How long do complete (full) dentures last? -

Reasons why they need to be replaced. | Statistics from research about denture longevity. | How long do denture relines and rebases last?

In terms of cost, complete dentures are a big-ticket item. And as such you might wonder how long this type of appliance can be expected to last.

To answer this question, we've set this page up as follows:

  • The first half of this page explains general reasons why full dentures tend to fail or require replacement.
  • The lower half cites statistics and provides estimates taken from dental research that has reported on the subject of denture failure rates and the expected life span for these types of appliances (and relines).

Defining what a "complete" denture is.

Just to make sure you're reading the right information, the type of dental prostheses discussed on this page are "complete" or "full" dentures.

This type of appliance replaces all of a patient's teeth on one "arch" (upper or lower jaw). (We cover the issue of partial denture longevity here.)

Denture construction.

A complete denture consists of a plastic base that simulates gum tissue. Embedded in this base are artificial teeth.

  • Nowadays, plastic teeth are the most commonly used type. In decades past, porcelain ones were sometimes used instead.
  • While not especially common, some aspects/portions of a complete denture's base may be made out of metal.

    This option might be chosen so the appliance is more fracture resistant. Or as a way of allowing the denture's base to be thinner (a factor that might remedy some speech problems).


Factors affecting full denture longevity.

a) Denture strength.

The strength of the materials from which a denture is made can be a factor in how long it will last. (This point might be a consideration in deciding between a "premium" vs. "economy" denture.)

  • Repairing appliance damage (such as denture base fracture or reattaching lost teeth) is frequently possible and doing so is commonplace.
  • As a shortcoming, repairs typically don't offer the same level of strength as a prosthesis' original materials.

    So in cases where the needed repair is extensive or has previously failed, appliance replacement, or rebasing, may offer the best (most predictable, lasting) solution.

b) Denture wear.

The durability of the materials from which a denture is made can also affect its longevity. (Again, possibly a point that should be considered when choosing between "premium" vs. "economy" dentures.)

  • As would be expected, plastic portions (teeth, denture base materials) will tend to wear over time. But so can porcelain teeth.
  • Replacement or repair of the worn aspects of an appliance may be possible. But denture wear frequently coincides with gradual changes that involve the patient's jaws, jaw joints, ridge height and facial appearance.

    Electing to replace the entire prosthesis often allows the dentist the latitude they need to create an outcome that restores, corrects, improves or adapts to the patient's changed (now current) situation.

c) Denture fit.

The fit of the "tissue side" of a denture's base (the part that rests directly on the jaws) is an important factor in appliance stability, retention, comfort and function. And this characteristically does change over time, and therefore plays a role in limiting an appliance's longevity.

  • Performing a reline (replacing the plastic that directly rests on gum tissue) can renew this fit and thus extend the life span of a prosthesis.
  • If the denture has already provided extensive service, replacing it altogether may make the better plan.

Statistics about how long complete dentures can last.

Below are findings and estimates from dental research about expected denture service and longevity.

How long can full dentures last?

  • A dental literature review by Schwass states that it's "generally accepted" that complete dentures can last between 5 and 10 years. However, it also reports that many patients wear their appliances for far longer.
  • Murtomaa polled 328 denture wearers. 45% of the upper and 40% of the lower appliances being worn by this group were over 10 years old.

Section references - Schwass, Murtomaa

Primary reasons for complete/full denture failure.

a) Damage / Breakage
  • The most frequently occurring types of denture damage are tooth loss (33% of all repairs for full and partial appliances combined) and denture base fracture (29% of all laboratory repairs involved cracked or broken full upper dentures) (Darbar).
  • Vallittu found that roughly half of all denture repairs performed by dental laboratories involved complete upper dentures.
  • Shakya reported that complete upper dentures tend to fracture twice as often as lower ones. The primary causes either being plastic fatigue (stress created from use) or impact (dropping).

Section references - Darbar, Vallittu, Shakya

How long do denture repairs last?

