Dentures are replacements for missing teeth. Complete dentures replace all teeth and removable partial dentures replace some teeth.
By matching each individual’s unique smile and bite, dentures can improve facial appearance and self-confidence. Dentures may also improve speech problems caused by missing teeth and will improve chewing.
For patients missing several teeth, but not all of their teeth, a removable partial denture may be recommended. This type of denture uses the remaining teeth to hold or anchor the removable bridge in place. There are many different types and designs for removable partial dentures.
How do Dentures Work?
With full dentures, a flesh-colored acrylic base fits over your gums. The base of the upper denture covers the palate (the roof of your mouth), while that of the lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate your tongue.
Dentures are custom-made in a dental laboratory from impressions taken of your mouth. Your dentist will determine which of the three types of dentures described below is best for you.
Types of dentures
Traditional complete full dentures
Complete dentures replace all of a patient’s teeth. They sit on top of the gums, as opposed to dental bridges that are anchored to existing teeth. Complete dentures are typically placed within 8-12 weeks after the teeth have been removed/extracted.
Partial dentures are used when a patient still has some of his or her natural teeth, such as when one or more teeth remain in the upper and lower jaw. There is a pink-colored base that is attached to a metal piece. These two pieces hold the denture in the mouth.
They are convenient and removable, which means you can take them out whenever you need to. Partials help to prevent the other teeth from moving, and are made from all-acrylic or acrylic material.
Custom dentures are made of more expensive teeth, which results in a more natural-looking smile. You can actually see the new denture before it is completed. The denture is customized for your smile so it is natural looking and suits your needs.
An immediate full denture is inserted immediately after the remaining teeth are removed. (Your dentist takes measurements and makes models of your jaw during a prior visit.) While immediate dentures offer the benefit of never having to be without your teeth, they must be relined several months after being inserted. The reason is that the bone supporting the teeth reshapes as it heals, causing the denture to become loose.
Implant supported dentures
With implant supported dentures, a dental implant is used to securely support the denture. The denture provides a great amount of support for a solid foundation, which allows the denture to stay securely in place. The dental implant also looks natural and will last long, too.
Snap-in dentures are the most effective choice when it comes to stability. They are held securely in place with the help of dental implants or anchors onto the existing teeth.
What makes them unique is the locator attachments embedded within the tissue side of the denture. The locator attachments snap onto the implants or onto the locator receptors. This means they are convenient and removable (like partial dentures).
Snap-in dentures are usually used when a patient doesn’t have any teeth, but still enough bone to support an implant.
An overdenture sits on top of the gums and is held in place with dental implants. It can be placed on the upper and/or the lower jaw, depending on the patient’s needs. The overdenture is also removable.
Upper dentures are just that—dentures for the upper teeth. If you are missing teeth in the upper jaw, upper dentures may be the best solution for you.
Economy dentures are sometimes the most cost effective type of denture. They are a generic denture, which means they don’t fit securely or comfortably in the mouth, and they look fake. Therefore, denture adhesive is needed for a more secure fit.
How Long Before I Get Used to My Dentures?
New dentures may feel awkward or uncomfortable for the first few weeks or even months. Eating and speaking with dentures might take a little practice. A bulky or loose feeling is not uncommon, while the muscles of your cheeks and tongue learn to hold your dentures in place. Excessive saliva flow, a feeling that the tongue does not have adequate room, and minor irritation or soreness are also not unusual. If you experience irritation, see your dentist.
How Long do Dentures Last?
Over a period of time, your denture will need to be relined, remade, or rebased due to normal wear. Rebasing means making a new base while keeping the existing denture teeth. Also, as you age, your mouth naturally changes. These changes cause your dentures to loosen, making chewing difficult and irritating your gums. At a minimum, you should see your dentist annually for a checkup.
Proper denture care is important for both the health of your dentures and mouth. Here are some tips on handling and cleaning that will help.
Stand over a folded towel or a full sink of water to help avoid damaging your dentures if dropped.
