The Evolution of Dentures
Tooth loss is definitely not a modern problem, and people have needed to replace missing teeth since time immemorial. In fact, archaeologists have discovered ancient remains of false teeth dating back centuries. In the seventh century, the Etruscans in Italy were making an early form of partial dentures from animal or human teeth held together with gold wires.
The Japanese were the first people to create more modern looking dentures using wood and which relied on the same type of suction techniques used to hold dentures in place today. They even used softened beeswax to create what must be the earliest type of dental impression, which was then filled with a harder wax to create a model of the gums to make the denture. These early dentures were entirely wooden, but later versions included human teeth or teeth made from animal horn. Interestingly, the Japanese were still making wooden dentures to replace teeth right up until the 19th century.
Pierre Fauchard made dentures using a metal frame and teeth fabricated from animal bone in 1726. In 1770 the very first porcelain dentures were made by Alexis Duchâteau. By 1792 a patent was granted to Nicolas Dubois De Chemant, Duchâteau’s assistant, who made dentures with Wedgewood porcelain teeth.
Many of the early dentists were actually professional goldsmiths, which was certainly the case for Samuel Stockton who in 1820 began making high-quality dentures with porcelain teeth supported by 18 carat gold plates. Thirty years later, dentures were made from vulcanite, a type of hardened and durable rubber. These were more affordable than porcelain dentures and much easier and more comfortable for patients to wear. Vulcanite dentures remained popular right up until the last century when acrylic resin and other more modern plastic materials were created.
George Washington Famously Wore False Teeth
George Washington wore several sets of false teeth during his lifetime and by the time he was made president he had just one natural tooth remaining. Contrary to popular belief, the teeth he wore during his presidency weren’t made from wood but were fabricated from elephant and hippopotamus ivory. The pain suffered by George Washington definitely isn’t in dispute, because he needed to take laudanum to dull the discomfort.
Thankfully, Modern Dentures Are Very Different
Fortunately, the modern techniques used to fabricate dentures are incredibly sophisticated, creating natural, lifelike teeth which feel comfortable to wear. Instead of wood, metal or hardened rubber, dentists now use polymethylmethacrylate, a type of acrylic resin available in many shades and which closely resembles real gum tissue. Denture teeth are made from durable acrylic and are available in hundreds of different shapes and colors.
An Overview of the Process Used to Create Modern Dentures
The process used to fabricate modern dentures will require several visits to your dental office. At your first visit, your dentist will take a preliminary impression of your gums which is used by the dental laboratory to make an initial model of your mouth. A special tray is then fabricated to fit over this model and is used to take a second, much more detailed impression of your gums. Next, the dental laboratory will make a wax bite rim which fits over your gums. Your dentist will fit the bite rim in your mouth and uses it to record the vertical dimensions between your upper and lower jaws. These measurements are crucial for ensuring your denture is made to the correct height, providing the right level of support for your cheeks and lips. At the same time, a bite registration is taken, showing how your upper and lower jaws come together. Your dentist will select appropriate denture teeth, considering your gender, facial features, and even your personality.
Once the dental laboratory has all this information, a skilled technician will begin making your denture, using pink colored wax to represent your gums and which initially support your denture teeth. The wax denture is tried in your mouth at your next visit to your dentist, so any adjustments can be made at this stage. Once you are happy with the feel and appearance of the denture and your dentist is satisfied it fits correctly, the denture is returned to the dental laboratory for its final processing. At this stage, the wax denture base is replaced with appropriately colored acrylic resin, and the denture is characterized and finished. You can then return to your dental office to have the denture tried in and fitted. Usually, people with dentures will need another follow-up appointment a week later for further minor adjustments to ensure the denture is comfortable and properly seated on the gums.
Dental Implant-Supported Dentures Are a More Advanced Solution
While conventional dentures are cost-effective and still a popular choice, there is a more modern solution which is to have a denture supported by dental implants, called an over denture. It is an option that eliminates one common problem with all dentures, which is that they tend to move on the gums, especially after a few years of use. As the shape of the gum and the underlying bone gradually changes, it becomes increasingly difficult to retain the dentures comfortably. Additionally, loss of bone and gum tissue can affect the overall facial dimensions, decreasing the height between your upper and lower jaws. These problems are eliminated with an implant-supported denture. Instead of resting on the gums, the denture clips onto dental implants surgically inserted into the jawbone, providing strong and stable dentures that remain firmly in place during eating and speaking.
It is a very popular solution here at McLoughlin Dental Care and often our dentist Dr. Donald Nimz can create a lower denture supported by just two dental implants, so treatment is very affordable. Usually, an upper denture requires more dental implants because the bone in the upper jaw tends to be thinner and less supportive than in the lower jaw. Best of all, most people are suitable for this treatment and age isn’t usually an issue. We are far more concerned that you have reasonable dental health and general health.
Dentures have certainly evolved to since those first early attempts to create them and if you’d like to find out more about modern, well-fitting dentures or implant-supported teeth, then contact us to arrange your consultation.