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Let's face it -- missing teeth aren't pretty. Aesthetics aside, teeth are needed to eat, speak, maintain the position of other teeth in the mouth, prevent jaw bone loss and support facial structure. Tooth replacement is a necessity if you suffer from tooth loss, and dentures are a common treatment for many edentulous (toothless) patients. But is a trip to a dentist really necessary or should you visit a denturist to design your dentures?
Denturists are dental professionals who specialize in the fit, design, construction and repair of dentures. If you've never heard of a denturist, it may be because of where you live. Denturists aren't common in the United States. Only a handful of states recognize the profession of denturism and many require the supervision of a dentist in order to practice. In fact, the practice of denturism is of great debate among dental professionals throughout the U.S.
What to Expect From a Denturist
Denturists practice denturism, the practice of making, altering, repairing and relining removable dentures directly to dental patients. Denturists are involved in the denture process from start to finish -- from performing an initial exam of your mouth to completing the final product.
Full dentures are a process that requires several appointments. Typically, a denturist will use the following techniques to construct dentures:
During the first appointment, the denturist performs an examination and obtains a medical and dental history of the patient. A set of impressions is taken to start the design process.
The second visit consists of a "measuring appointment." Wax denture bases are used to find a relationship between the gums and determine the correct bite.
During the "try-in appointment," the teeth are arranged until the desired look is achieved. Once the denturist and patient agree on the look, the teeth are set and finished in acrylic.
At the final appointment, the denturist inserts the dentures and makes any necessary adjustments.
Products and Limitations
Denturists' training is geared towards treating edentulous patients, but their work is not limited to traditional full and partial dentures. A denturist may also work with other types of removable prosthesis', including implant-supported dentures, overdentures and immediate dentures. Many denturists also provide ongoing denture care through denture relining, or rebasing, a process used to refit dentures to restore retention (suction) diminished by bone loss and changes in the gums. Depending on the amount of damage, denturists may also be able to fix fractured or broken dentures.
Under state law, denturists can only work with removable dentures -- they cannot make permanent restorations such as dental crowns, dental bridges or dental implants, nor can they perform any other dental services pertaining to the preparation of dentures. For instance, a denturist cannot insert dental implants or perform tooth extractions prior to placing your dentures.