There was a time, not too long ago, when dental prosthetics meant dentures or bridges, the prosthetic teeth themselves were always made of porcelain, and dental acrylics were not the essential part of a clinic’s dental supplies that they are today. Going back even further, it was common to use ivory or horse and donkey teeth when fabricating dentures. Despite the common myth, however, George Washington never owned a set of wooden teeth, a rumor likely based in the fact that Washington’s dentist’s name was John Greenwood, and his products were sometimes referred to as Greenwood teeth.
In any case, the use of porcelain (sometimes called dental ceramic) has been popular for some time, since the material, being quite hard, is both durable and resistant to staining. The primary downside to porcelain – at least from the wearer’s point of view – is that, being exceptionally hard, it is also quite brittle. This is especially problematic due to its tendency to crack under pressure, as well as the extreme wear that the material can cause to opposing natural teeth. Furthermore, porcelain prosthetics and veneers can be somewhat more expensive than acrylics, which is understandable, since the process involves sculpting the prostheses from a special clay, then firing the impression in a specialized kiln at 1,400o Fahrenheit (and, as even the most skilled potter can attest, in-kiln failures are a fact of life). Dental acrylics, however, allow the technician to create the prosthesis using a quick-curing powder/resin mix to fill the impressions taken; there’s no waiting for a lengthy cure time or the availability of a kiln.
With the advent of and continual improvement to dental acrylic materials, not to mention the widespread availability of associated dental supplies, dental acrylics have become the de-facto standard for most clinics. Where the fabrication of porcelain dental prostheses had previously involved several visits to the dentist, the availability of dental acrylics made it possible for a functional and attractive replacement tooth or veneer to be available to the patient on the first or second appointment, separated by a day or so, rather than the week (or weeks) it had previously taken.
While the additional hardness of porcelain does provide for potentially longer wear than is possible with dental acrylics, the increased brittleness can result in the cracking and wear-related problems noted above, resulting in significantly higher repair cost and time than experienced when using wholesale dental supplies acrylics. And given consumers’ passionate embrace of economical solutions – not to mention their desire for instant results – dental acrylics have seen their popularity steadily increase over the years. Obviously, one result of this increased popularity has been a boom in the availability of acrylic-related dental supplies (and dental supply providers). There has even been a surge in the market for non-prosthetic dental acrylics, used to create whimsical cosmetic dental devices such as the false “fangs” popularized by the segment of the population currently interested in (some might say obsessed with) vampires and other “Goth” characters.
Although such uses by no means represent the mainstream or even a significant portion of the total consumption of dental supplies, they do demonstrate the simplicity of use that dental acrylics provide. And with the ongoing efforts to improve the characteristics of dental acrylic materials, such nonessential applications could well become even more widespread, to the point where it becomes no more difficult to fashion cosmetic dental devices than it is to apply make-up. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, it will even be quite feasible and affordable to modify one’s smile for a special event, and immediately revert back to whatever is “normal” when the event is over. The possibilities are exciting, and the benefits to individuals seeking dental prosthetics are obvious.