Although we develop 32 teeth naturally, these days we don’t need them all. After all, most of us have four of them–our wisdom teeth–removed before they even come in. So 28 teeth, is that the number we need? Or can we get by with fewer?

And do we want a denture that’s designed just to meet the minimum necessary?

Mature couple laugh on the beach

Functional Minimum

In the past, trying to answer this question, the US Army came up with its standard answer: 12. As long as these teeth were opposed to each other, creating a minimum of 6 pairs of occlusion, which could include dentures. The modern US Army has more vague language, generally requiring more sound teeth than in the past.

The Indian Army, where tooth loss is more common among recruits, uses a 14 point minimum, where each pair of molars accounts for 2 points and each pair of front teeth accounts for 1 point. So, for example, four pairs of molars would account for 8 points, with six pairs of anterior teeth accounting for 6 points, or a total of 20 teeth. This set of 20 teeth is similar to a requirement that has been discussed in Britain in an attempt to control costs of dental care in the National Health Service (NHS).

There are many dentures that shoot for this functional minimum. It is especially true of implant dentures that advertise reduced cost. Having fewer teeth lets them offer dentures at a lower price. That’s because fewer teeth require fewer dental implants to make them stable and functional. Decreasing the number of dental implants can dramatically reduce the cost of implant dentures.

Cosmetic Minimum

Another aspect to consider is the cosmetic role of teeth. In order to know the cosmetic minimum number of teeth required for your denture, consider your smile. Most of us show at least the front 12 teeth, though not always the lower teeth, and showing 20 teeth when we smile is probably the most common tooth display.

Many dentures, especially economy dentures/economy-dentures/’}}}}, take this as what they need to present cosmetically. For further back teeth, there are chewing surfaces, but they’re not designed to look like teeth–they’re very unaesthetic.

No one will notice these if you don’t open your mouth wide when talking, eating, or laughing, and for many people, that’s okay. But given that these economy dentures often come out of your mouth, it might make sense to try to get more attractive dentures just in case.

Facial Fullness

But we also have to consider the role your teeth play in supporting your facial appearance. Teeth are part of the hard structure that underlies the soft tissue like cheeks, muscles, and skin. If your dentures don’t have a full set of teeth, your face can gain a sunken appearance. This gets even worse because the body begins to remove bone under the dentures, and with fewer teeth, the bite forces are distributed poorly in the mouth, which can speed bone loss.

At Smile Columbia Dentistry, we work hard to ensure that your dentures are fully functional and support a positive appearance, whether you’re smiling, laughing, or just resting. That’s why we use FOY® Dentures, which are designed using neuromuscular dentistry to completely fill your mouth as it was when you were younger, which helps restore a more youthful appearance.

There’s another aspect to ensuring your dentures have enough teeth: providing support for a healthy bite. With fewer teeth in your dentures, it’s more likely that these dentures won’t provide proper support for your bite. This can lead to an imbalanced bite or a tendency for your bite to become imbalanced. This can contribute to the development of jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD). When we are crafting your dentures, we will use neuromuscular dentistry to analyze your bite and make sure your dentures support a healthy jaw position.

If you looking for fully functional and highly attractive dentures, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC denture dentist.