Dentures have changed dramatically throughout history, evolving from the primitive false teeth of centuries ago to the cutting-edge technology behind today’s replacement teeth.

Artificial teeth have been around since 700 BCE when Etruscans in northern Italy created dentures with animal or human teeth. These teeth were easy to make and remained popular for thousands of years.

Replacement teeth produced from ivory were being used in the 1700s, when the first U.S. President, George Washington, popularized them as one of the most notable early denture wearers. Porcelain dentures made their debut around 1770. From the 1850s, porcelain teeth were being set into dental plates consisting of hardened rubber.

Modern dentures typically consist of an acrylic base and porcelain or plastic teeth. Technology has made today’s dentures much more comfortable and natural-looking than those worn by older generations. In fact, they look so much like natural teeth that people can rarely tell whether an individual is wearing a denture.

Today, it’s even possible to create dentures with 3D printing technology – the so-called digital dentures.

Full and Partial Dentures

Modern dentures come in two main types.

Full dentures are used when all the teeth have been lost. They are either “immediate” or “conventional”. Immediate dentures are fitted as soon as teeth are extracted. This avoids the problem of being without teeth during the healing process, which can take several months. A conventional denture is placed eight to 12 weeks after teeth have been taken out.

Partial dentures are used when some teeth are remaining. They typically consist of synthetic teeth on a base attached to the natural teeth.

The number of adults in the U.S. needing dentures is estimated to rise from 33.6 million in 1991 to 37.9 million in 2020.

Issues That Dentures Can Fix

Although dentures can never feel exactly like natural teeth, and they take some getting used to, the way dentures have changed makes them more comfortable and natural-looking than ever.

Dentures can fix several problems that typically occur in the absence of natural teeth. These issues include:

Distortion of facial appearance. Dentures improve your appearance by filling the gaps in your mouth. They can also make you look younger by reducing the sunken-cheeked appearance associated with tooth loss.

Impairment of speech. Dentures address issues with speaking, allowing you to make yourself clearly understood in conversations.

Dietary restrictions. Dentures avoid the dietary restrictions that come with biting and chewing difficulties, so you don’t have to settle for soft foods.

Traditionally, the main factor in making dentures was their function as an aid to eating, but today they’re also designed to be aesthetically pleasing and more comfortable.

One shortcoming of dentures is that being removable, they can tend to shift in your mouth, but most people get used to them with time.

Overcoming Denture Problems with Implants

Another issue with dentures is the potential loss of jaw bone caused by a lack of stimulation from a tooth root. This problem can be solved by combining dentures with dental implants (overdentures), which have been a game-changer in modern dentistry.

A dental implant is a screw-like titanium post that’s inserted surgically into the jaw to provide an artificial tooth root. Over time, adjacent tissue heals around the implant, which becomes a permanent part of the bone.

Other benefits of anchoring dentures with implants include:

• Can be more affordable than individual implants throughout the mouth.

• No need for dental adhesives. Implants hold the denture firmly in place but allow for easy removal for cleaning.

• Clearer speech. Poorly-fitting dentures can slip, causing you to slur your words or mumble. Implant overdentures impact positively on speech ability.

• Dental implants have a success rate of up to 98 percent.

The Age of Digital Dentures

3D printing technology – using CAD (Computer-Aided Design), CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing), and CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering) – is transforming dentistry, including the process of getting dentures.

This state-of-the-art tech involves scanning the mouth to create a digital file that’s sent to a 3D printer, which fabricates the digital dentures.

Dentists and dental lab technicians are rapidly embracing 3D printing as the digital dentistry of the future. For patients, it makes the denture process more affordable, customized, and convenient.

The Functional and Aesthetic Benefits of Modern Dentures

Most people take everyday activities such as talking and eating for granted. However, these simple tasks can be problematic if you’ve lost some or all of your teeth.

The leading causes of tooth loss among adults are cavities and gum disease (periodontitis). Tooth loss is an issue that dentists have been dealing with for thousands of years and dentures have played a significant, evolving role throughout history.

In the U.S. today, many people aged 45 to 65 are missing at least one tooth, and one in four people aged 65 or over have lost all their teeth.

Because of advances over the last 20 years in denture technology and materials, modern dentures provide a better fit and look more natural, giving you a set of fully-functional replacement teeth. With modern dentures, you no longer have to go through life feeling embarrassed every time you smile.

Bear in mind that creating a quality denture takes more time, expertise, and expense than so-called economy dentures, which can turn out to be painful through a bad fit and moving around in the mouth.

A dentist specializing in quality dentures will be able to answer any questions you may have about how dentures have changed and help you to decide whether this is the best tooth replacement option for you.

Taking Care of Your Dentures

Most people who are missing some or all of their teeth can benefit from dentures. Although dentures will have to be replaced eventually, they typically last five to 10 years with proper care.

Looking after your dentures entails:

• Being aware they’re fragile and may break if dropped.

• Visiting your dentist if they become chipped or cracked.

• Soaking them in cold water or a cleansing solution overnight.

• Brushing them daily to remove food debris and prevent a build-up of plaque.