Should I get upper dentures?
June 24, 2008 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I am thinking of getting an upper denture. I'm 37, and have always had problems with my teeth.

Frequent cavities as a child, no matter how diligently I brushed and flossed, braces as a teenager (I had mine through senior year of high school and freshman year in college-- for some reason my orthodontist wanted it that way) and surgery at 17 for four impacted wisdom teeth and to correct a severe underbite. As a young adult, I couldn't afford the dentist, even when I did have dental insurance, and we are still having a hard time affording the dentist, again despite having dental insurance.

My top teeth are worse by far. I think the problem is that either a. I'm too stuffed up to breathe through my nose, in which case I breathe through my mouth and it gets dry when sleeping, or b. when I take enough decongestants that I can breathe through my nose, then I grind my teeth while I sleep. (My family doctor has given me some anti-depressants to help with the stress and anxiety that may be leading to the tooth grinding, but I've only been taking them since Saturday, so understandably I'm not seeing a lot of results on that yet.) I've always had a dry mouth problem, because I'm rarely able to breathe through my nose-- swollen adenoids until I was 12 and got them removed, and allergies thereafter.

A couple years ago, I got a tooth pulled due to abcess (#3) and root tips removed where one broke off (#15). Over the weekend, I had an excruciating abcess in tooth #2. My dentist said Monday it couldn't be saved even if I wanted to, so I'm having it pulled soon, probably this week, along with the remains of #12, which the back has cracked off of. I try to brush my teeth at least twice a day--although, in all honesty, sometimes I forget. I have a hard time flossing, so I use a Waterpik instead.

This is the first time my missing teeth are really going to show under normal circumstances, and I'm really starting to feel like a toothless old crone. Of course I can get bridge work, but there are some snags: the dentist said that on the x-ray, #13 & 14 have infection behind them, and although they aren't painful now, it's just a matter of time. They probably can be saved with root canal, but I'm wondering if it's worth it, because my four front teeth have root resorption, probably from my braces. I've been told that one day I'll just bite into something and leave one of my four front teeth behind. So I wonder if a bridge could even be attached to these teeth.

I'm thinking it will be cheaper and easier to just get rid of my top teeth and get an upper denture. Implants would be lovely, but they are out of the question right now because insurance will not pay for them and there is no way we're affording them out of pocket. My bottom teeth will be okay with a cleaning and a few fillings, but it just seems like my top teeth are a lost cause at this point. Am I wrong?

Also, I'm not very comfortable with my current dentist, he has an abrasive manner (well, basically I think he's a... nickname for Richard), and the god-awful country music they play at their office is torture to me. (Like being at the dentist isn't bad enough, I'm forced to listen to KYGO as well?) If anyone knows a good dentist with a nice manner in/near North-East Denver metro who takes CIGNA, please let me know.
posted by Shoeburyness to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Do you consume enough calcium and vitamin D?
posted by parmanparman at 1:08 PM on June 24, 2008

Before you make such an irreversible decision, please, please, please see a good periodontist rather than a dentist. They are much more focused on the underlying health of your teeth and strategies for maintaining what you have. I wish to hell I had seen a perio many years ago as I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and been much better enlightened about what really matters in dental health.
posted by bz at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2008

Get a new dentist, one you trust and who understands your budgetary constraints too.

I memailed you a possibility, maybe someone else has one closer to where you are though.
posted by nat at 1:19 PM on June 24, 2008

Sometimes dental schools offer a full range of dental treatment (periodontal, etc.) for less money, sliding scale fees, with insurance accepted, and payment plans to help spread out the cost over a period of time. Colorado University in Denver has a dental school, and it looks like a nice place.

Hopefully a dentist can chime in, but from what I understand it is a serious undertaking to have all your teeth removed, because then you have to constantly be fitted for dentures and there is wear and tear on the bones under your teeth. I'd get several recommendations (or at least one) from a dentist you really trust. If you already got the full set of X-rays during your last dental visit, you can request them and take them to a new dentist. That full set (the bigger, more expensive one -- not the bitewings, but the periapical, which are done every 3 years or so) shows the bones around your teeth, so the new dentist can see how things are going there (which might help determine the right path for you).
posted by Houstonian at 2:13 PM on June 24, 2008

My sister let a dentist "guide" her into having her front upper teeth removed, only to find later that a periodontist could have saved the teeth. She cried so hard to lose them. THEN she found that she's so sensitive to having foreign objects in her mouth that she gagged and gagged trying to wear the bridge. Bridge redesign didn' t help. She can only put them in after numbing the inside of her mouth, and when that wears off, she has to take them out. We're all used to her without front teeth, but even 10 years later, she's still angry that she didn't have the info she needed to make a good decision.

If you can save your teeth, do it.
posted by reflecked at 4:37 PM on June 24, 2008

Best answer: What reflected said: If you can save your teeth, do it. Dentures (I assume mean you are thinking of getting a FULL upper denture?) should be your absolute last resort. You should be able to get a partial denture just for the teeth you are missing already. Don't make any decisions in the short term until you have consulted at least one specialist and fully weighed all of your options.
Good luck!
posted by goshling at 6:50 PM on June 24, 2008

FWIW, my friend had 4 teeth left on the bottom of her mouth, and never had a problem with her dentures. She got those pulled and got a full lower in December, and has had problems ever since. She hates them and wishes she had just left those last few teeth alone. She's having a heck of a time getting these to fit properly, and has had to have them adjusted numerous times because they keep forming blisters and not fitting right. If there's any way that some of your top teeth can be saved, keep them.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:34 PM on June 24, 2008

Response by poster: Well, I ended up having three teeth pulled. One on the bottom was bad and the oral surgeon said it needed to come out even though it wasn't hurting. Well, I figure he doesn't pull healthy teeth just for the hell of it, so I went ahead and did it. I'm looking into a new dentist and getting an upper partial denture. The pain is nearly gone now and things seem to be healing fine.
posted by Shoeburyness at 4:51 PM on July 5, 2008

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