Although I all but 3 of my bottom teeth, I will soon only have three upper teeth left. My dentist recommends extracting the other few remaining teeth because they are worn out from gum disease and stress from a partial denture. I got a second opinion from another dentist who gave me the option of keeping the three teeth upper teeth because they are mostly healthy and in the front of my mouth. He says that a partial denture will work. Now I need a third opinion, so I am writing to you. Won’t a full denture look and feel better than a partial denture. I have a budget, though, of about $6000, and that concerns me. I’m in my early 50s and would like a smile that looks natural. Max from Denver, CO
Dr. Tostado would need to examine your teeth and take x-rays for an accurate diagnosis. However, we will share some information that might help you determine your next steps.
Saving natural teeth
Whenever possible, it is usually better to save your natural teeth. Removable appliances, including a partial denture, are not anchored, will have some movement, and put stress on the anchor teeth. And with few remaining teeth, your jawbone will shrink everywhere that teeth are missing.
When few teeth are left
Eating and chewing put a lot of stress on your remaining teeth. Although your remaining teeth may look healthy, the force of your lower teeth against them is harmful.
What about a full denture?
Suction holds a full upper denture in place and makes it more comfortable and more stable than a lower denture, which rests on your gums. A complete denture is also more comfortable than a partial denture.
Protecting your long-term oral health
Whether you choose a partial denture or a removable complete denture, your jawbone will shrink if most or all your teeth are missing. After 10 or 20 years, so little jawbone is left that your facial muscles will sag, and you will experience facial collapse. Only the areas where teeth are left will be unaffected.
A thin lower jawbone makes it almost impossible to keep a denture in place. Some suction may remain for an upper denture, but bone shrinkage can still make you look older prematurely.
The healthiest long-term solution for a situation like yours is usually to replace teeth with an implant-supported partial denture or a full implant-supported denture. But either option would be beyond your budget. Although a dentist would need to take a 3-D CT scan to determine your options, two implants might be enough to add some stability to a denture. A CT scan reveals your bone structure and oral anatomy to reveal bone density and where to place implants.
If you have a strict budget, an upper removable complete denture is an acceptable solution. Unlike a partial denture, it won’t stress a few remaining teeth, and it will improve your comfort when eating.
We recommend getting a third in-person consultation and exam with a skilled implant dentist to discuss your options.
Gilberto Tostado, DDS of San Antonio, TX, sponsors this post.