredited dentist. The AACD is the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Their accreditation program is designed to weed out the pretenders from the truly artistic cosmetic dentists. If a dentist has reached accreditation level with the AACD, you can be assured you’ll get a beautiful smile.

You do need to be aware, though, is if all you do is get dentures again, you’ll still face your jawbone shrinking and have to go through this whole procedure all over again in about 10 to 20 years.

  • Get Dental Implants

Illustration of a dental implantThe best way to prevent dealing with facial collapse after you’ve had your bone structure repaired is to get dental implants instead of dentures. These implant prosthetic roots into your jawbone causing your body to realize there is still a need to support your teeth, which leaves your jawbone completely intact. However, some people find dental implants out of their budget. Fortunately, there is a middle ground.

  • Get Snap-on Dentures

Salem Snap on DentureThese are dentures which are supported by dental implants. They’re considerably more affordable than a full set of implants and can help your dentures stay in place. Obviously, the more implants the better the support, but you can get them with as few as two. Then, as you’re able, you can add more implants to secure them further and protect additional bone.

I hope this helps with your situation.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.

My Dentist is Gouging Me

I have full snap-on dental implants. I have four posts. I fairly regularly need the locator male retention caps. I’ve looked online, but they only seem to allow dentists to purchase them. Unfortunately, my dentist charges me $30 for one! I can tell they come in sets of four for $20. That’s a huge markup and one I just can’t afford to keep paying. Do I have other options?

Brandon

Dear Brandon,

dental implants anchoring dentures

Ouch! I’m guessing your dentist has high overhead and is using that markup to cover some of that. However, that’s quite a markup. You do want to keep up with your maintenance, especially after investing so much money in your dental implants. I have a couple of options for you that may help.

First, most dentists are very generous people and understand how expensive life can be. You could call around to a different dental office explaining your situation. It’s usually the dental assistant not the dentist who orders those materials using the dentist’s code. You could see if one of them would be willing to order for you and allow you to pay much less than your current dentist, making it affordable for you. You might even find someone who’d be willing to sell it to you at cost.

Another option is ebay. There are dental implant locator caps available there from overseas which don’t require any documentation that you’re a dental professional. They sell for about $20 per set. There is a catch though, it’s important you know EXACTLY what you need, including the resistance. They vary and you don’t want to end up with the wrong ones. Because of that, I’d try other dentists in your area first.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.

Which Dentists Should Do Smile Makeovers?

I’ve been going to the same dentist for years. He’s always been good to my family. I’ve noticed lately he’s been promoting the fact that he does smile makeovers with something called porcelain veneers. I thought that was just for cosmetic dentists. Can regular dentists do them too? I was thinking of getting one myself.

Maxine

Dear Maxine,

Woman with beautiful smile
Finding the Best Dentist for Your Smile Makeover

You’ve brought up a very common misconception when it comes to cosmetic dentistry. There isn’t a recognized specialty to become a Cosmetic Dentist like you’d find with an oral surgeon or a pediatric dentist. A cosmetic dentist is simply a general dentist who also does cosmetic procedures.

Because there’s no standard in study for that area of dentistry, you can imagine the results vary widely from dentist to dentist. So while any dentist is allowed to do a smile makeover, it doesn’t mean they should.

One dentist may simply take a short seminar on how to place Lumineers and start offering that service to patients, marketing himself as Lumineers certified; while another dentist will spend years developing his artistry and skills with placing porcelain veneers investing money and time at advanced post-graduate dental training centers.

When it comes to a smile makeover, you definitely want the later dentist. So, how does a patient go about finding the best dentist for their cosmetic work? Do they interview the dentist about their hours? How many hours is enough? Should they ask to see their smile gallery? Fortunately, there is an organization who’s done all that work for you.

Finding the Best Dentist for a Smile Makeover

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) started an accreditation program for just this purpose. While any dentist can become a member of the AACD, it takes a great deal of technical knowledge and a demonstration of artistry on a wide variety of cosmetic cases to receive accreditation.

In your place, I would simply ask your dentist if he’s AACD accredited. They’re among the top cosmetic dentists in the world. If I were paying the kind of money a great smile makeover costs, I’d want to make sure I get the most stunning smile possible. Fortunately, most expert cosmetic dentists offer a beautiful smile guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about becoming another cosmetic dentistry horror story.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.

Dentist Fleecing Me Over Tooth Gap

I told my dentist I was finally ready to close my tooth gap. My dentist has been after me to do it all year. But, I assumed we’d do braces to close it. That’s one of the things which took me so long. I wasn’t too excited about that idea. But, I’ve finally decided that I’d rather have some temporary embarrassment instead of permanent embarrassment. But, when I told him, he suggested something called Lumineers. He explained it to me and it seems like a huge overtreatment and expense for a tooth gap. Should I just go to an orthodontist or is this the new standard?

Kelly A.

Dear Kelly,

A woman putting in her Invisalign aligners in two stacked images

I am glad you wrote before going through with this. It sounds to me like your dentist is an inexperienced cosmetic dentist trying to gain some. He’s using your tooth gap as an excuse to practice. Lumineers are a brand of porcelain veneers often marketed to inexperienced cosmetic dentists as being easy to place.

Even if he weren’t trying to gain experience, porcelain veneers are not the standard treatment for a tooth gap, unless the patient wanted a total smile makeover. Now, if you wanted to completely change your smile then that would be fine. But, that’s not what you’re after. You simply want to close your gap. I have great news for you in that regard. There are two fantastic options for you to close that gap which not only are much less expensive than Lumineers, but you won’t have to wear any metal braces.

Invisalign for a Tooth Gap

There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to orthodontics these days. Invisalign uses clear aligners to straighten your teeth. They’re much more comfortable than traditional braces and often work in half the time.

This will allow you to straighten your teeth without anyone knowing. There are no restrictions on what food you can eat. Plus, because they’re removable, you’ll brush and floss normally without the challenges that come from a mouth full of metal wires and brackets.

Dental Bonding for a Tooth Gap

Depending on the size of the gap you’re talking about, a good cosmetic dentist (not necessarily your family dentist) can close the gap using a composite resin. He or she can shape it to blend in perfectly with your natural tooth structure. This is also a great solution for minor chips on your teeth.

The only thing to be aware of with bonding is that once it’s on the color can’t be changed, so if you plan on ever whitening your teeth do it before the bonding is done.

I’d do either of those two procedures before Lumineers.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.