The study, based on data of more than 2,700 people, was conducted by the university's Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) in the School of Dentistry and is to be published in a future issue of the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.
The study authors stated that these patients with tooth loss are considered to have "shortened dental arches," which enables them to maintain functional use of many teeth. The researchers say there is a cutting off point at which tooth loss interferes with quality of life, but patients only need dentures when they reach that cutting off point.
Almost half a million Australians who currently would be considered for dentures at some stage in their lives may not really need them, they noted.
"For years it has been taken for granted that if people experience tooth loss, they will need dentures, bridges, implants, or other corrective processes to replace the missing teeth," lead study author Dr. Haiping Tan stated in a university press release.
"What we've found is that it really depends on the position of the teeth that have been lost, as well as the number," she continued. "Most people have 28 adult teeth, plus the four wisdom teeth, but it is possible to have significantly less teeth as long as people have them in the right positions and in the right numbers."
The right balance of biting and cutting teeth at the front of the mouth and enough chewing teeth at the back can make a real difference to people's dental function, she noted.
Study co-author Dr. Marco Peres, PhD, a professor at the university's School of Dentistry, said the findings are significant both for patients and the dental health system.
"For the public health sector, this work raises the question of how to allocate resources, especially if many people are currently receiving dentures or other corrective procedures when they may not need to do so," Dr. Peres stated in the release. "These resources could instead be allocated to the prevention of further tooth loss, diagnostic services, and follow up for the patient, rather than prosthetic procedures,."
The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
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