Dentures: Then, Now & the Future

Posted on: 6 February 2015

The way in which prosthetics can improve quality of life for those in need is nothing short of remarkable. Scientists have developed prosthetic limbs that can attach to existing nerve endings, meaning they can be controlled by thought, essentially in the same way a natural limb is controlled. While these prosthetics are utterly amazing, perhaps the most common type of prosthesis is one that only you and your dentist know about: your dentures

Modern dentures are durable and entirely natural looking—but what were dentures like in the past? And will there always be a need for dentures?

Dentures: Then

There was a certain logic to the first recorded dentures. Archaeologists excavating northern Italy have discovered dentures dating back to 500 BC. Used by the Etruscans, these early dentures used animal teeth as well as human teeth removed from the dead. They were attached to a pad and inserted into the mouth, functioning just as contemporary dentures do, although were far less durable and much more obvious.

Dentures became more and more commonplace in the 1600s, and were often carved from ivory, with the first porcelain dentures appearing in the late 1700s.

Dentures: Now

Advances in materials and techniques used for denture fabrication means that dentures are an effective detachable tooth replacement and are infinitely more personalised than they used to be.

A denture clinic will take an impression of your mouth, and the dentures are then fabricated using polymethylmethacrylate acrylic, which chemically speaking, is a form of unbreakable glass. It's infinitely more durable and hygienic than other materials and is available in a seemingly unlimited number of shades, meaning that your denture will look just like regular teeth.

Improvements to denture adhesive have also greatly improved the actual feeling of having the dentures in your mouth. They don't slip, and after a short transition phase, you might forget you're wearing them.

Dentures: The Future

Improved dental technology means that less and less people are losing teeth due to poor oral hygiene. It will still happen, and tooth loss is sometimes unavoidable in an accident. While dentures are still the best bet for multiple tooth replacement, they might one day be replaced by another method.

US researchers have developed a process in which human dental tissue is stimulated with lasers, and can essentially be tricked into regrowing teeth. The method is largely theoretical at this stage, since the dental tissue in question was extracted and not in fact in someone's mouth. Scientists still need to work out how to refine the process so that it's successful in an actual human mouth.

So while one day you might be able to have your mouth zapped with a laser to replace multiple missing teeth, right now the denture clinic is your best bet.