What are Dentures?
Dentures are removable prosthesis or appliances that are designed to replace either all of the teeth (Full Denture) or some of the missing teeth (Partial Denture) in the upper or lower jaw. A full denture is only supported by the soft tissues in the mouth and has compromised stability and/or chewing power (unless resting on implants – see Overdenture). Partial dentures are supported in some cases by both the soft tissue and teeth and in other cases just by the teeth, or implants.
Why are dentures needed?
If someone were to lose some or all of their teeth due to gum disease, tooth decay or injury, a denture would enable that individual to maintain their speech and ability to chew properly. Additionally, dentures can provide support for the lips and cheeks, preventing the face from sagging and appearing older than they really are.
What are the different types of Dentures?
There are various types of dentures, each with a specific purpose or function. These include:
- Complete Dentures (Full Dentures) – This form of denture is made and placed in the mouth of a patient whose gums and bone are fully healed after the teeth have come out. Often times custom made trays will allow for the best impressions to accurately register the anatomy of the area on which the denture will rest. The denture teeth are set in wax, so they can be tried in the mouth and adjusted if necessary. Once the bite, fit and esthetics are acceptable, the denture is processed into a resin base (sometimes metal can be used) and adjusted until comfortable.
- Immediate Dentures – Are designed so that the patient does not have to be without teeth during the healing period following extractions. The dentist takes the impressions of the patient’s mouth before the teeth are removed, and has the denture made without any try –in visit. These often require some adjustments and relining of the denture base to make it fit more comfortably. Since the bone and tissues are constantly remodeling and reshaping after surgery, periodic relines and adjustments are expected, until full healing has taken place (usually around 6 months). At this time a new, custom fitted complete denture can be made, keeping the immediate one as a spare.
- Overdentures – These types of dentures are a great alternative to help eliminate some of the problems that many denture-wearers face, including, loose dentures, inability to chew certain foods, and the feeling of being self conscious while wearing dentures. Overdentures are dentures that go over and attach to either natural prepared teeth or implants to form an anchor and add a feeling of security when speaking and eating. Keeping some natural teeth or placing dental implants into the bone beneath the denture helps to maintain the bone level. This prevents the loss of bone normally seen in the jaw after teeth are removed. The teeth involved usually have had root canal therapy, and are cut down to the gum line, with an attachment placed on top that fits into the overdenture. These teeth and implants are the male snap that fits into the female snap of the overdenture. Often times the implants are splinted together into a bar attachment, which is fitted to the inside of the overdenture in such a way that it takes a little effort to snap it out in order to clean it.
- Partial Dentures – These removable partial dentures have replacement denture teeth that are attached to a gum-colored base and rest on the adjacent teeth by utilizing either metal clasps or a flexible, metal-free alternative. These appliances are very useful as an interim prosthesis while waiting for an implant to be placed and heal. Partial dentures prevent teeth from shifting, acting as a space maintainer, and enable better speech, chewing and esthetics.
How do you care for your dentures?
Just like natural teeth, dentures should be properly cared for and cleaned after meals. There are brushes that are specifically designed for dentures, but a regular toothbrush may also be used, as long as the bristles are not hard. Ultrasonic cleaners may be used, along with special denture cleaning solutions. Don’t let your dentures dry out, or they can lose their shape (use cool to tepid water, as hot water could cause them to warp). Avoid dropping them… they can break! And remember to keep them away from curious children and pets.