Do Dentures Really Make Your Face Shrink?

My mother is losing her teeth. I’ve tried for years to get her to brush but she doesn’t like “how it feels”. Now she needs dentures. Of course, she doesn’t have dental insurance or money so I’m having to pay for her new teeth. I can barely afford these dentures and now the dentist tells me if I get them her face will shrink and instead I should get dental implants. They’re massively more expensive. However, I don’t want to damage my mother’s face. Is he right about the shrinking thing?

Annabelle C.

Dear Annabelle,

An illustration of both a denture and a dental implant

It is truly fantastic how you are looking out for your mother’s best interest, especially given she doesn’t seem to care about taking care of herself. What your dentist referred to with the dentures is known as facial collapse.

How it works is once your mother’s teeth are removed, her body will begin to resorb the minerals in her jawbone to use elsewhere. This is because her brain senses she no longer has teeth and assumes she doesn’t need the jawbone. It’s remarkably efficient. If only our government knew how to distribute resources where they’re actually needed.

The problem is after ten to twenty years, there’s very little jawbone left, which gives her face a squashed, older appearance. Additionally, it makes it impossible for her to keep her dentures in. He’s suggesting dental implants because the implants serve as teeth roots, which lets your brain know that jawbone is still a necessity. This prevents facial collapse.

Should Your Mother Get Dentures?

While dental implants are the better treatment, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right treatment for your mother. I’m not just talking about the expense. My guess is your mother lost her teeth because of gum disease. If that’s the case, she’s not yet a candidate for implants. Gum disease causes tooth loss. It will also do the same to her dental implants.

Right now, dentures are the best thing for her. If you can convince her to take care of her oral health and get her gum disease thoroughly healed, then you can re-evaluate. However, there’s no point it getting an expensive procedure that will be guaranteed to fail.

This blog is brought to you by Salem, MA Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Randall Burba.