What are Dentures?
Dentures are replacements for missing teeth that can be taken out and put back into your mouth. While dentures take some getting used to, and will never feel exactly the same as one’s natural teeth, today’s dentures are natural looking and more comfortable than ever.
There are two main types of dentures: full dentures and partial dentures. Your dentist will help you choose the type of denture that’s best for you based on whether some or all of your teeth are going to be replaced and the cost involved.
How do Dentures Work?
With full dentures, a flesh-colored acrylic base fits over your gums. The base of the upper denture covers the palate (the roof of your mouth), while that of the lower denture is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate your tongue.
Dentures are custom-made in a dental laboratory from impressions taken of your mouth. Your dentist will determine which of the three types of dentures described below is best for you.
Conventional Full Denture
A conventional full denture is placed in your mouth after any remaining teeth are removed and tissues have healed. Healing may take several months, during which time you are without teeth.
Immediate Full Denture
An immediate full denture is inserted immediately after the remaining teeth are removed. (Your dentist takes measurements and makes models of your jaw during a prior visit.) While immediate dentures offer the benefit of never having to be without your teeth, they must be relined several months after being inserted. The reason is that the bone supporting the teeth reshapes as it heals, causing the denture to become loose.
A partial denture rests on a metal framework that attaches to your natural teeth. Sometimes crowns are placed on some of your natural teeth and serve as anchors for the denture. Partial dentures offer a removable alternative to bridges.
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How Long Before I Get Used to My Dentures?
New dentures may feel awkward or uncomfortable for the first few weeks or even months. Eating and speaking with dentures might take a little practice. A bulky or loose feeling is not uncommon, while the muscles of your cheeks and tongue learn to hold your dentures in place. Excessive saliva flow, a feeling that the tongue does not have adequate room, and minor irritation or soreness are also not unusual. If you experience irritation, see your dentist.
How Long do Dentures Last?
Over a period of time, your denture will need to be relined, remade, or rebased due to normal wear. Rebasing means making a new base while keeping the existing denture teeth. Also, as you age, your mouth naturally changes. These changes cause your dentures to loosen, making chewing difficult and irritating your gums. At a minimum, you should see your dentist annually for a checkup.
Denture Longevity Considerations
Lost vertical dimension: The proper linear distance relationship between the upper and lower jaws is called vertical dimension. This is unique for each individual.
As one’s jaw changes and the ridges upon which dentures rest shrink, a denture becomes loose and vertical dimension begins to change. Additional plastic (acrylic resin) is added to the inside of a loosening denture (called relining a denture) to stabilize it by reducing looseness caused from jaw shrinkage.
The current position held by most dentists is that when vertical dimension has been lost by three millimeters or more, a new denture should be fabricated in order to restore vertical dimension and maintain functional health.
You may have worn the same denture for extended periods with considerable loss of vertical dimension over time. Since vertical dimension loss is a slow, but nevertheless progressive, process, you may have gradually adapted to a continually increasing closed bite position. These individuals often have a sunken facial appearance and usually appear much older than their chronological age.
Functioning with an abnormal vertical dimension may eventually result in alterations of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ, the jaw joint located in front of the ears). This can lead to significant pain and difficulty with eating and even the jaw motions involved with speech. It frequently becomes quite difficult, if not impossible, to restore such individual’s proper vertical dimension and chewing efficiency by relining and repairing this older denture.
How to Care for Your Dentures
Removable partial or full dentures require proper denture care to keep them clean, free from stains and looking their best. For good denture care:
- Remove and rinse dentures after eating. Run water over your dentures to remove food debris and other loose particles. You may want to place a towel on the counter or in the sink so that the dentures won’t break if you drop them.
- Clean your mouth after removing your dentures. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush on natural teeth and gauze or a soft toothbrush to clean your tongue and palate.
- Scrub your dentures at least daily. Gently scrub your dentures using a denture cleaner, mild soap or dishwashing liquid and a denture brush or soft toothbrush to remove food, plaque and other deposits.
- Avoid stiff-bristled brushes, strong cleansers and harsh toothpaste, as these are too abrasive and can damage your dentures. Toothpastes advertised as whitening pastes are especially abrasive and should be avoided with removable dentures.
- Handle your dentures carefully. Be sure you don’t bend or damage the plastic or the clasps when cleaning.
- Soak dentures overnight. Most types of dentures need to remain moist to keep their shape. Place the dentures in water or a mild denture-soaking solution overnight. Don’t soak dentures with metal attachments in solutions that contain chlorine because it can tarnish the metal. Check with your dentist about properly storing your dentures overnight.
- Rinse dentures before putting them back in your mouth, especially if using a denture-soaking solution. These solutions can contain harmful chemicals that cause vomiting, pain or burns if swallowed.
- Schedule regular dental checkups. Your dentist will advise you about how often to visit to have your dentures examined and professionally cleaned. Your dentist can help ensure a proper fit to prevent slippage and discomfort. See your dentist promptly if your dentures become loose. Loose dentures can cause irritation, sores and infection.