Dentures are just one option for replacing missing teeth; some of the others include fixed bridgework and dental implants. Each method has its particular pluses and minuses, which should be carefully considered. There are also several varieties of dentures available to address specific issues. The best option for you will depend on your individual situation.
How Do Removable Dentures Work?
Complete or partial dentures consist of a gum-colored base made of plastic resin, which fits over the alveolar (bone) ridge that formerly held the teeth. The prosthetic teeth set in the base are designed to look and function like your natural teeth. Dentures are held in place primarily by the suctioning effect against the bone and gums they sit on, that's why it's so important that they are fitted properly. This is also why some dentures may need to be refitted, or relined, as the gums and underlying bone change over time. Upper dentures are typically more stable than lower dentures because theyget extra support from the large surface area of the roof of the mouth (palate), which gives it more stability.
At first, wearing dentures may require some getting used to in terms of talking and eating as the dentures become “balanced” in the space formerly occupied by the teeth. Over time, the muscles, nerves and ligaments of the mouth learn to work in new ways, to accommodate new function patterns. Aside from giving you back your smile and chewing function, dentures also help support the facial skeleton and the soft tissues of the lips and cheeks, which can create a more youthful appearance.
Types of Full Dentures
Conventional Full (Complete) Dentures: Permanent complete dentures can be made once gum and bone tissues are stable. Using a series of highly specific impressions, the inside of these dentures can be made to fit your mouth exactly. Facial measurements, speech, and chewing habits will be factored into the placement of teeth and flanges of the base to bring back the natural appearance and function of your teeth.
Implant-Supported Over-dentures: To increase the stability of a lower or upper denture, it's possible for it to be anchored to dental implants. This involves having the denture clip or snap onto two or more implant locator abutments. Locator abutments are small housing units that attach to the implants and allow over-dentures to snap into place for functional stability, but still remain removable. The upper jaw usually requires more implants (generally three or more) than the lower jaw due to a lesser bone density. Many people find that implant supported over-dentures offer a great balance of comfort, functionality and value.
Types of Partial Dentures
Transitional/All Acrylic Partial Dentures: These relatively inexpensive removable plastic dentures serve as a temporary tooth replacement and space maintainer as you wait for your mouth to heal from tooth extraction before a more permanent replacement is made. Once the healing process is complete, dental implants, bridgework, or removable partial dentures can be placed.
Removable/Cast Metal Partial Dentures (RPDs): Usually made of cast vitallium, these well-constructed, metal-based removable partial dentures are much lighter and less obtrusive than those made of plastic. They are a little more expensive than plastic dentures but will fit better. They are, however, much less expensive than implants or fixed bridgework. Both types of partial dentures utilize a combination of clasps and suction retention to stay in place while speaking and chewing.
How are dentures are made and fitted?
Making quality dentures is a blend of science and art. First, an accurate impression (mold) is made of the alveolar ridges on the top and bottom of your mouth. The base of the denture is made from this mold in a dental laboratory. Working together, the dentist and lab technician choose prosthetic teeth to re-create a natural-looking smile specifically for you. Aside from the aesthetics, your dentist must make sure the teeth are aligned properly to enable proper speech and eating. This involves creating a balanced bite so the upper and lower dentures (or teeth) come together and properly stabilize each other. The form and function of the dentures are carefully checked to ensure that they are working and fitting properly. These rules still apply if they are opposing natural teeth on one arch.
What should I expect after I get dentures?
There are several adjustments and expectations to be aware of after receiving a new denture. If you've recently lost your teeth and received an immediate denture, it's normal to find that it doesn’t fit as well as the extraction sites heal. Tissue shrinkage and bone loss is normal after teeth are removed. If the tissue is not fully healed yet, it’s possible to have the immediate denture relined before you are ready for the complete denture. For a reline, new material is added under the dentures base to conform to the new contours of the alveolar ridge. This will still only be a temporary fix until the tissue is completely done healing.
After the first few days or weeks of wearing a new denture, you may develop sore spots on the gums under or around the denture. This is common and your dentist will usually have one or more follow up visits shortly after delivering your new denture to check for areas like these. However, it is important to communicate with your doctor if any new sore spots develop so they can remedy them as soon as possible.
Once you have a complete denture made, it's important to realize that it will never function exactly like natural teeth. Traditional dentures can give you back a natural looking smile and can restore up to 60% of chewing function (or more for implant supported dentures), but everyone is different and some people may require more adjustments than others. Your dentist can discuss all options with you to help get the best fit and function for your mouth.
How to care for your denture
It is essential to continue to clean and care for your denture as you would your natural teeth. Dentures should be removed at night, thoroughly cleaned with a brush and denture paste, and soaked in water or a denture cleaning solution overnight. It is important to let the tissue underneath dentures breathe at night and to make sure food and bacteria aren’t stuck under them for long periods of time. Even if you no longer have teeth, it's still necessary to see your dentist and hygienist for routine visits to make sure you aren’t developing any infections. If you notice you are getting build up or staining on your dentures, your hygienist may also be able to help you clean them and give you advice on how to keep them that way.