If you’ve chipped a tooth or lost any of your teeth and you’re feeling a bit anxious about what to do about it – worry not! These days it’s a simple matter to replace missing teeth with an attractive, natural looking replacement (dentures) to set your mind at ease. Just visit your local denturist, who will listen carefully to your concerns and together you’ll find the best solution.

A denturist is a formally trained dental professional who specialises in the construction, fitting and aftercare of dentures in a patient. Their education and training can vary widely, so it’s best to do a bit of research before you go to make sure you get the specialist help you deserve. Qualifications range from an apprenticeship over 2 or 3 years- where a prospective denturist trains under an experienced practitioner – to an associate’s degree programme, involving up to 1000 hours of clinical practice through an approved supervisor or college. To become a licensed denturist, the candidate will have passed a practical exam. The exact requirements of becoming a denturist depend on where the license is issued, with every region having its own specifications.

What to expect

If you’re visiting a denturist for the first time, you should expect an initial consultation, where your medical and dental history will be documented, an x-ray is taken and impressions of your teeth and gums made in order to create models. This initial examination is important so that any problems can be treated before the dentures are fitted, to prevent complications later. For example, tooth decay or exposed roots should be dealt with before any work proceeds. Sometimes, within a surgery a denturist works together with a dentist to ensure the right care is given every step of the way.

After your examination you will be given a care plan: this could be the simple fitting of a crown on top of your tooth; a fully removable denture that rests on your jaw being designed and fitted; or implants being surgically inserted into your jaw over several months and an attachable denture being fitted. This latter option is most frequently used for the lower jaw if there are no teeth and a patient wants a more stable, firmly fixed denture compared to the fully removable denture. In this case your sinuses will be located and the amount and positioning of bone will be determined through a computed tomography (CT scan) of your mouth. This will enable the denturist to find the best positions for the implants. There are two kinds of implant-supported dentures: bar-retained and ball-retained dentures and the most suitable for you will be discussed with your denturist. The whole procedure can take up to a year depending on how long it takes for your gums to heal after the implants are inserted. In the meantime you will be given a temporary denture until your permanent implant-supported denture is ready. It takes time but it’s well worth the wait!

Preventive Dentistry

There are many reasons the American Dental Association recommends everyone sees a dentist at regular intervals. Most of the reasons are not just cosmetic in nature, According to a Mayo Clinic article; many illnesses can have a link to poor oral health. This list includes:

  • Endocarditis: Endocarditis is a heart condition in which a staphylococcus infection has spread to the heart. Because one’s mouth is filled with bacteria and because cavities can become infected by bacteria, this can eventually lead to diseases of the cardiovascular system including the heart.
  • Low Birth Weight: Low birth weight can be caused by infections that have spread to a woman’s reproductive system. Some of these disorders prevent essential nutrients from the mother’s cardiovascular being received by the developing fetus.
  • Diabetes: Because of the insidious nature of diabetes and the difficulties maintaining proper blood sugar levels or the frequent spikes and drops in blood glucose levels, diabetics oral health can be seriously compromised and therefore, oral health MUST be addressed and taken care of.

There are other conditions that can be linked to the state of one’s oral health including HIV/AIDs, Osteoporosis, Sjogren Syndrome, and certain oral cancers.

There are several ways one can prevent the above problems or, at least mitigate, the damage caused by these disorders.

Brush Your Teeth: Many people fail to do this every day at least twice a day. In the first place, one’s breath will be fresher, food will taste better and it will prevent cavities from forming. Flossing is also needed so food particles don’t get caught between the teeth and gums, which can cause pain and bleeding

Healthy Diet: A healthy diet is needed to maintain good health in general, but it is quite often overlooked as part of good oral health.

Dentist Visits: My mother used to say if you have no problems with your teeth and they don’t bother you, eventually your teeth will leave you alone…PERMANENTLY! A visit to the dentist, while in many ways medieval and uncomfortable, is essential. A typical visit includes x-rays, cleanings and simple procedures. For more extensive work and for dental-phobic a visit to an oral surgeon who can use light sedation to calm a nervous patient may be in order.

Your Toothbrush: How often or when was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? The ADA recommends replacing it every time the bristles are damaged or every three months. I also recommend changing it after one has recovered from a Respiratory infection. NEVER share your toothbrush with anyone.

Drug and Tobacco Use: With the opiate crisis, the continuing use of tobacco as well as the use of other illegal drugs, it is no wonder that dental health is an issue for many dentists and other health practitioners. The sad fact is that many people, including those with mental illnesses and the homeless do not receive regular medical, including dental, health screenings.