Dentures must be brushed daily to remove food and plaque and to help prevent permanent stains. Use a soft bristled brush specifically made for cleaning dentures. Don’t use a hard-bristled brush; it can damage dentures. Gently brush all surfaces. Be careful not to damage the plastic or bend attachments. Rinse your denture after every meal. Although you can use an ultrasonic cleaner, daily brushing is still a must. (Ultrasonic cleaners are devices that use sound wave to dislodge food and other deposits from dentures while they sit in a tiny tub of cleaning solution.)
Use hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid to clean your dentures. Toothpastes and household cleansers are too rough on dentures. Do not use bleach to clean your denture. It can whiten the pink portion of the denture. When not worn, dentures should be placed in water. This keeps them moist, which helps keep them from losing their shape. Your dentist can recommend the best methods for caring for your particular denture. Dentures should never be placed in hot water, as it can cause them to warp.
Never attempt to repair or adjust your dentures yourself. Bending any part of the clasp or metal attachments can weaken the metal. Don’t buy over-the-counter repair kits or glues either. These can cause permanent damage to your dentures and glues may not be safe. Wait. You will be seen by your dentist or prosthodontist (a dentist who specializes in the restoration and replacement of teeth) soon after receiving your dentures. If you think you need to be seen before your scheduled appointment, call your dentist.
- Don’t let your dentures dry out. Place them in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in plain water when you’re not wearing them. Never use hot water, which can cause them to warp.
- Brush your gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert your dentures. This stimulates circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.
How to Clean Dentures
Remove and rinse dentures after meals. If you can’t always clean your dentures after every meal, be sure to rinse and brush them at least once a day with a denture cleanser, mild dish soap or liquid hand soap to remove plaque, food, and other particles.
If you use a denture adhesive, clean any leftover adhesive off of your gums. Don’t use a denture cleanser to do this. Brush your natural teeth and clean your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth. Soak dentures in the solution overnight. Your dentist and your brand of the solution may have their own recommendations, so follow instructions.
Some things you should never use to clean dentures include:
- Abrasive cleaning items. Stiff-bristled brushes and harsh cleansers and toothpaste are way too abrasive and can seriously damage dentures.
- Whitening toothpaste. Toothpaste with whitening properties can be really abrasive. Don’t use them to clean dentures.
- Products with bleach. Bleach weakens dentures and changes their color. Solutions that contain can also tarnish the metal fixtures in dentures with metal attachments.
- Hot water. In addition to sterilizing your dentures, hot water could warp them.
Frequently asked questions
What if I feel that my dentures aren’t fitting right?
Dentures that don’t fit properly can cause irritation and sores in your mouth or on your gums. Call your dentist immediately if your denture breaks, cracks, chips or if one of the teeth becomes loose.
Will my dentures need to be replaced?
Because of the wear-and-tear on dentures over time plus natural age-related changes to your face, mouth, jaw bones and gums, your dentures will need to be relined, rebased or remade. Any of these types of fixes will also need to be made if dentures become loose. To reline or rebase a denture, the dentist or prosthodontist refits the denture base or makes a new denture base and reuses the existing teeth. Generally, complete dentures can be worn for 5 to 7 years before replacing them.
If I properly clean my dentures, what else should I do to maintain excellent oral hygiene?
Whether you have full or partial dentures, you should use a soft-bristled brush and brush your gums, tongue and palate (roof of your mouth) every morning before you put in your dentures. This removes plaque and stimulates circulation in the mouth. Be sure to clean the teeth that fit under the partial denture’s metal clasps. Plaque that becomes trapped under the clasps will increase the risk of tooth decay. If you wear a partial denture, remove it before you brush your natural teeth. Clean, rest, and massage the gums regularly. Rinsing your mouth daily with lukewarm salt water will help clean your gums. Never sleep with your dentures in place. Eat a balanced diet so to help keep your body healthy, which will help keep your mouth healthy too.
How often should I see my dentist?
Every 6 months is the standard routine unless otherwise told by your dentist. Regular dental visits are important so that your denture and mouth can be examined for proper denture fit, to look for signs of oral diseases including cancer, and to have your teeth professionally cleaned.