What Are Dentures? Are They the Best Choice For Me?
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Everything You Need to Know About Dentures
Dentures, sometimes called false teeth, are a kind of removable dental restoration that replaces missing teeth; usually multiple teeth, and sometimes all teeth. By removable, we mean they are normally taken out of the mouth to clean and at night to sleep, as opposed to fixed restorations which remain permanently in the mouth once placed, like crowns and bridges.
There are many ways to replace missing teeth, and the best treatment choice is directly dependant on the individual patient and their unique situation.
What are dentures made of?
Creating a removable denture or partial denture requires taking impressions of your mouth. A special dental gel is placed in a delivery tray and pressed over the teeth or gums, where it sets into a flexible and precise mold of your mouth. From this, stone models are created which are near perfect representations of your upper and lower dental arches. Replacement appliances can then be fabricated by a dental laboratory.
Generally, dentures are made of a hard, pink acrylic base, simulating gum tissue, with acrylic or porcelain teeth set into the base to match the opposing arch of teeth. Upper full dentures, replacing all the top teeth, cover the entire roof of the mouth. Lower full dentures, replacing all the bottom teeth, are usually horseshoe-shaped, allowing room for the tongue. These usually rest directly on the gums of the lower arch and protrude down under the tongue.
When a patient is only missing some of the teeth in an arch, they may benefit from partial dentures. These are normally made from a metal alloy framework with clasps that grip onto remaining healthy teeth. The pink acrylic base and teeth are added in areas where teeth are missing to fill in the gaps.
There are several types of dentures available, and choosing which best fits your needs is dependant on your unique situation. Are you already missing all your teeth? Do you need some taken out? Do you have some strong, healthy teeth remaining? All of this needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a treatment plan for replacing teeth.
Conventional & partial dentures
Conventional dentures and partial dentures are often chosen as the restoration of choice when a patient is already missing all their teeth or is replacing a tooth or group of teeth that have been missing for some time. After a tooth is lost, the bone of the jaw reshapes itself over a period of three to six months.
A denture will only fit well if the bone has stabilized after it’s healing time. If removing teeth is necessary, this means wearing an inexpensive temporary denture or partial (often called a “flipper”) or possibly even going without teeth for a long time before permanent dentures can be made.
So what are immediate dentures? If you need teeth taken out and going without teeth for three to six months doesn’t sound appealing, immediate dentures may be a better choice. With immediate dentures, the restorations are fabricated before the teeth are removed. After tooth extractions are performed, the denture is immediately placed in the mouth.
As healing occurs over the next few months, the bone of the jaw will reshape, causing the denture to no longer fit properly. When this happens the denture can be relined, meaning acrylic can be added to the underside of the denture to fill in the space created by bone reshaping during healing. Several relines may be necessary to continue having a proper fitting denture.
An overdenture is a complete denture that rests on a few healthy teeth, prepared teeth roots, or dental implants. The advantage of an overdenture is that they may be designed to “snap on” into place, giving the appliance more stability.
Keeping teeth or tooth roots in place also helps to stimulate the bone of the jaws, preventing the resorption of bone that normally occurs when no teeth are present. Without this stimulation, it is common for the bone of the jaw to gradually disappear and flatten over time, leading to dentures that fit poorly.
How do dentures work?
Upper complete dentures cover the entire roof of the mouth all the way back to the spongy tissue in the back of the mouth called the soft palate. They are designed with a ridge that presses into this soft tissue and creates a suction that holds the denture in place.
Lower complete dentures rest directly on the horseshoe-shaped lower jaw. They are designed with extended edges that go deeply into the floor of the mouth under the tongue. This allows the muscles of the tongue to help hold them in place. Lower dentures do not suction into place like upper dentures but instead rely upon these muscles and gravity to stay in position.
Partial dentures are designed with metal clasps that latch onto remaining healthy teeth. This creates much more stability and an increased chewing ability. The strength of the metal framework also allows the restorations to be made much more thinly than acrylic dentures, which results in them being less bulky in the mouth.
Pros & cons of dentures
Dentures and partial dentures work well for many people and are generally a less expensive option for replacing missing teeth, but they do come with some drawbacks.
If there is sufficient bony ridge and a good seal can be made by the edges of a denture, upper dentures can be fairly stable all by themselves with no need for dental adhesives. Without a good seal, upper dentures tend to fall out when talking or move around when eating. Lower dentures have no suction at all and tend to move around a lot. Any time a denture moves, it can create sores on the gum tissues, which can make eating painful.
Many patients have difficulty adjusting to having bulky plastic covering their jaws. Speech may also be affected, although most people learn to speak correctly with practice. No matter how good the fit of a denture, the chewing ability of someone with dentures is considerably less than those with teeth.
Removable dentures and partials don’t last forever. The teeth wear down, the bone changes under the denture affecting the fit, and they often end up broken or chipped. You can expect to get five to eight years out of a denture before it needs to be replaced.
Dentures and partials should also be taken out to clean and every night during sleep. This allows gum tissues the chance to “breathe”, preventing mouth sores and improving hygiene. Some people don’t like the idea of teeth they have to put in a cup at night.
Are there any alternatives to dentures?
If the drawbacks to conventional dentures concern you, consider an implant-supported restoration like the G4 Implant Solution. This revolutionary technique replaces missing teeth with a beautiful and functional fixed bridge in just 24 hours. Nothing comes as close to having your natural teeth; restoring your function and creating the smile you deserve to have!