We naturally develop 32 adult teeth in our mouths, but for most of us in the US, four of them are removed, often before they fully develop, leaving us with 28 functional teeth. But many dentures will try to give you fewer teeth than that, sometimes much fewer, rationalizing that they’ve met the minimum number of teeth for you.

woman in dental chair looking at her smile through a small mirror

What Is the Minimum Number of Teeth?

The answers to this question vary widely. Historically, when the US Army was considering the combat fitness of soldier for World War I, it decided that the recruits needed a minimum of 12 teeth. Obviously, that standard would never fly today, and the Army generally requires sound teeth of nearly all recruits because it recognizes that battlefield evacuations for dental problems are costly.

But in India, where tooth loss is more common, the army does have a strict policy about tooth loss. It requires its recruits to achieve 14 points of teeth, where each pair of opposing teeth is worth 2 points if it’s a pair of molars and 1 point if they’re anterior (front) teeth. So, for example, you could achieve the standard if you have four pairs of molars and six pairs of front teeth, or 20 teeth.

This 20-tooth minimum has also been discussed as a way to control costs for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), generally saying that the NHS should try to preserve the first molars, but let the second and third molars go.

And that’s what some dentures do. Some modern implant denture systems are designed to give you 20 functional teeth–all the front teeth and the first molar.

Is This Enough for You?

But is this 20-tooth minimum really enough for your mouth? It depends on how you smile and how much your facial appearance matters to you. First, it’s important to note that your smile may easily reveal 20 teeth fully and allow sight lines further into the back of your mouth. If your dentures don’t extend past the 20 front teeth, your mouth may look empty.

Not only that, but 20 teeth are not enough to really fill up your mouth. Without the remaining 8-12 teeth, which, incidentally, are the largest teeth in your mouth, your jaw will not be fully supported. Your face will tend to collapse inward, encouraging sunken lips and cheeks that will make you look much older.

Your teeth may also not be able to chew as effectively. Next time you’re eating, pay attention to where the food is in your mouth and which teeth are doing most of the chewing. If you still have them, chances are good it’s your back molars that bear the brunt of your chewing.

Don’t Settle for the Minimum

If you are being sold on dentures that are designed to give you the minimum functional number for your teeth, reconsider. Minimum function is another way of describing a life limited by dentures.

If you are looking for dentures that will help you live your life to the fullest, including being able to smile brightly, chew effectively, and speak clearly, then you’re looking for the Denture Fountain of Youth®.

Want to learn more about dentures that aim to restore your smile fully? Please contact a local Denture Fountain of Youth® dentist today.