What are dentures?

Dentures are artificial teeth and gums that are formed to your mouth and created by your dentists to replace lost or removed natural teeth. Dentures can either be full or partial, meaning they can either replace all teeth on either the top or bottom gum line, or just a few that are missing. Regardless of what kind of dentures you may need, they will be custom designed to fit your mouth, and visually matched to your existing teeth. Dentures are removable appliances that can replace missing teeth and help restore your smile. If you’ve lost all of your natural teeth, whether from gum disease, tooth decay or injury, replacing missing teeth will benefit your appearance and your health. That’s because dentures make it easier to eat and speak better than you could without teeth—things that people often take for granted.

When you lose all of your teeth, facial muscles can sag, making you look older. Dentures can help fill out the appearance of your face and profile. They can be made to closely resemble your natural teeth so that your appearance does not change much. Dentures may even improve the look of your smile. Dentures also make it possible to eat foods that require chewing, making it possible to keep your diet the same and ensure that you are properly nourished.

What are they made out of?

In the past, the artificial teeth that make up dentures were made out of porcelain or plastic, but more modern dentures are generally made out of a hard resin. The materials used to make denture teeth are known to be more fragile than natural teeth and can easily chip or crack if dropped or otherwise uncared for. This material also wears down much quicker than natural teeth and thus must be replaced with a new set of dentures every five years or so.

The supporting structure of dentures that holds the artificial teeth in place and resembles the natural gum line is often made out of a similar resin used for the teeth, or a more flexible polymer material that fits snugly on the natural gum line.

Types of dentures:

  • Partial Dentures. Partial dentures are often used instead of other tooth replacement methods when the surrounding natural teeth are not strong enough to support structures such as dental bridges, or when more than one or two teeth are missing. The partial dentures are fitted to the part of the gum line that they will sit on, and fasten to nearby natural teeth to keep from falling out of place. They are not permanently fastened, however, and can be easily taken out at any time for cleaning and while sleeping.
  • Conventional. Full dentures, otherwise known as complete dentures, are dentures that replace all of your natural teeth. You can have them fitted for your top or bottom gum line, and are held in place by suction and/or the help of an oral adhesive. Just like partial dentures, they are easily removable.
  • Immediate. There are some other kinds of full and partial dentures that differ from traditional permanent dentures including a type called immediate dentures. These dentures are created before the teeth that are being replaced with dentures have been removed and are used immediately after tooth extraction and during the healing process, which can be up to six months long. These dentures can be more easily refitted than permanent dentures to accommodate for mouth changes as the swelling in the gums and jaw subsides while healing. The immediate dentures will be disposed of once the healing process is complete and your mouth is ready for permanent dentures.
  • Overdenture. Overdentures are an alternative that can be used if traditional dentures prove to be extremely uncomfortable or if you have a few natural teeth left. Overdentures are fitted over the roots of natural teeth and either rest on these or on dental implants, if there are no natural teeth to fit over. Some find this type of denture more comfortable and they are also easily removable. Implants can serve the same function, too.
  • Implant-supported dentures. As the name seems to imply, these are dentures which are anchored by dental implants. A dental implant is a permanent fixture that is anchored to the jawbone and can be used to replace any number of teeth. They’re comprised of the implant itself, a metal post (usually titanium), and a custom crown which looks just like a natural tooth. Implant-supported dentures have a couple of different ways in which they can attach, but should be cared for and treated like traditional dentures. It’s more common to have them done on the lower jaw since the upper has fewer problems with fitting securely, but plenty of people have implants on both.

New dentures may feel awkward for a few weeks until you become accustomed to them. The dentures may feel loose while the muscles of your cheek and tongue learn to keep them in place. It is not unusual to experience minor irritation or soreness. You may find that saliva flow temporarily increases. As your mouth becomes accustomed to the dentures, these problems should go away. Follow-up appointments with the dentist are generally needed after a denture is inserted so the fit can be checked and adjusted. If any problem persists, particularly irritation or soreness, be sure to consult your dentist.

Even if you wear full dentures, you still have to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your gums, tongue and roof of your mouth every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert your dentures to stimulate circulation in your tissues and help remove plaque.

Like your teeth, your dentures should be brushed daily to remove food particles and plaque. Brushing also can help keep the teeth from staining.

  • Rinse your dentures before brushing to remove any loose food or debris.
  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush and a non-abrasive cleanser to gently brush all the surfaces of the dentures so they don’t get scratched.
  • When brushing, clean your mouth thoroughly—including your gums, cheeks, roof of your mouth and tongue to remove any plaque. This can help reduce the risk of oral irritation and bad breath.
  • When you’re not wearing your dentures, put them in a safe place covered in water to keep them from warping.
  • Occasionally, denture wearers may use adhesives. Adhesives come in many forms: creams, powders, pads/wafers, strips or liquids. If you use one of these products, read the instructions, and use them exactly as directed. Your dentist can recommend appropriate cleansers and adhesives; look for products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Products with the ADA Seal have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
  • Always remove your dentures before sleeping to avoid damaging them, dislodging them, and to give your gums some time to relax. Submerge your dentures fully in warm, but not hot, water to keep them from drying out and becoming misshapen. Only use denture soaking solution if your dentures do not have metal components as the solution can tarnish the metal.