University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Ronald L. Ettinger, B.D.S., MDS, DDSc
Professor of Prosthodontics
First Published: 1995
Last Revised: 2002
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
Saying hello to dentures doesn't mean you have to say good-bye to
all of your natural teeth. There are some advantages to retaining
selected teeth under dentures instead of having them extracted. But
if you keep them, you'll have to remember to take care of them, says
Dr. Ronald L. Ettinger, professor of prosthodontics at the University
of Iowa College of Dentistry.
People who use overdentures--dentures fitted over selected teeth
that are specially prepared to serve as supports--have fewer problems
with thinning of the jawbone than those who have all their teeth
removed, says Ettinger. "Leaving some teeth in the mouth can improve
the stability of the dentures, and for some people, it may improve
their ability to chew," he says. Studies have shown that overdenture
wearers are able to bite with one-third more force than those who
have all their teeth extracted and wear complete dentures, he notes.
Keeping those teeth may also make it psychologically easier for
some people to accept dentures, he adds.
The College of Dentistry's prosthodontics department has monitored
patients with overdentures since 1973 and has followed over 350
patients who are using them. "We have documented that if patients
follow a preventive regimen, it is possible to retain their natural
teeth in a healthy state for over 20 years," Ettinger notes.
That regimen includes the following steps:
- Remove all dentures from the mouth for six to eight hours a
day, preferably while sleeping. Saliva neutralizes acids that can
cause tooth decay, but its production is greatly reduced during
sleep. Removing dentures during that time allows the saliva to act
on acids that have formed on natural teeth.
- After eating, remove and rinse your dentures. Then rinse your
mouth before putting dentures back in place.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride
- Use a high concentration prescription fluoride gel once a day
or a sodium fluoride mouth rinse three times a day. If you use a
gel, place one drop in each tooth depression in the denture,
replace the denture in your mouth and do not eat or drink anything
for at least 30 minutes.
Overdenture wearers should see their dentist every six months to
have their teeth and dentures checked, Ettinger adds.