Complete dentures replace all of the teeth, while partial dentures fill in the spaces created by missing teeth and prevent other teeth from shifting position. Complete dentures are "immediate" or "conventional." An immediate denture is a complete denture or partial denture that is inserted on the same day, immediately following the removal of the natural teeth. The immediate denture acts as a Band-Aid to protect the tissues and reduce bleeding after tooth extraction. The conventional denture is ready for placement in the mouth about 3 to 6 months after the teeth have been removed and the gum tissue has healed.
Who needs a denture?
A partial denture is for people who still have some of their natural teeth. Dentures are not just for elderly patients. Patients of any age may lose some or all of their teeth and may require a denture of some sort. Because teeth are a permanent part of the body, tooth loss can have an emotional impact on some people. It is important to talk to your dentist about any fears, anxiety, or other emotions you are feeling about tooth loss.
What happens when you get a denture?
A dentist can make a full conventional denture when all teeth have been lost or all extraction sites have healed (up to eight weeks or longer.) The denture process takes about three months and five appointments: the initial diagnosis is made; an impression and a wax bite are made to determine vertical dimensions and proper jaw position; a "try-in" is placed to assure proper color, shape and fit; and the patient's final denture is placed, following any minor adjustments.
New denture wearers need time to get accustomed to their new "teeth," because even the best-fitting dentures will feel awkward at first. While most patients can begin to speak normally within a few hours, many patients report discomfort with eating for several days to a few weeks. To get accustomed to chewing with a new denture, start with soft, easy-to-chew foods. In addition, denture wearers often notice a slight change in facial appearance, increased salivary flow or minor irritation or discomfort.
How do you care for a denture?
Denture adhesives may be recommended, especially for the first-time denture wearer. Adhesives may improve the retention and stability of dentures for those with minimal bone support or small ridges. If denture adhesive is used, a minimal amount should be applied. Your dentist can demonstrate how much is appropriate to use. Stability of the denture will help the wearer's confidence.
Remove and brush the denture daily with liquid soap and a brush (one specifically designed for cleaning dentures or a soft toothbrush). Avoid using boiling water to sterilize the denture, because hot water can cause the denture to lose its shape. If you wear a partial denture, remove it before brushing your natural teeth. When you're not wearing the denture, soak it in denture cleanser or water. To avoid misplacing your denture, store it in the same place after removal.
Should a denture be worn at night?
While you may be advised to wear your denture almost constantly during the first two days – even while you sleep – under normal circumstances it is considered best to remove it at night and soak the denture in water. Research has shown that removing the denture for at least eight hours during either the day or night allows the gum tissue to rest and allows normal stimulation and cleansing by the tongue and saliva. This promotes better long-term health of the gums.
Continue seeing your dentist regularly
It is important to continue having regular dental checkups so that your dentist can examine oral tissues for signs of disease or cancer. With age, your mouth will continue to change as the bone under your denture shrinks or recedes. To maintain a proper fit over time, it may be necessary to adjust your denture or possibly remake your denture. Never attempt to adjust a denture yourself, and do not use denture adhesives for a prolonged period because this can contribute to bone loss. When in doubt, consult your dentist.
Are there any alternatives to dentures?
Dental implants are a possible alternative to dentures. Implants are artificial tooth roots that are surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. Implants and bridges may resemble the "feel" of real teeth, but they may be more expensive than dentures. Not all patients are good candidates for implants, so be sure to talk to your dentist about which treatment option is best for you.