Which denture materials are the best?

Dentures appear to be made of an acrylic substance that eventually discolors & wears down. What are the best dentures made of? I want the best & no one is giving me any answers.
- Ann from Illinois

Dear Ann,
It’s not that simple, to just identify the best denture material and then you have the best denture. There is much more to it. But let’s discuss denture materials.

Denture bases are pretty much going to all be some type of acrylic. But there are higher quality acrylics and lower quality acrylics – they’re not all the same. Some have higher shrinkage when they are processed. Some are more color stable. Some are stronger. Generally the dentist doesn’t get that deeply into the properties of the materials, but leaves those matters to a trusted dental technician, who is the true expert in that. The technician will generally offer a variety of choices, with a price level for each type of material.

Dentists will be a little more familiar with the choices in denture teeth. The choices used to be acrylic or porcelain, but there are new composite teeth that wear much better than acrylic teeth and are much easier to work with than the porcelain teeth, and many dentists consider that the composite teeth are top of the line.

But I hope you’re not intending to be the one to take the decision about what material to use away from your dentist. Yes, educate yourself so you can ask intelligent questions. But don’t be the patient who thinks he or she knows better than the dentist. All dentists have patients like this, and I will tell you that those patients of mine who told me what material to use – they got that material, but they didn’t get my best work, and that was because I could tell they didn’t trust me. Trust is a great motivator, and the patients that got my best work were those who made it clear that’s what they wanted, they indicated that they were willing to pay a little extra if necessary to upgrade to a better material, but they didn’t have blind trust – they questioned and probed me some, but then trusted my recommendations.

It is difficult as a patient, without the background of a dental school education, to evaluate the different materials and pick which is best for a certain clinical situation. And when you confront a dentist as if you know better which materials to use, the underlying assumption is that your two weeks of research on the Internet are more valuable than his or her four years of dental school education in giving enough background information to properly evaluate these materials. It puts you in an adversarial relationship, and I would recommend against that.

Also, there are other very important factors in getting an excellent denture. The techniques used are at least as important as the materials. Dentists who short-cut the impression process, or the bite registration process, or other parts of the technique, will get a denture that doesn’t have an excellent fit, or has an incorrect vertical dimension, or other errors.

This blog brought to you by Dr. Robert Thein. For more information about Dr. Thein, please see his Los Angeles implant dentist website.

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