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Laura Dorr is the executive editor of DPR's Modern Dental Network.
Recent research out of the University of Adelaide in Australia is challenging the belief that people with tooth loss actually need dentures.
Conducted by the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) in the University's School of Dentistry, the study examined whether people with tooth loss found their quality of life compromised by having missing teeth. 2,750 patients aged 15 years and up participated in the study. To be eligible, participants needed to have intact anterior teeth.
The research showed that quality of life was not interfered with for the study participants, provided they still had a certain number and type of teeth left. These patients, considered to have “shortened dental arches,” still maintained functional use of many teeth. The study found that there was a cutting-off point where tooth loss did become detrimental to quality of life, but only patients that reach that point are in need of dentures.
The findings have big implications for dental healthcare costs for patients, as well as public dental health resources. Professor Marco Peres, a co-author of the study, said in a recent media release, “For the public health sector, this work raises the question of how to allocate resources, especially if many people are currently receiving dentures or other corrective procedures when they may not need to do so. These resources could instead be allocated to the prevention of further tooth loss, diagnostic services and follow up for the patient, rather than prosthetic procedures.”
Researchers now believe that as many as 434,000 Australians who, under current thinking, would be said to need dentures at some point in their lives, may not actually need them.
Lead author Dr. Haiping Tan summed up the research, saying, “For years, it has been taken for granted that if people experience tooth loss, they will need dentures, bridges, implants or other corrective processes to replace the missing teeth. "What we've found is that it really depends on the position of the teeth that have been lost, as well as the number."
The study, "Do people with shortened dental arches have worst oral health-related quality of life than those with more natural teeth? A population-based study," is published in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.