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Dentures 101

What is a denture?

A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and adjacent tissues. It is made of acrylic resin, sometimes in combination with various metals. Complete dentures replace all the teeth, while a partial denture fills in the spaces created by missing teeth and prevents other teeth from changing position.

Complete dentures are either conventional or immediate. A conventional denture is placed in the mouth about a month after all the teeth are removed to allow for proper healing, whereas an immediate denture is placed as soon as the teeth are removed. The drawback behind an immediate denture is that it may require more adjustments after the healing has taken place.

Who needs a denture?

If you've lost most or all of your teeth, a complete denture may be right for you. A partial denture is suitable if you have some natural teeth remaining. A denture improves your chewing ability and speech, in addition to providing support for facial muscles. It greatly enhances your facial appearance and smile.

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 one month 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.

If you're a new denture wearer, you'll need time to get accustomed to your new "teeth" because even the best fitting dentures feel awkward at first. While you'll probably be able to speak normally within a few hours, you may experience 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, you may notice a slight change in facial appearance, increased salivary flow or minor speech difficulty.

How do you care for a denture?

A denture is fragile, so handle it with care. Remove and brush the denture daily, preferably with a brush designed specifically for cleaning dentures, using either a denture cleanser or toothpastes.

Never use harsh, abrasive cleansers, including abrasives toothpastes, because they may scratch the surface of the denture. Don't sterilize your denture with boiling water; doing so will cause it to become warped.

If you wear a partial denture, be sure to remove it before brushing your natural teeth. When not in use, soak it in a cleanser solution or in water. Get in the habit of keeping the denture in the same safe and handy place to reduce the likelihood of misplacement.

Should a denture be worn at night?

You may be advised to wear your denture almost constantly during the first two weeks, even while you sleep. But under normal circumstances it’s best to remove at night. 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

Continue regular dental checkups so a dentist can examine oral tissues for signs of disease or cancer. As you age, your mouth will continue to change as the bone under your denture shrinks or recedes. To maintain a proper fit over time, your denture may need to be readjusted or remade.

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?

Dentures are no longer the only way to restore a mouth that has few or no teeth. Strategically placed support, or implants, can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the feel of real teeth. But not everyone is a candidate for implants. Speak with your dentist for advice about which option is best for you.

Last updated September 7, 2021

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The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.