  • The repair of a significant failure (such as a large crack or a denture breaking into two) can't be expected to restore an appliance to its original strength. Re-fracture frequently occurs where the repair and original plastics join (ElHadiry).

    In this type of situation a dentist may advise that the appliance needs to be rebased or else worn as a transitional prosthesis until a replacement can be made.

  • Needed minor repairs (such as reattaching an individual tooth that has debonded) can be expected to be serviceable for an extended period of time.

    Some of the difficulties associated with this type of repair can be that the color of the new plastic used for the mend may not perfectly match that of the denture base, or may pick up staining over time. Or, if a tooth has been lost, its replacement may not be a perfect color match.

Section references - ElHadiry

b) General wear and tear.

It's common that due to years of use that a denture will have finally reached a point where it has deteriorated enough that it's no longer functionally or esthetically acceptable. This deterioration might include tooth wear or denture base wear, deterioration or staining.

While we don't have any specific statistics to share as to how long this might take, our Schwass reference mentioned above seems to put the average life span of a denture on the order of 5 to 10 years.

(It would be our conjecture that during this time frame denture relines would be required to maintain a satisfactory fit of the appliance, see next section.)

Section references - Schwass

c) Natural jawbone changes.

Another scenario that frequently takes place is one where due to normal natural processes, the patient's jawbone (shape, size) has changed enough (a process termed "remodeling") that the fit and dimensions of its denture (an object that still retains its original shape) are no longer suitable.

This is an expected change, although the rate at which it occurs will vary with each patient.

  • It may take place in just a few to several months if the person's teeth have recently been extracted.
  • In cases where the patient's teeth were extracted several years ago, a few years may elapse before substantial changes have occurred.

In either case, a reline or rebase procedure may be able to restore the denture to acceptable standards.

Extending the life span of a denture via relining or rebasing.

a) Denture relining.

Relining is the process that a dentist uses to resurface the "tissue side" (inside) of ill-fitting dentures. It can be used as a way of prolonging the life span of an appliance that is otherwise in acceptable condition.

There are two methods that can be used to reline a denture.

  • Chairside relines - With this technique the dentist performs all of the resurfacing work, start to finish, during their patient's scheduled appointment.
  • Laboratory relines - This is a two appointment process (with both possibly occurring during the same day) where an impression is taken in the patient's denture, which is then sent to a dental laboratory where it is resurfaced.

 

How long can a reline last?

a) Laboratory procedures.

The type of plastic placed via a laboratory process is somewhat similar to the kind used for initial denture construction.

And as such, it would be our conjecture that a laboratory reline should last for some years (in terms of resistance to deterioration, debonding from the denture, staining), although we couldn't find a reference to cite in regard to this matter.

b) Chairside procedures.

In comparison, the types of hard-setting plastics used with chairside processes are known to be less durable and stain resistant than their laboratory-placed counterparts.

  • Matsumura evaluated the performance of a chairside hard reline material and determined that in 90% of cases in which it was used, at one year it could still rated "clinically ideal."
  • Haywood compared the performance of 3 hard-setting chairside products at 3, 6 and 12 month intervals. At one-year evaluations (but not at the previous 3 and 6 month checks), some dentures showed "severe loss of reline materials."

Section references - Matsumura, Haywood

b) Denture rebasing.

A rebase is similar to a reline. But in this case a much greater portion of the denture's base (the plastic part that simulates gum tissue) is replaced (instead of just the denture's inner surface as with a reline).

Rebasing, in comparison to relining, offers a means by which an appliance's effective life span can be extended via the correction of a much wider range of deficiencies. This includes fit, vertical dimension (height of the teeth of the denture), facial appearance (lip support) and denture strength (entirely replacing areas where the denture had previously fractured).

Rebase longevity.

We couldn't find a reference that gave an estimate about how long a denture rebase might last. But as mentioned above, this is a laboratory process and as such the materials used should provide service fairly similar to a denture when new.

 
 
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