Lawrence N. Wallace, DDS

Disclosures

November 10, 2011

Inventing the One-Hour Denture

As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in private practice, I have removed thousands of teeth, many for the placement of dentures. I saw first-hand the emotional, physical, and financial devastation that occurred when people lost their teeth. Loss of one's teeth represents loss of youth, vitality, beauty, and longevity. Now that I am no longer in practice, I feel the need to address these issues and give back to the profession that I enjoyed for so many years. To that end, I have developed an alternative method for fabricating dentures in a single visit, in about an hour, and at a much lower cost to the patient than conventional dentures.

The Edentulous Population

Currently, more than 33 million people in the United States are edentulous.[1] Half of these individuals wear dentures that should have been replaced years ago, 10% wear no dentures at all, and 40% will need their dentures replaced in the next 5 years. In the United States, almost 50% of denture wearers are under the age of 65 years.[1] The need for dentures, despite advances in prevention, will not decline anytime soon.

The major barriers to dentures, and to all dental care, are access and cost.[2] The average cost of a complete new set of dentures is now beyond the means of millions who are on fixed incomes, uninsured, or unemployed. Geographic limitations, which affect nursing home residents, rural residents in towns without dentists, and those without transportation, are also factors in whether an individual is able to get, or replace, dentures.

The edentulous population is a large potential market for dental practices in spite of the barriers listed above. Dental spending in the United States is currently at $102.4 billion per year, with about $7-$8 billion spent on full dentures.[3] With dental spending expected to increase to more than $167 billion by 2020, dentures will account for $12 billion of the projected expenditures. Because typical dental practice production may be lower as a result of the current economic conditions, providing full dentures can increase patient visits, production, and income for dental practices while providing a service to a large underserved market.[2]

The importance of dentures for edentulous persons is significant. Having teeth immediately leads to better nutrition, which can reduce susceptibility to chronic diseases, including gastrointestinal[4] and cardiovascular disease, with resulting lower overall healthcare costs. Research has shown that having teeth also leads to an increased self-esteem and better quality of life.[5]

Underserved Markets in Dental Healthcare

In addition to the general population, there is a significant population that also needs dentures in geographic locations where poverty, lack of employment, and other socioeconomic limiting conditions occur. For example, in parts of Appalachia, dental care access is minimal. There, many people choose to have their teeth removed rather than restore chronic and acute dental problems and have no resources to address them. To have all teeth removed is a decision of necessity, not choice, for low-income persons.

Among philanthropic organizations that offer dental care to this underserved market, 2 key organizations are the Mission of Mercy and Remote Area Medical. These programs typically offer 2 days of free dental care provided by volunteer dentists and hygienists for 1500-2500 patients. Although these clinics can relieve many acute dental problems, patients may be left with pain-free but edentulous mouths. Fabricating dentures in these clinics is not feasible from a standpoint of either time or cost.

The Larell One Step Denture (Larell One Step Denture,pat.pending Lang Dental, Wheeling, Illinois) targets this population, as well as the general population, by altering the paradigm of how dentures are made. The ability to completely fabricate a full set of dentures from start to finish in 1 hour can change lives while improving health of the edentulous population. In a weekend 2-day clinic, with only 2 or 3 volunteer dentists, an average of 100 sets of dentures can be fabricated.

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