Full or partial tooth loss left untreated can affect a person's self-image and self-esteem, while increasing the risk of developing nutritional and systemic health problems. Fortunately, dentures are an option to replace missing teeth, along with fixed bridgework and dental implants. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, all of which should be carefully considered.
What are dentures?
Full and partial dentures consist of a gum-colored base made of plastic resin, which comforms to and fits over the remaining alveolar (bone) ridge that formerly held the teeth. The teeth attached to the denture base are designed to look and function like your natural teeth. Dentures are primarily held in place by the suction effect of their close fit against the alveolar ridges. The upper denture gets extra support from the large surface area of the roof of the mouth (palate), which increases its stability.
What types of dentures exist?
There are three main types of full dentures:
1) Immediate Dentures: In the event that you are missing all of your back teeth and will need front teeth removed (extracted), these dentures can be made in advance. On the day of removal, they can be placed immediately following the procedure and are a temporary means of helping you transition to denture wearing. Due to the natural shrinkage of the gums, they will not fit as well as permanent dentures that are made after healing is complete. They do, however, provide you with new teeth right away for esthetic and functional purposes while allowing you time to adjust.
2) Conventional Full Dentures: If you are missing all of your upper or lower teeth, these are carefully crafted to look as close to natural teeth as possible. They also provide a combination of esthetics and function for an extended period of time.
3) Implant-Supported Overdentures: To increase the stability and chewing function of an upper or lower denture, it is possible for it to be secured using two or more dental implants. The upper jaw requires more implants (generally four or more) than the lower jaw due to its lesser bone density. Many patients find this option offers a great balance of comfort, functionality, and esthetics.
There are two main types of partial dentures:
1) Transitional 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. Once the healing process is complete, dental implants can be placed.
2) Removable 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 slightly more expensive than plastic dentures, but often fit better. They are, however, much less expensive than implants or fixed bridgework.
How are dentures made?
The denture fabrication process requires several office visits to obtain the necessary records and achieve optimal tooth positions. First, accurate impressions (molds) are made of the alveolar (bone) ridges on the upper and lower arches of your mouth. The base of the denture is made from this mold in a dental laboratory. It will be tried in for fit and a bite record of your mouth will be taken. Working in collaboration with you, we will choose from an assortment of prosthetic teeth to recreate a natural-looking smile. Once you approve of the preliminary tooth setup in wax, the dentures are processed into their permanent form.
To enable normal speech and eating, it is crucial to balance your bite. This means that the upper and lower dentures come together and properly stabilize each other. The form and function of the dentures are carefully checked to ensure that they are balanced and fitting properly.
Will I be able to eat and speak normally with dentures?
At first, wearing dentures may require some getting used to in terms of eating and speaking, as the dentures become "balanced" in the space formerly occupied by the teeth. Over time, the muscles, nerves, and ligaments of the mouth adapt, which allows these functions to occur normally. At first, it is best to start with eating soft foods such as pudding, yogurt, smoothies, mashed potatoes, and noodles. After a few days, your mouth will gradually begin to adjust to the dentures. From this point, you can incorporate soft foods that can be cut into pieces to facilitate chewing. These include cooked rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, fish and eggs. In general, we recommend avoiding sticky foods (gummy candy), hard foods (nuts, corn on the cob, carrot sticks), and tough meats (steak, ribs). However, there are creative ways you can still incorporate some of your favorite foods into your diet. Consider trying slow-cooked (tender) meats, ground meats, protein spreads (hummus), and ripe fruits.
What can I expect after receiving dentures?
If you have recently lost your teeth and received an immediate denture, it's normal to notice some gum shrinkage and bone loss occurring. As a result, you may find that your immediate dentures no longer fit well after a few months. At this point, you have two choices: 1) re-line your immediate (temporary) dentures or 2) transition to a set of conventional full dentures which will last longer and fit better. Relining dentures involves adding pink acrylic material under the base to better conform to the new ridge contours. With proper maintenance, dentures offer a functional, aesthetic and economical solution to the problem of tooth loss. Dentures also help to support the facial features, which can help to create a more youthful appearance.
Are dentures comfortable?
If you have not worn dentures before, there will likely be an adjustment period of several weeks. During this time, you may notice that the dentures feel bulky and your gums feel tender. As the muscles and tissues of your mouth adapt to the new dentures, wearing the dentures should gradually increase in comfort.
Is it ok to sleep with dentures in?
In general, it is not recommended to sleep with dentures in place. Doing so regularly can lead to bacterial accumulation and possible infection. Removing your dentures at night will also relieve your gums and the underlying bone from the daily forces they receive from the dentures.
How long do dentures usually last?
With proper construction and care, dentures can last between 5-10 years. It is recommended to have them evaluated by a dental professional at least once a year.
How do I care for my dentures?
Dentures should be gently cleaned with a soft-bristled toothbrush and custom toothpaste made specifically for dentures. Regular toothpastes can be too abrasive and result in damage. Since most dentures keep their shape by staying moist, It is ok to soak dentures overnight in cool water or a mild denture-cleaning solution.