Managing expectations of patients with dentures


For immediate release: Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Managing patient expectations is the key to successful treatment when dealing with dentures, says UK-wide dental defence organisation MDDUS.

It is often said that dentures are not an alternative to having natural teeth. Instead, they are an alternative to having no teeth.

As MDDUS dental adviser Doug Hamilton explains: “this well-worn advice reflects the fact that dentures – especially complete dentures – are normally provided when all else fails.

“Many patients will appreciate that there are bound to be limitations in terms of retention, function and aesthetics once the natural dentition is lost.”

Unfortunately, some patients will have expectations which are less realistic. “In these cases, there is significant scope for disappointment and conflict,” adds Hamilton. “Therefore, before treatment commences, there must be a comprehensive consenting process, including explanation of what is actually achievable.

“Practitioners who take the time to effectively communicate these points in the first instance will generally encounter fewer problems later on. The use of visual aids such as diagrams, together with accessible written advice upon which patients can reflect at their leisure, is often very useful and is strongly recommended by the GDC.

“Any treatment choices, such as materials or designs, should also be explained and then documented along with the patient’s response. It is increasingly likely that the range of options will include implants as an alternative or an adjunct to a denture.

“If available in-house, this would necessitate a separate, detailed discussion, which would usually be followed up with a document for the patient’s signature.

“This conversation may also involve consideration of NHS versus private standard dentures. NHS practitioners must be careful to avoid breach of their terms of service which, amongst many other things, do not allow patients to be misled regarding the quality or availability of NHS treatment.

“If, having been accurately advised, the patient selects private treatment, this must be recorded and signed for on a form GP17DC or equivalent.”

Regardless of the quality of treatment, consenting and management of expectations, there will inevitably be patients who are disappointed with the outcome.

“It is critical that any such expressions of dissatisfaction are dealt with professionally and in accordance with NHS (where appropriate) and GDC requirements,” says Hamilton.

“It might be suggested that these difficulties are more likely where patients of advanced years present with old dentures which are worn out and need replaced. Introducing new prostheses at this stage can be a thankless task and, in some instances, the best treatment is no treatment.

“However, when a replacement is unavoidable, it is important to remember that new dentures will present enormous challenges, especially for the older wearer. Patience and empathy must therefore be the prevailing approach.”


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK. For further information on MDDUS go to

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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