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The Real Reasons I Love Making Fake Teeth

February 6, 2016
Posted By: Dr. Russell Schafer
Older woman holding phone | Dentures in Gretna LA

One thing that all patients with false teeth have in common with dentists is a conflicted relationship with dentures. For both groups, the first experiences with these glorified pieces of plastic are usually not very good. Many dental students curse having to make dentures much like many new denture wearers curse their first set initially. Some dentists are so turned off by dentures that they never make another set after dental school just as many people with plates put their dentures in the bathroom drawer rather than in their mouth. Most dentists and denture wearers accept dentures as a “necessary evil” in that dentures are required but difficult. Thankfully for most in this group, implants can make the denture experience great by literally and figuratively fixing the denture worn in the mouth. Finally, a small group of dentists and patients actually like the dentures. I'm one of those dentists in that minority.

Before I get further into this blog, I want to put a disclaimer in that while I think I make great dentures, I am certainly not the best. Being a younger dentist, I simply don't have the experience as some men and women who have been making dentures longer than I have been alive. Two whom I view as mentors are Dr. Joseph Massad and Dr. Wallace Van Nortwick. If I need a set of dentures, I would probably visit one of these two men. Now that being said, I hope to one day be as good as them, but I still have more to learn.
What initially drew me towards dentures was the service to the community. Most people who have lost many or all of their teeth have avoided the dentist and are embarrassed to smile. Many people seek out some dental clinics that have “affordable” options, and while some are happy, most are given a denture that doesn't feel good or looks fake. Sadly, many people who have lost all their teeth and can't wear their dentures are afraid to even go outside their house and are effectively isolated from society. I love working with people who have always hate their teeth and who have hated the dentist. I remember my first denture patient whom I wrote about in my first blog. Before we made her a denture, she was missing most of her teeth, and her few remaining front teeth were broken down from years of wear, tear, and neglect. Her dentist before me had refused to make her dentures. After I made her a new denture, she had told me that her husband thought she finally had the smile she deserved. She had wished that she had dentures made years before. As I mentioned in the previous blog post, most dentists are people-pleasers, and I am one of those. I love making my patients happy, and I enjoy it when they smile proudly.

Making denture patients happy though is not always easy as dentures can be a challenge which is another great aspect of focusing on dentures. Fabricating a set of dentures can be difficult as few patients have “ideal” mouths. Ideal mouths mean that there is plenty of bone supporting the gums to put the denture on, level gums to create an even thickness for the denture, and muscles that can readily adapt to a denture. I don't see many ideal mouths because generally teeth are lost over many years, meaning that the jaw bone may be irregular and the muscle has adjusted to eating on the remaining teeth. The technical issues of dealing with gum support, bite, and muscle coordination adds to the complexity. Also, patients have a wide range of expectations. Most people are happy if the denture looks good and is comfortable whereas others expect that a denture should look like a Hollywood smile and be able to chew through ice. Treating patients with high demands adds to the challenge and makes the work more fun.

To make a good set of dentures, the dentist and the patient must communicate well to each other as the main reason for denture problems is different expectations. Many dentists struggle with making dentures is that they don't spend enough time talking to patients, and many patients have difficulty with wearing dentures as they never talked enough to their dentist. I started NOLA Dentures and General Dentistry so that I can have a one on one relationship with each one of my patients. Developing a rapport with patients was the reason for my initial interest in dentistry when I was younger. I love meeting and talking to new people, and I want to work with each one of my patients individually to know them better and to figure out together what is the best treatment. Still, though, I'm not the dentist for every patient who needs a denture. I have watched great dentists make exceptional dentures, and the patient never liked the denture because they didn't like or trust the dentist. By the same token, I have met other patients who love their denture because they loved their dentist even though I think it looks mediocre. However, I am not criticizing the dentist who made what I considered a mediocre denture. The dentist had clearly listened to her patient and gave the patient exactly what he wanted. It is far more important for the patient to love the denture rather than the dentist who made it.

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Helping people be able to love smiling again is what I love about dentistry. Making dentures, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of dentistry because I am able to create a new smile for each of my patients. You will see me smiling often because I love the people I meet, the patients I treat, and the dentures I make. I am thankful for the path that I've chosen, and I'm fortunate enough to work in a profession with so many options. I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.


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