February 3, 2010

About Dentures

Dentures are one way to replace teeth that have been lost due to disease, decay, or injury. Not only can they fill in for lost teeth, but they can also help improve both your smile and your health. They do this by supporting muscles of the face and by improving the ability to eat and speak.

Dentures: Complete, Partial, Immediate, or Conventional

Dentures are made of acrylic plastic or porcelain and metal. They can be removed but look very much like real gums and teeth. There are a few types.

“Complete” dentures replace all the teeth, while “partial” ones simply fill in gaps in the gum where a tooth has been lost. This helps to prevent the teeth that are left from shifting.

“Immediate” dentures are a type that is placed in a patient’s mouth right away when the real teeth have all been removed.  This type acts as a short term bandage. They help to protect the tissues and to reduce bleeding. This allows the wearer to have teeth while their gums heal, which can take a while. Bones and gums shrink over time, more than ever during the first six months of healing. That’s why this type of denture may need to be changed as time goes by.

After 8 to 12 weeks, when the tissues have healed, a “conventional” full denture is placed into the patient’s mouth.

Dentures: What to Expect 

From start to finish, the denture process takes about one month and up to five dental visits. These visits are needed so that the dentist can do a number of things. First, she will make the initial diagnosis. Then she will make an impression and wax bite to check out vertical dimensions and the proper position of the jaw. Next, she’ll place a “try-in,” to help ensure proper color, shape, and fit. Lastly, after any small changes, the dentist will place the final denture.

It may take some time for you to get used to your new “teeth.” Even when they fit right, they may still feel strange at first. Most patients can speak well in a few hours, though many may feel sore when they eat for a few days or even weeks.

Eating foods that are soft can help to ease the transition. While you get used to the change, you may notice slight changes in the way your face looks, increased flow of saliva, and some minor pain.  Dental adhesive may help to ease these symptoms for first-time denture wearers by improving the device’s retention and stability.

New wearers may be advised to keep dentures in at all times for the first two weeks. After that, dentures should be removed at night.  This allows the gum tissues to rest for eight hours a day and helps to promote normal stimulation and cleansing by the tongue and saliva. This, in turn, can help to promote healthy gums for the long term.

Caring for Dentures 

Dentures are fragile. They must be handled with care and may break if you drop them.  It’s best to lean over a folded towel or a basin of water when you insert or remove your dentures, so there is less of a chance that they will break if you drop them.

Just like real teeth, you should brush dentures each day to remove small bits of food and plaque buildup. Be sure to use a gentle touch.  Those who wear full dentures should use denture cleansers and brushes that have been specially designed for dentures. If that is not possible, a soft toothbrush may be used. Hard bristles can damage dentures.  If you have a partial denture, you should remove the device before you brush any natural teeth.

Denture Alternatives 

In some cases, dental implants may be used instead of dentures. Implants hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place.  Although implants may feel more like real teeth than dentures do, they can also be more costly.

Not all candidates for dentures are candidates for surgical implants.  A dentist will make that judgment on a case by case basis.