Dentures are false teeth, made mostly of plastic, that replace missing or lost teeth. There are several different types of dentures, including Complete Dentures, Implant Supported Dentures, Removable Partial Dentures, and Flipper Dentures. Many people assume that they will need dentures as they age, but losing teeth is not a normal part of the aging process. If you care for your teeth well and guard against cavities and periodontal disease, you should be able to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Saving even a few natural teeth is often better than losing them all. Natural teeth or even parts of natural teeth can help you retain bone in your jaw. Implants can also help with this. Natural teeth and implants can act as stable supports for bridges or removable partial dentures. Dr. Victor will try to save as many of your natural teeth as possible.
Complete dentures are made for people who have lost all of their teeth. They cover the entire jaw, either upper or lower. Some people call them “plates.” Complete dentures typically rest directly on the gum that covers the bone, but can be made to be supported by natural teeth or implants.
Dr. Victor has complete dentures custom made for you. The process involves multiple appointments. At the first appointment, he takes a series of impressions of your mouth. At later visits, Dr. Victor works with you to select the size, shape and color of the artificial teeth. If you liked the way your natural teeth looked, bring in a photograph of you smiling with your natural teeth. This will help Dr. Victor and the dental laboratory that will make your dentures.
Once the denture is made, you’ll have a trial fitting. You’ll be able to see how the denture looks and feels in your mouth. At this appointment, we make sure that the denture will fit and function correctly, and we verify that it harmonizes with the rest of your face. This is your denture preview, or “try-in.” If the try-in goes well, you will receive the completed denture at the next visit. After this initial seat of your denture, there will be a series of follow-up appointments to check the fit and comfort of your denture. Typically, Dr. Victor likes to follow-up 24 hours and 72 hours after the initial seat.
Although dentures may look like your natural teeth, they cannot work like them. Simple actions such as speaking and eating may feel different. You will have to learn how to use and adjust to your dentures. For some people, this can take up to several months. Learning to chew food with complete dentures takes patience and practice. You might have to cut your food into smaller pieces than you did in the past when you had your natural teeth. Additionally, you will have to learn to chew on both sides evenly at the same time in order to keep the dentures from rocking.
Denture problems still can occur, of course. The teeth can wear down, and problems such as clicking, slipping, frequent gum irritation and odor may be signs that your dentures don’t fit well. They may need to be adjusted, relined or remade. Dr. Victor recommends at least yearly checkups, even if you don’t have any teeth, to verify how your dentures are working and perform soft tissue exams and cancer screenings.
For more information, visit the American Dental Association’s website on dentures.
Implant Supported Dentures
Supporting dentures with implants has several advantages:
- Implants help preserve bone.
- They bear some of the chewing pressure. This reduces pressure on other areas of the jaw.
- They stabilize the denture and make it less likely to shift in your mouth.
Lower dentures tend to be more difficult to keep in your mouth than upper dentures. Therefore, an implant supported denture can be particularly helpful for the lower jaw. However, it is an option for both the upper and lower arches. It is interesting to note that implants originally were developed to give people “artificial roots” for bridges or dentures in the lower jaw. The denture can fit onto the implants directly, or onto a metal bar between implants.
Removable Partial Dentures
Removable partial dentures consist of a metal framework with plastic teeth and gum areas. The framework includes metal clasps or acrylic attachments that hold the denture in place. Depending on the remaining teeth present and the partial design, the partial can be supported by adjacent teeth and/or the gum tissue. Partial dentures are easily removed for cleaning. They are often used to fill the void of multiple missing teeth.
Removable partial dentures should not be confused with Fixed Partial Dentures, which most people call bridges. Fixed partial dentures are cemented onto nearby healthy teeth rather than being retained in place by clasps. However, bridges do tend to look and feel more like natural teeth.
For more information, visit the American Dental Association’s website on removable partial dentures.
A flipper denture is a relatively inexpensive esthetic option made entirely of acrylic and replaces only a few teeth in an arch. It is a temporary option as it is not tough enough to withstand regular use. It replaces one or more teeth until a more permanent form of treatment such as a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture can be made or decided upon. Such a denture can be placed immediately or soon after a tooth is extracted. However, it is not meant to be a permanent solution.
If you have teeth extracted, there will be bony changes going on as the body heals and adapts. The bulk of these changes will occur within 3 months, but bony changes continue throughout our lifetimes. Since dentures are supported by both bone and gum tissue, these changes impact the fit and function of dentures. Subsequently, your mouth will need to heal for at least three months before a complete denture can be made that will fit well for any substantial amount of time.
Some patients choose to go without teeth during this time period. However, an alternative you can consider is an interim or temporary denture called an immediate denture. This will be made and inserted at the time of extraction. The immediate denture will allow you to eat and speak with minimal problems while we wait for the body to heal and while the complete denture is made. As your mouth heals, the gums and bones will shrink. Therefore, the immediate denture will need to be relined to adjust the fit.
Discuss immediate dentures with Dr. Victor to see if they are an option for you.
Care of Your Dentures
In addition to the need to brush and floss your natural teeth regularly, it is also necessary to keep your dentures very clean. Accumulations on it can lead to sore gums, tooth decay, and other problems with your mouth and the denture itself. Any denture should be removed after every meal and rinsed thoroughly. At least once per 24 hour period (usually just before bedtime) dentures should be cleaned thoroughly by scrubbing with a soft toothbrush (dedicated only to cleaning your denture) and mild hand soap. Do not use toothpaste as abrasives found in toothpaste can unnecessarily wear away the acrylic teeth and denture base. The use of most commercial denture cleansers is generally not necessary and is of limited value. The primary reason to use a commercial denture cleanser is to give the denture a better flavor when it is inserted. While cleaning your dentures, always hold them over a sink half-filled with water so if one is dropped, the water will break the fall of the denture and possibly prevent it from breaking. After thoroughly cleaning your dentures, you should brush your gums and any remaining teeth with a separate soft toothbrush dedicated for that purpose.
Always remove your dentures and leave them out for at least six to eight hours per 24-hour period. This permits the denture-bearing tissue to have the normal stimulation from the tongue and cheeks that it cannot receive while the dentures are being worn. Furthermore, this allows good circulation of oxygen to the tissue area normally covered by the dentures. Without regular exposure to oxygen, some of the good bacteria in the area can die off and allow a yeast infection to take over. Signs of this can include swollen, inflamed, reddish gum tissue. It may also include an itching or burning sensation. If you are concerned that you may have some of these symptoms, contact Dr. Victor’s office to set up an appointment to evaluate the area. Frequently, short doses of anti-fungal medications and regular removal of the dentures are sufficient to cure these infections.
Periodic examinations (at least once per year) are also necessary for adequate care of your denture(s) and the tissue on which it rests. Periodic x-rays, even when complete dentures are being worn, may be necessary for a thorough examination. Remember, the acrylic teeth in dentures will wear over time and the denture-bearing tissues do change continuously. Thus, dentures cannot be expected to fit as well after they have been used for any extended length of time. Areas that become sore or irritated on your gums are typically due to changes occurring in your tissues, not changes in the dentures. When these issues develop, please contact Dr. Victor for evaluation and/or adjustments.