Over their extraordinary history, dentures have been made of many different materials. George Washington's dentures, for example, though never made out of wood, were made of bone, ivory, human teeth, and many other materials at different points in his life. And then there was the invention of vulcanized dentures, which were so powerful (and profitable) that men killed for them. For a little while, the US military worked on developing aluminum dentures for soldiers.

But for nearly 80 years we’ve been using the same denture material, a rigid plastic known as polymethylmethacrylate, or PMMA. However, some people believe that the future of dentures is a flexible new material.

Benefits of PMMA

dreamstime_xs_30639429PMMA was first applied to dentures in about 1936-38 (historians give different dates, and there’s not enough documentation to pin down one or the other), and in a very short time–by about 1940–it became the denture material of choice.

PMMA’s rapid adoption was for many good reasons. PMMA has the benefit that it can be used for both the gum-colored base and the tooth-colored teeth. It even has good aesthetic qualities for the teeth because of its translucency. And PMMA is highly color stable, meaning that with proper care (such as not using homemade bleach-based rinses) your dentures can look good for many years.

It has many functional benefits, too. PMMA can be made to accurately match the impressions that have been made of a patient’s mouth. It’s highly durable material, and it can be repaired if broken. And because the base and teeth are of the same material, the teeth can be tightly bonded to the base, making them highly stable.

But PMMA isn’t perfect. Although durable, it’s brittle. Which means that if dropped it can break. This is especially a problem for people with arthritis. And some people find that PMMA contributes to gum irritation from dentures. And the rigidity of PMMA makes it vulnerable to differential bite forces or a rocking fit, which can lead to breakage.

Although these are relatively minor problems, denture dentists are perfectionists, and they want to make sure every patient gets the best possible result, so they are considering even better candidates for denture material.

Old Poly, Meet New Poly

Polyamide-12 is the material many researchers think has what it takes to replace PMMA. It’s a flexible nylon derivative that has many benefits compared to PMMA.

First, flexibility helps a lot. It makes the denture less brittle, which means it’s less likely to break when you drop it or fracture when you bring down unbalanced bite forces.

Results are still early for this material, but they are promising. In one trial, 100% of patients said they like the polyamide-12 better than their old dentures. Of course, in this study, patients were chosen specifically because they didn’t like their old dentures. As a result, we already know that many patients will benefit from this material.

So far, we have identified only one real drawback to the polyamide-12 material–it’s prone to staining by coffee and red wine. If these dentures are going to hit the big time, this problem needs to be resolved.

If you are looking for the most advanced dentures available, we can help. Please contact a local FOY® Dentures dentist today for an appointment.