Recent surveys have suggested that as many as 15 per cent of those visiting dental practices in England have either partial or complete dentures, with that number expected to increase significantly over the coming years.

However, while dentures are individually moulded and fitted, there has been little research into how wearing them affects the lining of patients’ mouths.

To address this, experts from the University of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School plan to create 3D models of the oral mucosa – the tissue similar to skin which lines the inside of the mouth, including the inside of cheeks and lips.

The model consists of two different cell types, both found in the skin and other oral tissues, with previous research having established ways to create this in the lab.

Doing this will allow the researchers to carry out detailed and repeated analyses of how tissue responds to the repeated physical pressure associated with functional dentures.

They will be able to identify whether additional measures might need to be put in place to improve the long-term experiences of denture wearers or use the model to test novel denture adhesives.

The 18-month study is being led by Simon Whawell, professor of integrated oral sciences; Dr Zoe Brookes, associate professor of dental education and research; and Dr Vehid Salih, associate professor in oral and dental health research.

Simon, the project’s principal investigator, said, “Dentures can obviously have a hugely positive impact on people who lose teeth or need to have them removed as a result of disease or trauma. However, the impact of wearing dentures on the inside of people’s mouths hasn’t been extensively tested. By creating models in the lab, we can accurately mimic the physical effects of dentures – and the adhesives used with them – to understand this process more clearly. With an ageing population and more people likely to need dentures in the future, it is a critical piece of work with the potential to benefit patients, dentists and the companies involved in creating these dentures.”

The research is being performed in collaboration with world-leading consumer health company Haleon, which is contributing to the funding of the study. It is the first in a series of planned projects between the company and the university.

Dr Anousheh Alavi, global medical affairs director for oral health at Haleon, added, “It is important to remember our duty of care continues beyond the provision of bespoke dentures for our patients. Carrying out further research on the impact of dentures on the tissues that support them is essential for optimising their function and comfort. We should also help maintain the oral health of patients who have experienced tooth loss. It is a privilege to be part of this exciting research and I look forward to seeing how the findings pave the way for further research.”