The Past, Present, and Future of Removable Dentures

Today, dentures come in a number of forms, from fixed, implanted dentures to removable partial dentures (RPDs). Many denture designs exist, from those that rely on bonding or clasping onto existing teeth to dental implants (fixed prosthodontics) that are permanently affixed within the gums. In any of these cases, the design landscape depends heavily on the nature of the device, as well as the material it’s made from.

Dentures Throughout History

Before diving into present day RPDs, it’s useful to take a look back. Dentures date to as early as 700 BC, when people used human and animal teeth1 to replace missing teeth. These materials remained popular until the 1700s2, with advances in construction and the shaping of ivory.

Wooden teeth were introduced in Japan during the 16th century3. In the 1770s, the first porcelain dentures were introduced4, but they were prone to chipping and appeared to be too white to be aesthetically convincing dental air compressor. Most people still preferred human or even animal teeth. In the 1850s, dentures began being made of Vulcanite, a form of hardened rubber into which porcelain teeth were set4. Following the turn of the 20th century, acrylic resin and other plastics were introduced5.

Figure 2. Chrome Cobalt partial denture versus a high-performance polymer partial denture.

According to “The History of the Characteristic Japanese Wooden Denture” by Moriyama and Hasegawa, the first metal frame dentures were made by Pierre Fauchard in 17283. Since then, there have been significant improvements in RPDs, although the use of metal is still common.

Despite the many advances in healthcare technology, there have not been any significant changes to how RPDs are constructed since the 1950s7. That is to say, after 290 years since that first metal frame denture, innovation in RPDs seems to have halted. This has created an opportunity for a new class of materials to emerge. These materials are changing how patients, clinicians, and dental lab professionals think about RPDs dental lab equipment.

A 2017 article in the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry7 points to the need for innovation in RPDs, highlighting the negative health consequences associated with metal RPDs and the need for advances in both materials and processing for RPDs.

RPDs Today

Unfortunately, while innovation in the RPD space has stalled, the need for removable prosthetics continues to grow at a rapid rate. By 2050, life expectancy is projected to increase by eight years, from today’s 68.6 years to 76.2 years8. As a result, the 65-and-over population is increasing.

According to research from the National Institute on Aging, in the United States alone, this population group is projected to nearly double over the next three decades, from 48 million to 88 million by 20508, meaning the number of individuals in the United States with total or partial edentulism is on the rise9.

The combination of the expanding partially edentulous patient population and the material drawbacks of current denture materials is a call to arms to the dental community to address the complications of current RPDs, low patient satisfaction, and lack of compliance. There is a clear need for a prosthodontic frame solution that supports oral health and encourages patient compliance, resulting in overall better health outcomes after tooth loss or absence.

It’s true that patients now have more options for RPDs than they did generations ago. But to date, none of the available choices has offered a hassle-free solution.What Is Dental Amalgam (Silver Fillings)? for more information.

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