Patients can become partially or entirely edentulous (without teeth) from periodontal disease, tooth decay, trauma, severe malnutrition, drug use, and genetic tooth development defects such as dentinogenesis imperfect.
Dentures are made of a flesh-colored acrylic resin. They are custom made from impressions taken on individuals’ mouths and sent to a dental laboratory for fabrication.
Dentures take some getting used to for a period of time, as they can feel bulky and interfere with speech. On rare occasions, a person may become allergic to the monomer used in the acrylic. While they never feel exactly the same as one’s natural teeth, today’s dentures are natural looking and more comfortable than ever. Dentures can restore a person’s smile and self-esteem by improving their appearance and speech, boosting confidence and the ability to interact socially.
Types of Dentures
There are several types of dentures. Dr. Best helps patients choose the types of dentures that are best for them based on how many teeth are being replaced and the associated costs.
Conventional Full Dentures
A full denture is made after all of the teeth have been removed and the tissues (bone and gums) have healed completely. Their comfort and retention depends upon the muscle, bone, tongue, surface area, suction, and saliva flow. Full dentures tend to make some patients gag. They can be trimmed back to reduce the gagging reflex. However this may cause the dentures to become less stable. These regular dentures make the surrounding bones resorb faster. One advantage of dentures is that a different tooth color, shape, and/or size can be selected; potentially giving patients the smile they always wanted.
An immediate denture is fabricated and inserted immediately after the teeth are extracted. The tissues are allowed to heal under the denture. While immediate dentures offer the benefit of never having to be without teeth, they may require more adjustments after healing has taken place. Frequently this denture needs to be relined or completely remade 6 to 12 months after the initial insertion. This results from the bone resorbing and reshaping, which causes the denture to become loose.
Over dentures are similar to conventional full dentures. The difference is that teeth that are not extracted are used to support the denture. These remaining teeth have had root canal therapy and are sculpted to look like stumps, over which the denture fits to provide greater stabilization during chewing.
Removable partial dentures are for patients who are missing some of their teeth on a particular arch. They fill in the spaces created by the missing teeth and prevent other teeth from drifting. A partial denture rests on a metal framework, which has metal clasps that attach to natural teeth, holding them in place. Depending upon the position of the missing teeth, these metal claps may be visible. Generally, partial dentures cost less than fixed bridges and implants.
Occasionally, crowns are placed on some of the natural teeth to serve as anchors for partial dentures. Partial dentures offer a removable alternative to fixed bridges and implants.
Flexible (Thermoplastic) Full and Partial Dentures
Flexible full and partial dentures are made from an FDA approved thermoplastic nylon resin, which can be tailored to blend with any ethnic shade. They are thin, virtually invisible, smooth to the tongue, stain resistant, color fast, and fracture proof. This makes them lighter in weight, less bulky, and more popular due to their aesthetic qualities and improved comfort. While the cost may be higher than traditional prosthetic replacements, flexible dentures and partials are beautiful and provide high levels of patient satisfaction.
Unlike traditional partials with metal clasps, flexible partial clasps are made from the same resin and snap securely over the natural teeth below the gum line to blend in with the natural oral tissues. The “metallic” taste often associated with traditional metal partials is also eliminated.
Adjusting to Dentures
Here are some helpful daily tips for initially adjusting to dentures and partials:
- Choose foods that are easier to chew and swallow — e.g. eggs, fish, cheese, chopped meat, cooked vegetables, and ice cream.
- Take small bites, chew slowly, and try not to bite down with the front teeth.
- Avoid hard or chewy foods like caramel and chewing gum.
- Practice speaking aloud while wearing new dentures or partials.
- Read aloud from a book or magazine in front of a mirror.
- Try biting down and swallowing just before beginning to speak. This helps set the dentures or partials in place.
- Try to balance food evenly in the mouth when chewing, so the dentures stay secure.
- Use caution when consuming hot foods and beverages. The oral tissue under the appliances cannot sense the heat as it did before.
How Long do Dentures and Partials Last?
Over time dentures and partials need to be relined, remade, or rebased due to normal wear. Rebasing is the process of making a new base while keeping the existing denture teeth. Also, patients’ mouths naturally change as they age. These changes cause dentures to loosen, making chewing difficult and irritating the gums. At a minimum, have annual checkups and oral cancer screenings.
Caring for dentures
Here are tips for caring for dentures and partials:
- Conventional appliances may break if dropped. Stand over a folded towel or basin of water when cleaning them.
- Brushing appliances daily to remove food deposits and plaque to help prevent them from becoming stained. Clean them with a non-abrasive denture cleaner as abrasives contained in toothpaste can scratch.
- An ultrasonic cleaner may be used to care for appliances, but does not replace a thorough daily brushing.
- Do not use bleach, as it damages the resin.
- Soak appliances overnight at least three nights a week in a quality denture cleaner. Or immerse them in a stronger denture cleaner for about 10-15 minutes each day. Rinse and brush appliances before and after wearing them.
- Always keep appliances moist. If they dry out, they can warp and change shape, making them useless. Place them in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in plain water when not wearing them.
- Never use hot water, which can cause appliances to warp.
- Brush the gums, tongue and palate every morning with a soft-bristled brush before inserting dentures. This stimulates circulation in the tissues and helps remove plaque.
- See Dr. Best if an appliance breaks, chips, cracks or become loose as home remedies may cause irreversible damage.
- Removing an appliance at night allows the oral tissue and teeth to rest.