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Missing and Damaged Teeth: Patient Options
People who have avoided dental care for many years and have already lost most of their teeth will sometimes go to a dentist and ask for all of their remaining teeth to be extracted. Their teeth are often broken and have deep cavities, and the situation seems hopeless. In some cases, removal of all the remaining teeth and replacement with full dentures is the only option. More often, however, some or all of the remaining teeth can be repaired and used in conjunction with a partial denture. A full denture is a removable device that replaces all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, and a partial denture replaces some of the teeth. Partial dentures are commonly used for both the upper and lower jaws, but if only a few weak teeth remain on the upper jaw, it might be preferable to have them extracted and a full upper denture made. Weak teeth are those with deep cavities extending under the gum line or those that have lost a large amount of the supporting bone around the tooth’s roots. Full upper dentures tend to be far more secure than the lower ones, because the upper denture gains added stability from the palate and is not easily dislodged by the tongue.

If only a few teeth remain on the lower jaw, however, every effort should be made to try and save them. Lower teeth can help to keep a lower partial denture in place and also help prevent the lower jawbone or ridge from becoming flat from excessive wear. Unlike full upper dentures, full lower dentures tend to be more difficult to wear, and can often become uncomfortably loose after years of use. If all teeth must be removed from the lower jaw, dental implants are sometimes the only way to help keep the denture stable.

Ideally, all teeth that can be saved should be saved. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Some people may lack the tolerance, dental insurance or finances required for comprehensive dental care. For them, having teeth removed and partial or full dentures made may be the only feasible option. Even so, when possible, a special effort should be made to save some or all of the remaining lower teeth.

Written by Dr. Jerry Gordon  

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