Hidden challenges of tooth loss and dentures revealed in new study

challenges of tooth loss and dentures
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A new study by researchers in the UK has highlighted the emotional struggles and hidden challenges patients experience when having dentures fitted. This is the first study to map out the patient journey and how this experience can affect the overall success of the treatment.

The study by researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Healthy Life Span Institute and the School of Clinical Dentistry—and published in the Journal of Dentistry—found that patients think about their denture journey in four stages:

  • Tooth Loss: This is the initial stage where patients experience the physical loss of teeth.
  • The Emotional Tunnel: This stage focuses on the emotional rollercoaster of tooth loss. Patients experience self-consciousness, depression, and struggle with dentures. They may feel shame, anger, or fear, but also hope.
  • Prosthetic Hope: This stage represents the hope and optimism patients feel when getting dentures. They might anticipate regaining their smile and ability to eat normally.
  • Prosthetic Compromise leading to managing disclosure: This final stage acknowledges that dentures take some getting used to. Patients might need to adjust their expectations and learn how to manage talking and eating with dentures. They might also develop strategies to feel comfortable disclosing their denture use to others.

These feelings and how dentists understand and manage them can influence the patient outcomes. A dentist’s empathy during this adjustment period is crucial for successful denture use and better patient outcomes.

The study also identified that wearing removable dentures can be a hidden disability for many. People with dentures feel they have to hide them due to feeling embarrassed or worrying they will fall out. Some patients also avoided social situations

“Tooth loss can be hugely traumatic and this study has uncovered just how challenging it is for people needing partial dentures,” lead researcher Professor Barry Gibson said. 

“Understanding the emotional difficulties identified in the study will help dentists to improve the care given to denture patients and lead to a more successful and better experience for everyone.”

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