Using the technology that has for many years been used to make inexpensive mouthguards for sports, a retired California dentist has come up with a way to make inexpensive dentures for lower-income individuals who may have thought that dentures were out of reach. The dentures are inexpensive enough that they are ideal for charities, who have distributed many of them.

senior woman standing in front of window smilingMeeting a Genuine Need

Lower-income people are much more likely to need dentures that upper-income people. In the 65-74 age bracket, more than a third (33%) of people living below the poverty level had no teeth. Above the poverty level, only 13% of people in the same age bracket are completely without teeth.

But because of the cost of traditional dentures, many lower-income people live without dentures, which in turn leads to problems of malnutrition and other diet-related difficulties. They may also have problems with depression because they feel very uncomfortable with their toothless state.

A Quick Solution

Dr. Lawrence Wallace began looking for a solution after back problems forced him to retire. He was troubled by the psychological impact that losing one’s teeth had, and that replacement options were so far out of reach for so many people. It occurred to him that the basic impression procedure from mouthguards could also be used in dentures.

Prefabricated dentures in five sizes have a trough of thermoplastic in the back. When the dentures are put into boiling water, this thermoplastic softens. Then the patient bites down into the thermoplastic, creating an impression of their jawbone where the denture is supposed to rest. The procedure takes just a few minutes and can be completed in a single visit. There is a small amount of additional customization that can be performed, but it’s very little in comparison to traditional dentures.

Cheap Dentures Come at a Price

There are no shortage of ways that dentures can be made cheaper and faster, and for some people that’s the right approach. It’s certainly better to have a denture than to not have one. But when it comes to dentures, investing in higher-quality and better fitting dentures will lead to improvements in everything from speech to chewing to appearance.

One issue that boil-and-bite denture wearers are almost certain to encounter is denture pain. Without proper measures to ensure proper occlusion, patients will suffer from sore spots where the pressure of the bite is unevenly distributed. This uneven pressure can also contribute to bone loss in the jaw, which can make denture wearers look older than they are.

These are issues that surface with traditional dentures made by dentists who have a clinical understanding of occlusion. It’s reasonable to assume that dentures made at home will have these problems and more, and there are many questions about these new dentures. We don’t yet know how well the dentures retain their fit, how well they wear, or other variables, but this procedure offers an accessible option for people who cannot afford traditional dentures.