Dentures are artificial teeth and gums fitted and created to replace lost, missing or removed teeth. Dentures can improve the appearance of a smile as well as support the structure of the mouth, lips and cheeks, helping recipients to eat, talk, and provide a boost of confidence. They are also a solution for people who experience chronic or serious pain and other oral health issues.
Types of Dentures
- Conventional complete dentures
- Implant-supported dentures
- Partial dentures
- Immediate dentures
Complete dentures have replacement teeth made to fit into an acrylic base. The base is made to closely match the color of gums. If some natural teeth are still present, they will be removed and have to heal before the new dentures are placed in the mouth. The base of the upper denture will cover the palate (the roof of the mouth). When the base of the upper denture rests against the gum it creates a seal to hold it in place.
The lower denture is a horseshoe shape to leave room for the tongue and its muscle attachments. It rests on the gums and bone tissues of the dental ridge. Cheek muscles and the tongue help to hold the lower denture in place. With a proper fit, denture adhesive is not necessary.
Complete dentures can also be supported and attached to dental implants, which provide a more secure fit. Implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper and lower jaw. Implant posts not only make the denture stable and secure but also can help reduce bone loss. Many patients find that implant-supported dentures are more comfortable than conventional dentures. Schedule an appointment and ask the dentist if you are a candidate for implant-supported dentures.
If there are remaining healthy teeth, the dentist may suggest partial dentures that fit around the healthy teeth and replace the missing ones. Partials are fastened to the near-by healthy teeth and fitted to the gum line on which they will sit. Partial dentures are not permanently fastened and can be taken out anytime.
Some patients have the option to get immediate dentures. Immediate dentures are made before all the remaining teeth are removed. Once the immediate dentures are made and ready, the dentist will remove the remaining teeth and the denture will be placed right away. There is no waiting or going without teeth during the healing time after the natural teeth are removed. Healing can take several months. Once healing is complete, the dentures may need to be adjusted or relined. In some cases, a new denture will have to be made.
How to get Used to Dentures
It is normal for new dentures to feel odd or uncomfortable for the first few weeks. Continue wearing dentures to get used to them. The lower denture may feel especially loose until the muscles in the cheeks and tongue learn to hold it in place.
Extra saliva production is common for a short period of time and some soreness should be expected for the first week or two. The dentist will continue to check on progress and make any adjustments needed.
When missing teeth are replaced, eating becomes easier but takes practice. Here are some things that may help with the process:
- Begin by eating soft foods cut into small pieces
- Chew on both sides of the mouth to keep the pressure even and avoid biting with the front teeth
- Do not eat sticky, hard foods or chew gum
Practice talking with the new dentures. Try reading out loud and repeating tricky words in front of a mirror. Talk slowly to avoid mumbling or muffled speech. If the dentures slip out of place when laughing, coughing, or smiling, bite down and swallow to reposition them.
When getting new dentures the dentist may suggest wearing them most of the time. After the adjustment period, dentures should not be worn 24 hours a day. It may be suggested to take them out at bedtime and put them back in when you wake up. Do not wear dentures around the clock because it can cause your mouth irritation.
How to Care for your Dentures
Like natural teeth, dentures require daily hygiene. Here are some tips to care for new dentures:
- For tissue health, it is best to remove your dentures, preferably at night, to allow for tissue recovery and to allow the tissues to rebound from the pressure placed on the gums by the denture. Ideally, leave the denture out of the mouth for about eight hours a day.
- Clean the denture daily. Take it out and carefully rinse off stuck on food particles. Wet a denture brush and put denture cleaner on it. Brush all surfaces gently to keep from damaging the plastic base.
- The denture is very delicate and can break if dropped on a hard surface, even from just a few inches. Clean dentures over a folded towel or a sink filled with cool water.
- It is best to use a special brush made for cleaning dentures, but a toothbrush with soft bristles can be used — do not use a hard-bristle brush because it can damage dentures.
- Liquid soap can also be very effective when used with a denture brush. Do not use toothpaste to clean the denture. Some toothpastes have abrasive particles that may damage the denture base and teeth. Do not clean dentures with bleach.
- Rinse the denture well after using any denture cleanser or liquid. The cleanser or liquid may contain chemicals that are not intended to go in the mouth or be ingested.
- Look for denture cleanser and products with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance — a symbol of safety and effectiveness.
- Keep dentures in water when not being worn. Letting it dry out can cause it can lose its shape.
- The dentist can instruct you on how to best care for the denture and if a denture-soaking solution should be used.
- Keep dentures away from curious children and pets when you are not wearing it.
Do not use any denture adhesive (i.e. Sea Bond) until instructed to do so by the dentist. New dentures should fit securely without the use of these products, but the dentist may suggest using a denture adhesive when getting used to wearing them. A denture that does not fit well may cause irritation, mouth sores or even infection. While denture adhesive can help a loose-fitting denture for a short time, using adhesives all the time is not recommended. If the denture feels loose, address it with the dentist.
Caring for your Mouth
Even if wearing full dentures, having good oral health is still imperative. Brush the gums, tongue, and palate every morning with a soft bristled toothbrush before using dentures. This increases circulation in the tissues in the mouth and helps to keep them healthy. Eating a well-balanced diet also helps to keep a mouth and body healthy. Regular exams from the dentist are still needed even if there are no natural teeth left in the mouth. During a visit, the dentist will look for any signs of disease, such as cancer of the head, neck or gums, and check to see if the dentures are still fitting correctly.
See the dentist if the denture breaks, cracks, chips or starts to feel loose. The dentist is the only one who should make repairs to dentures. A person without the proper training will not be able to fix a denture and may damage it. Do not try to adjust them yourself. This can harm both the denture and even overall health. Do no use over-the-counter reline materials or glues on dentures, they may contain harmful chemicals and are not a long-term solution for fixing the denture.
The normal lifetime of a denture is five to ten years but this can vary widely depending on the patient and care routines. The mouth also changes shape naturally with age. Jaws may line up differently as bones and gum ridges recede and shrink even if there are no natural teeth left in the mouth. At some point dentures will no longer fit well and they will have to be remade. Over time, dentures may need relining, rebasing, or replacing. It is important to replace worn or ill-fitting dentures before it causes problems. The dentist will let you know when it is time to replace your dentures.
Relining is when the dentist adds new material to the underside of the denture base to fit the gums. This could be either a hard or soft material, depending on the condition and sensitivity of the gums.
Rebasing is when a new base is made using the existing denture as a model. The artificial teeth from the old denture are used on the new base.
Tips for People New to Wearing Dentures
New denture wearers should:
- Have plenty of time to get used to your dentures
- Eat a balanced diet for good overall health
- Practice eating and speaking with new dentures
- Maintain regular visits with your dentist