A denture is a removable device used to replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues. It is typically composed of acrylic resin and sometimes includes various metals.
There are two main types of dentures: complete and partial. Complete dentures are used when all natural teeth are missing, while partial dentures are designed to fill gaps caused by missing teeth and prevent other teeth from shifting.
Candidates for complete dentures are those who have lost most or all of their teeth, whereas partial dentures are suitable for those with some natural teeth remaining. Dentures can improve chewing ability, speech, and facial muscle support, and enhance one’s facial appearance and smile.
Complete dentures can be made for the upper, lower, or both jaws. They can be either “conventional” or “immediate,” depending on when they are made and inserted. Immediate dentures are inserted immediately after the remaining teeth are removed, allowing the wearer to have teeth during the healing process.
However, gums and bones can shrink over time, requiring adjustments to ensure a proper fit. Conventional dentures are made after the tissues have fully healed, which may take 6-8 weeks.
An overdenture is a removable denture that fits over a small number of remaining natural teeth or implants, which provide support for the denture.
Partial dentures consist of replacement teeth attached to pink or gum-colored plastic bases, connected by a metal framework. They can attach to natural teeth with metal clasps or precision attachments, which are more aesthetically pleasing and virtually invisible. Crown placement on natural teeth may improve the fit of a removable partial denture and is often required with precision attachments. Partials with precision attachments generally cost more than those with metal clasps.
How are dentures manufactured?
The production of dentures typically involves five appointments and takes approximately a month. The process begins with the initial diagnosis, followed by the creation of an impression and a wax bite to determine jaw position and vertical dimensions. A “try-in” is then placed to ensure proper fit, shape, and color before the final denture is fitted and any necessary adjustments are made.
To begin, a specialized material is used to create an impression of the patient’s jaw, with additional measurements taken to determine the relationship between the jaws and the space between them. The color of the natural teeth is also identified. The impression, bite, and shade information are then sent to a dental laboratory to custom-make the denture.
At the laboratory, a mold or model of the jaw is created, and the teeth are set into a wax base. The wax is then carved into the desired form of the finished denture. A “wax try-in” is usually performed in the dentist’s office to make any necessary adjustments before the denture is completed.
The “lost wax” technique is used to finalize the denture. A mold is created from the wax-up denture, and the wax is removed. The resulting space is filled with pink plastic in a dough form. The mold is heated to harden the plastic, and the denture is polished and made ready for wear.
Adapting to Your Denture
During the first few weeks of wearing a new denture, you may experience discomfort, as it may feel bulky or awkward. However, with time, your mouth will become accustomed to the denture. It may take some practice to learn how to insert and remove it properly. Never use force to position the partial denture by biting down, as this can damage the clasps or bend the denture.
Initially, you may be advised to wear your denture all the time, even while sleeping. Although this may be uncomfortable at first, it is the quickest way to identify any areas that require adjustment. If the denture puts too much pressure on any specific spot, it may cause soreness. Your dentist can make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the denture fits more comfortably. After these adjustments, you may need to remove the denture before sleeping and replace it in the morning.
Start by eating soft foods that are cut into small pieces, and chew on both sides of your mouth to apply even pressure on the denture. Avoid sticky or hard foods, including gum, until you feel confident enough to eat them comfortably.
Caring for your denture
To handle your denture safely, it’s recommended to stand over a folded towel or sink of water in case you accidentally drop it. Use a denture brush or soft-bristled brush to clean your denture daily to remove food deposits, and plaque, and prevent staining. Avoid using household cleaners and toothpaste that can be abrasive and damage the denture. Choose a denture cleanser with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. Don’t forget to clean the teeth under the denture’s metal clasps to prevent tooth decay.
It’s important to keep your denture moist to prevent it from losing its shape. Soak your denture in a soaking solution or water at night, but if it has metal attachments, they could tarnish if soaked. Even with full dentures, you still need to care for your mouth by brushing your gums, tongue, and palate with a soft-bristled brush every morning before wearing your dentures to remove plaque and stimulate circulation. Maintaining a balanced diet for proper nutrition is also important for a healthy mouth.
As time passes, adjustments to your denture may become necessary. Your mouth changes naturally as you age, which can impact the fit of your denture. Shrinkage or recession of your bone and gum ridges can result in a loose-fitting denture, which can lead to sores or infections. Loose dentures can be adjusted to fit properly. However, you should never try to adjust your denture yourself, as this could cause irreparable damage to the appliance. Over-the-counter glues may contain harmful chemicals and should not be used on a denture.
If your denture no longer fits well, or if it cracks, breaks, or chips, or if a tooth becomes loose, see your dentist right away. In many cases, necessary adjustments or repairs can be made on the same day. More complex repairs may require sending the denture to a specialized dental laboratory.
As time goes on, normal wear and tear may necessitate that dentures be relined, re-based, or re-made. To reline or re-base a denture, the dentist will use the existing denture teeth and refit the denture base or make a new one. Dentures may need to be replaced if they become loose and the teeth show significant signs of wear.
Adjusting to eating with dentures may take some time and practice. Begin by eating soft foods that are cut into small pieces, and chew slowly using both sides of your mouth to prevent the dentures from tipping. Gradually add other foods to your diet as you become more comfortable chewing.
When eating, continue to use both sides of your mouth and be cautious with hot or hard foods, as well as sharp-edged bones or shells.
Some people may be concerned about the effect dentures will have on their speech. It’s important to practice pronouncing certain words, especially if they are troublesome. Reading out loud can also be helpful. If your dentures make a clicking sound while you speak, try speaking more slowly. If your dentures occasionally slip when you laugh, cough, or smile, reposition them by gently biting down and swallowing. If you continue to have difficulty speaking, consult your dentist.
Denture adhesives can enhance the grip of well-fitting dentures. However, they are not a remedy for old or ill-fitting dentures. Prolonged irritation caused by poorly fitting dentures can lead to the development of sores, which may require relining or replacement of the dentures. If you experience discomfort or your dentures feel loose, seek advice from your dentist without delay.