A Belgo-German partnership, supported by the European CRAFT programme, has come up with an ingenious system for securing dentures. Reliable, inexpensive, and so comfortable the wearer forgets it is even there.
For the vast majority of elderly people,
dentures are a way of life. There are various systems for holding
them in place: simple gluing, the expensive and more sophisticated
implant method, or the traditional, spring-based method. It was
this last method which gave André Vander Kerken the idea
for a particularly reliable prosthesis stabiliser.
A hinged system
Vander Kerken, a dental technician from the Antwerp region of Belgium, has devised a simple yet ingenious device which can be adjusted to fit each patient. The system, which is hinged rather like the jaws themselves, comprises two parts - one for each side of the dentures - each consisting of an upper and lower arm connected by a spring-loaded hinge, and screwed to the upper and lower dentures. The whole device rests on the jaw.
The lever effect keeps the lower dentures perfectly secure and there's no risk of foreign bodies getting in between the jaw and the dentures. Also, the fixing screws have sufficient play to enable lateral movements to be made without any trouble whatsoever.
With its ultra-slim design, this stabiliser is so comfortable that the wearer soon forgets it is even there. It is also completely invisible.
From plastic to steel
André Vander Kerken realised that the product, which was originally made from plastic, would find a bigger market, and would gain in terms of quality, if it were made from stainless steel. "I visited numerous firms in southern Germany who were likely to be interested in this project," he explains. "That's how I met Mr. Bader, of the company Sträb, in 1993. It was his idea to apply for a grant from the European Commission in order to complete the research."
The development of these dentures - now christened Affix - was assisted by the CRAFT research programme. Specially designed for SMEs, this programme provides one-off grants to help firms complete a particular product. The partnership was short-lived - just four months - but effective.
"This European dimension is a guarantee of reliability for our customers. Also, it helps us to disseminate the result worldwide," concludes André Vander Kerken. A process which appears to be well under way. The stabiliser is now on sale in Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. It also won the gold medal for the best invention in the field of biomedicine at the 23rd Salon des Inventions in Geneva, in 1995.