There are many misconceptions about dentures including only old people need them or you have to get them because your mouth is rotting. Dentures are much more common than people realize and people of all ages are reaping the benefits of life with dentures. They look and act just like natural teeth and can be used to replace or repair several different types of damage or missing teeth. This article is going to answer all of the frequently asked questions regarding dentures so if you need them or want them you will be informed before making the investment.
What are dentures and how do they work?
Dentures are a prosthetic used to replace a patient’s missing teeth. This prosthetic is made up of artificial teeth and gums that are customized and fitted to each patient’s mouth. Unlike other methods of tooth repair or replacement, dentures are not fixed to the jaw bone making them easy to clean and maintain.
There are several reasons why one would choose to get dentures after losing their permanent teeth from gum disease, decay or injury. Some cosmetic purposes include an increase in self-esteem and appearance as dentures look incredibly natural. Other benefits directly impact a patient’s oral health as dentures provide support to the overall structure of a mouth including facial muscles, speech, and functionality, like eating.
Types of dentures
Dentures used to be made up of plastic or porcelain but today, most will be created with a strong resin material that better mimics natural teeth. The gum part of dentures is made up of a similar resin material that is slightly more flexible to better hug the gum line. There are different types of dentures including full and partial, and your dentist will be able to determine which option is right for you.
Also known as, a complete denture, this option is used when all or almost all of the teeth are missing. If there are only a few existing teeth, a dentist can choose to remove the rest to make a full set of dentures a viable option. A prosthetic will be made to replace all of the natural teeth and fit the entire surface of the gums. The denture will fit snugly along the gum line by suction or an adhesive but is easily removable.
There are two types of full dentures, conventional and immediate. Conventional dentures are placed after the mouth has healed from any tooth extractions. This means that the patient is without teeth during the healing period which can range in time. By waiting until the tissue in the mouth is fully healed, the prosthetic is able to fit properly without needing adjustments in the future.
Immediate dentures are placed right after the remaining teeth are removed. The dentist will take measurements beforehand so the patient will have their new teeth the same day. This option can help support the jawbone and control bleeding after any extractions. When the mouth heals after the extraction it can slightly change the shape or ridge of the gum line meaning the surface of the denture might no longer fit how it is supposed to. While this may seem like a small issue, it can require realignment, adjustments or even a whole new denture to be made. When this happens it could force a patient to be without their teeth for a few days.
This option is used when a patient has one or more healthy teeth or if the mouth is not strong enough to support structures like dental bridges. Partial dentures are made up of the needed replacement teeth that are attached to a gum-colored base, it almost resembles a retainer with teeth attached. They are held in the mouth by attaching to adjacent existing teeth by either the plastic of the denture or a metal framework. Like full dentures, partial dentures are easily removable.
What to expect
After consulting and deciding with your dentist which denture option is best, your journey to new teeth will begin. The next step is preparing the mouth which will include any extractions or procedures that need to be done prior to measurements being taken or a fitting. If you are getting immediate dentures, measurements will be taken beforehand so the prosthetic will be ready at your preparation appointment.
The measurements and impressions will be sent to the lab where the dentures will be made according to the size, color and shape of your choosing. The lab can take anywhere from 1-6 weeks to create the prosthetics depending on factors like urgency and complexity. Once the lab has finished and your mouth is fully healed, you will come in for your fitting.
During the fitting, your dentist will have you try the dentures on, make sure they fit properly and show you how to place, remove and clean them. It is likely you will be instructed to wear them until your follow-up appointment where any adjustments will be made. As previously mentioned, if you are receiving immediate dentures, this step will happen during the preparation appointment and adjustments will be made after your mouth has healed.
Denture care: How do I clean dentures?
After getting dentures there is surely an adjustment period each patient will go through. Dentures may feel very weird at first as there is now a foreign object in your mouth and this can result in difficulties speaking and eating. Besides physical adjustments, part of the learning curve that comes with wearing dentures is figuring out how to take care of them.
Taking care of your dentures is critical as plaque, tartar and bacteria can still build up on the teeth causing harm to your oral health. No matter what type of prosthetic you have, they need to be cleaned daily just as natural teeth would. Although they are removable, there is a certain amount of time the dentures should be both in and out of your mouth. Your dentist will tell you how long they should be out of your mouth and it is important that you follow the guidelines because it will allow your gums to rest and stay healthy. These cleaning steps should be followed unless otherwise advised by your dentist:
- Run them under clean water to remove any stuck food particles between the teeth, under the surface and along the gums
- Along the entire surface, brush with a very soft toothbrush and mild soap, then rinse well
- While your dentures are out of your mouth, clean your gums and any existing teeth with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste to remove any bacteria and debris
- Any time they are out of your mouth they should be soaking in a solution or clean water
How long do dentures last?
On average, dentures last between 5 and 7 years when properly taken care of. Over time, the base the artificial teeth sit on will naturally wear and need to be revived. Also as you grow older, your mouth will naturally change and your dentures may not fit properly. Luckily, the base is very simple to fix without damaging the teeth. There are ways, however, to maximize your denture’s lifespan that go beyond the daily cleaning. For starters, it is wise to be gentle when handling the prosthetics as they can break easily if dropped. You should also be conscious about making sure they never dry out. Drying out your dentures can be avoided by letting them sit in a cleaning solution while they are out of your mouth. They also can be placed in warm, not hot, water as hot water can warp or ruin the shape of the dentures. Taking care of your dentures should be your priority as they impact your oral health and are not cheap to replace.